Christian Moerlein is getting ready to debut cans of their new Third Wave IPA and Purity Pils. These cans feature new branding designs for Moerlein in new package formats. But this is more than just a new IPA and a new look for Moerlein. I recently sat down with Marketing & Events Director Jesse Folk and Vice-President of Brewing Operations Eric Baumann to discuss these changes.
Before going forward, let’s take a step back.
Waves One and Two
Christian Moerlein, the man, opened his brewery in 1853. This first operation by Christian Moerlein is what the current company is calling the first wave. Unfortunately, this wave crashed upon the rocks of Prohibition in 1920.
Hudepohl Brewing Company started the second wave 60 years later. Hudepohl first opened its doors in 1885, and like Moerlein fell to Prohibition. Hudepohl decided to reopen after Prohibition ended and by 1980, became the largest “craft” brewery in America.
Just a year later, in 1981, Hudepohl introduced a new brand of ultra premium beer and dubbed it Christian Moerlein’s Cincinnati Select Lager. This is the second wave of Christian Moerlein. Hudepohl eventually sold to fellow Cincinnati brewery, Schoenling. Both brands continued to be made in Cincinnati until 2001. At that time, the owners decided to ship the brewing of those brands out of Cincinnati for the first time in their 100+ year history.
In 2004, Greg Hardman bought the rights to many of Cincinnati’s pre-Prohibition brands including Hudepohl, Schoenling, Burger, and of course, Christian Moerlein. This began what the company is now calling the third wave.
Brewing operations continued to remain out of state for a few more years. Eventually, starting in 2012 with the Moerlein Lager House, the brewing of these brands were slowly brought back into Cincinnati. With the completion of the brewery at the Moerlein Malt House in 2013, Greg Hardmann’s dream was nearly complete. With the Moerlein Malt House in operation, all Christian Moerlein beers were again brewed in Cincinnati.
There was never a huge break between when Moerlein was contract brewed and when it came back into Cincinnati. That’s what is happening with this new branding. A definite break with what has recently been, but with a nod to what has always been. They’re using the introduction of Third Wave and Purity Pils plus the redesign of OTR to launch this new initiative.
Beyond just introducing new beers on draft and in 6-pack cans Moerlein is also bringing Third Wave and OTR in 15-packs. Purity Pils will be draft and 6-pack cans only. These three beers are just the first release of this third wave. Other beers will get a similar redesign in time, and new beers will continue to come out. It honestly sounds like they’ve got great things coming up, but Eric and Jesse were guarded about saying too much with so many variables still in play.
Third Wave, OTR, and Purity Pils should be coming out this month.
Purity Pils and Third Wave are both entirely new beers while OTR is a slight readjustment to the old recipe, swapping out the supplier of the amber malt.
Third Wave is a solid example of the modern wave of IPAs. Vice President of Brewing, Eric Baumann, told me how they blended old and new hops to create this beer. Using Apollo for the bittering hops followed by Hopsteiner experimental hop 07270 for the middle and end flavor additions. Dry hopping is taken care of with Chinook and CTZ. Instead of using crystal malt, common to many IPAs, Eric decided to utilize Munich malt. Munich malt gives the product more stability than crystal.
When drinking Third Wave on draft at the malt house last week, I found it to be a tasty and balanced beer. Dank and resinous hops flavor with a mild malt sweetness balanced by a mild bitterness. At 6.5% and 60 IBUs, this is a very enjoyable IPA.
Purity Pils isn’t your typical pilsner either. They decided to aim for a North German type of pilsner which bumps up the bitterness some. They upped that bitterness with Saaz and Hersbrucker hops. Eric also says they went with IdaPils malt to bump up the maltiness a little bit.
It drinks crisp and clean like any other pilsner, but the extra bitterness makes it more interesting than your average pilsner. Do I think this is going to convert a hop addict to a lager lover? No. But, anyone who tries it will likely enjoy it.
Why is Moerlein doing all this now and not three or four years ago? That would be due to the massive expansion they just undertook. One of the problems with breweries is that you have to spend a tremendous amount of money to get going on making a product that won’t be sold for many weeks. All that stainless steel costs quite a bit. So as soon as possible, Moerlein expanded and in grand fashion.
The core of the expansion was new fermenters, bringing their total possible barrelage up to 50,000 barrels with the ability to quickly ramp it up further to 100,000 barrels. 100,000 barrels a year would make Moerlein one of the top 50 largest breweries in America. They also expanded the brewery to a 4-vessel 30 barrel brew house, a new high-speed bottling/canning line, and a new grain silo.
But Wait There’s More
Well, not that I can say or that they’d talk about on the record. But trust me that I am extremely excited for the packaging of a currently draft only beer. Based on what they would say I’m excited about things going forward. If you haven’t tried Moerlein ever, or not in a while, go down to the Malt House, get a flight, and shoot a round of pool.
P.S.: We had a long, at times rambling, conversation which led to a discussion of session ales when Eric dropped this gem about his time as a brewer in Utah: “It wasn’t called session beer at the time, it was called you brew in Utah.”