Circle Tail Barks, Bourbons & Brews Fundraiser


I have been lucky enough to get some great coverage for Tonic Tours’ beer tours and bourbon tastings in the last year, including being featured in the Cincinnati Enquirer’s article on beer tours. After that story ran I was approached by a group called Circle Tail to ask if I would be interested in donating a bourbon tasting for the raffle of their Barks, Bourbon & Brews event that is being held next Saturday at New Riff Distillery. I have been asked to do things like this in the past but this is the first time I have agreed to donate something because this event and organization are really aligned with my business and with my values. Circle Tail is an organization that provides service and hearing dogs for people with disabilities at no cost to the individual and they also facilitate adoptions for non-service dogs. This mission really resonated with me because I am a special education teacher for my day job and my first job in high school was to volunteer for an animal shelter. Helping people with disabilities and homeless animals are two very important things in my life so I was thrilled to get involved. Not to mention that I will take any opportunity to hang out at a distillery.

Even if the cause doesn’t melt your heart this sounds like an incredible event. In addition to being able to tour the distillery and getting to meet some of the service dogs in training, there will be a “dinner by the bite” with an open bar and a raffle. The raffle has several fabulous prizes but of course the biggest one (in my opinion) would be the bourbon tasting offered by Tonic Tours. If you win this prize you just name the date and I will show up at your house with three great Bourbons, ready to educate you and 9 of your closest friends about bourbon. Tickets are still available so I very much hope to see you there next Saturday. Here is all of the information you need to get registered.


Barks, Bourbon, & Brews
Saturday, September 27 from 6 – 10 p.m.
New Riff Distillery & Event Center, Newport, KY
Share an exclusive evening with us at the newest stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, New Riff Distillery & Event Center. Enjoy distillery tours, dinner by the bite, and local bourbon and beer with a panoramic view of the city. Proceeds benefit the dogs of Circle Tail and the people whose lives they change. Space is limited – register today! Info & Tickets:
About Circle Tail, Inc.: Circle Tail is a local nonprofit organization that provides free service and hearing dogs to people with disabilities, dog adoptions, educational programs, obedience training, behavior management and boarding services.

List of Great Father’s Day Beer Gifts

With Father’s Day just two weeks away time is running tight to find your beer loving dad a great gift. I’ve compiled a quick list if you’ve run out of ideas.

Beer History

The-Audacity-of-HopsAudacity of Hops (my review) is a great introductory book to the history of the American craft beer movement. Dad’s into history, beer, or especially beer history will all enjoy this read.

For those beer history buffs with a special interest in Cincinnati I’d suggest Over-The-Rhine: When Beer was King. Even if you don’t like beer at all this book provides a gripping and interesting history of Cincinnati, including two riots and a Gatling gun on top of the courthouse!

If you want more of an event and a hands on history experience then the Cincinnati Brewery Tours can’t be beat. Again, beer fan or not everyone in or around the Greater Cincinnati area should experience one of these awesome tours.

Beer Tasting Guides

Beer: What to Drink NextI love books, especially as gifts. All three of these books make great coffee table books and excellent references for learning about beer. If your dad isn’t interested in homebrewing then I’m sure they’re interested in learning more about their favorite beer and how to enjoy it better. Tasting Beer (my review), Beer: What to Drink Next (my thoughts), and The Complete Beer Course will make any dad happy.



I like to think of magazines as little gifts that show up every month. Reminding the person you’re giving the gift to of your awesome gift! Here are my three favorite beer-centric magazines:


After long enough enjoying finely crafted beers many people want to try making their own beer. Your father may have already contemplated this, or many not even know it’s possible. Either way a great place to start is with a Mr. Beer Kit. This is a relatively inexpensive way to get a taste for the hobby.

If they’ve already been brewing for a bit then help them up their game with How to Brew or The Homebrewer’s Companion books. Both books are very similar and each has their own pros and cons. Personally I prefer How To Brew because it feels more up-to-date than The Homebrewer’s Companion. If you’ve had one or two of their batches and have been less than impressed then perhaps giving them a class at Osborn Brewing Brew-U School is a better way to go.

A gift card to your local homebrew supply store like Osborn Brewing is a great way to go if they’re already a master homebrewer. Your dad may already have a garage full of homebrewing equipment but I promise there is something he wants to upgrade or tinker with. At the very least he could use it for ingredients or a kit.

Other Stuff

41rGREsGzQLIt’s somewhat sad how few people realize the importance the appropriate glass can play. I’m not going to say a beer is crap if it’s in a shaker pint, but an IPA in a Spiegelau IPA Glass certainly tastes better than one in a shaker pint. Something like Spiegelau Tasting Kit Craft Beer Glass Set also makes a great present because it’s one of those things someone is less likely to buy themselves and doesn’t know they need.

Growlers are becoming more and more common every day so it’s important to had a 41spCN7s1XLbad ass one. This Stone swing top growler is easily the nicest one I own. Great sturdy
construction, rocking Stone logo, handy-dandy thumb loop for pouring, oh and it’s a swing stop to help keep your beer fresh longer!


Finally something I always find myself in need of more of are tasting glasses and a swanky serving paddle to go along with them would be really nice. Check out this set from


Ok, so what did I miss? What’s are you getting your beer loving dad for this Father’s day?

Beer Review: Madtree Sprye & Lift

Just over a year ago MadTree flew out of the gates with cans of PsycHOPathy, Gnarly Brown, and Happy Amber all over the greater Cincinnati area. If you haven’t been following your local beer blogs or been into a better beer store lately then you may have missed that Madtree launched 2 new cans last week! No small feat for a brewery barely over a year old.

Sprye is the first of their seasonal releases and will only be around till May. Sprye is a rye pale ale which means it’s like most other pale ales you’re familiar with but has rye malt in place of some of the other standard malts. Rye is a specialty malt that adds a spicy zest to the beers.

Light and hoppy, at 5%, Sprye is a sessionable pale ale, that will put a spring in your step. Earthy and spicy notes evoke scents of spring, while the hops.

MadTree Sprye
ABV: 5%
IBU: 40
Malts: Rye, Flaked Barley, Munich 10L, Melanoidin
Hops: Centennial, Chinook, Simcoe

Started with a dose of fluffy white head that hung around a while before skimming down. Golden nectar colored with awesome clarity and plenty of free-flowing bubbles of carbonation keeping the head around,

Smells like spring. Fresh citrusy hops, some resin, and a touch of spice from that rye malt.

Taste is light as the spring breeze I’m waiting for after winter thaws. That rye spice comes back from the aroma and leads the way down your throat. It’s the most notable flavor but not overpowering. Some of those hops come back mostly in a resiny way. All capped off with a light touch of malt flavors.

Very light body that packs a super crisp zing on your tongue.

Not really the beer for a 30 degree day in February that’ll see snow fall before the sun rises but it’s already available from Convington to Dayton and will likely remain that way till the tulips bloom. If you’ve read the blog before you know I’m not the biggest fan of rye, however, if you are you should try this. Despite my general dislike of rye Sprye handles it well with a light touch that leaves me wanting this again once the temperature tops fifty.

If you haven’t been down to MadTree’s tap room lately, which you should frequent often, then you may have never heard of Lift. However, you may have heard of Kölsch, which was also briefly known as Timber, which is now known as Lift. MadTree knew they couldn’t go the standard route with a light American lager so instead they went a slightly odder style. Lift is a Kölsch style ale that is extremely light but still features hops, just not nearly as much as most hop-forward beers like we’re used to. Unlike Sprye Lift is being added to the lineup year round and will kick ass on a hot summer day in July or August that will leave us missing the polar vortex… well, maybe not “missing.”

Whether taking a break from a hard day of work or just a huge day of hops, this crisp, refreshing beer with a hint of orange will lift your spirits without lowering your expectations for what a craft beer should be.

MadTree Lift

ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 11
Malts: 2-row, Red Wheat, Vienna, Flaked Barley
Hops: Pacifica

Frothy white head that hangs around for the long haul topping off a liquid that is 2 shades darker than the butter yellow of the can artwork above.

Very light smell with a hint of light citrus zest and orange peel.

The flavor is very light as well with more citrus action and some wheat mixed in.

Body is easily the high spot on this beer. The wheat gives it an awesome creamy mouth feel that remains super light on the tongue. The lightness of the body is met with a crisp tingle of carbonation on the tongue.

I’m no Kolsch expert but this is similar to the others I’ve had and seems to be a good example of the style. This is a very light beer which is great in some ways and not in others. Despite my fondest wishes I can’t drink Galaxy High and Axis Mundi all day (not that I haven’t… I just shouldn’t). Days like that are when Lift will come in as a nice break from the high ABV, IBU, hopped beers. Like the Sprye it’ll be much more enjoyable when it’s warmer out but it’s still good now.

Salazar and The Eagle Open in Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine’s dining and bar scene continued its quest to take over the rest of the city, with two great new restaurants, Salazar and The Eagle, opening within two blocks and two days of each other this past December. I’m here today to give you a quick run down on their food and a deeper discussion of their bars.

To The Queen (yes that is marigold leaves as the garnish)
To The Queen
yes that is marigold leaves as the garnish

All of my foodie friends in Cincinnati have been eagerly awaiting Jose Salazar opening his own restaurant and a few weeks ago it finally happened. Salazar is located on the corner of Republic and 14th Street in Over the Rhine and serves food that can perhaps best be described as gourmet french comfort food. The menu is rustic and farm inspired but with a degree of class that belies its comfortable bistro style seating. The food I’ve had is incredible but the bar menu is what we are here to talk about.

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The 71 South
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The Coco Del Cielo

In the interest of full disclosure the bar manager, Jacob Trevino, has become a good friend since he first waited on Charlie and me at Japp’s. Not only have we interviewed him on our podcast, he came to our Boxing Day party so he’s basically family now. That being said, I have been genuinely impressed by the bar menu he came up with for Salazar.  Cincinnati has a wealth of great places doing retro/classic style cocktails and I love them all. But Jacob is making drinks that are more forward thinking and original than a lot of other places in Cincinnati. Several of his drinks are less sweet than you might expect for a restaurant cocktail and none of them taste like anything that other people are serving. Perhaps because he came to Cincinnati via Texas and New Orleans, the spirits, combinations, and even some of the garnishes are just not what you would expect and I think that is a great thing.

Just to give you an example, his Creole Gimlet has gin and lime but it also uses a house-made falernum and creole bitters. I’ve had just about everything on the menu at this point. They are all amazing but the 71 South, Pinky Swear, and the Coco Del Cielo were three of my favorites. The beer selection was smaller but focused, with a few quality examples of several types of beer from both local and national microbreweries. Do yourself a favor and get in there to check out the restaurant and bar soon.

2013-12-18 17.42.14

While Salazar had the breathless anticipation of the foodie crowd in Cincinnati, The Eagle seemed to have just about everyone waiting to get a seat once they opened. Owned and operated by the same people who have Bakersfield, The Eagle also opened in late December and is located on Vine Street, just a few blocks away from Salazar.  The Eagle is located in an old post office and continues the trend of doing high-class cheap food, this time with fried chicken. For a more detailed review of the food check The Eagle Has Landed, but I thought it was very good. The price was right and I liked all of the sides a lot. The fried chicken was actually kind of too spicy for me. I am pretty sure they use tabasco in the batter so be warned.

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The Moscow Mule
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OTR Lemonade

Rather than focusing on craft cocktails that pack a punch, all of the house cocktails at The Eagle are classic drinks served in large glass mugs that really make you feel like  you are getting your money’s worth. The Moscow was my favorite but the OTR Lemonade and the Bloody Mary were also enjoyed by my group. The beer selection was very good, much bigger than similar sized restaurants in the neighborhood. The downside of The Eagle is the wait. Be prepared to wait 1-2 hours for a table on the weekends. If you go I recommend putting your name in and then heading to Salazar for a cocktail and some warm olives while you wait.

New Year’s Eve in Cincinnati

It is the annual dilemma we all face at this time of year. What to do for New Year’s Eve? I have already decided to opt out and will be celebrating at home with children and a bottle of Blason de Bourgogne that I picked up at Trader Joe’s but if you are still looking for a fun way to ring in the new  year here are a few classy events that I would love to be attending this year.


Maribell’s Eat + Drink
New Year’s Eve 2013, Keeping it Local!

I was invited to this event by the sous chef at Maribell’s. I was surprised to learn that NYE is her favorite night to work and after she explained why I can believe it. It sounds like a night with a great atmosphere and I’ve always enjoyed the food I’ve had at Maribell’s. In addition, I can vouch for them having some of the nicest staff and a great bar menu to boot. For New Year’s Eve they are doing a four course meal featuring locally sourced ingredients for a bargain price of $55. Call 513.321.9111 for reservations.


The Symphony Hotel
Symphony New Year’s Eve Celebration

Another event for the foodies here. Since it is located on the somewhat unfashionable side of Over the Rhine, The Symphony Hotel remains something of a hidden treasure in Cincinnati but they are working to get their name known. I had a stunningly good brunch there a few months ago, so I have kept an eye on them ever since. For New Year’s Eve you can enjoy a five course meal that includes a champagne toast at midnight for $65. To make dinner reservations, call 513-721-3353.


Madtree Brewing
Happy Tuesday…And NYE!

For those of you who would rather celebrate the end of the year with beer than champagne, The Brew Professor has put together a nice list of beer-related New Year’s Eve events but my personal pick goes to Madtree. Those boys just know how to have fun, I love their beer, and any event that features  Hall and Oates is an automatic win. Taste 513 will be serving food such as pork belly tacos, bulgogi slammers, and PsycHOPathy mac-n-cheese. A no cover and relaxed alternative to the high pressure events at other locations.


Arnold’s Bar and Grill
New Year’s Eve at Arnold’s with Hot Magnolias

Arnold’s is a great place to enjoy a drink any day of the year and when you add some old school creole/cajun jazz by the Hot Magnolias it is down right awesome. I caught them playing Arnold’s a few weeks ago and it was magical. Make reservations at 513-421-6234. There is a $10.00 cover to be in courtyard but it includes music, party favors, and a toast and snacks at midnight. Even if you miss it NYE, be sure to check out Hot Magnolias next time they are playing in the courtyard. You won’t regret it.


Fountain Square
New Year’s Eve Blast

As usual Japp’s and Neon’s are cover-free for their New Year’s Eve events. I recommend starting out there and then winding your way down to Fountain Square for the big count down at midnight. There will be food and drink vendors on the square and ice skating is free starting at 8 pm. That way you can get a head start on your New Year’s resolution to exercise more while at the same time enjoying your last night of guilt-free indulgence. But if that doesn’t sound special enough you can add a VIP package from Via Vite to get dinner, two drinks, champagne, and most importantly, a heated tent.

Beer Review: Green Flash Green Bullet

There is a growing trend among craft brewers to move their IPAs away from the traditional 3-C hops (Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus) and on to new and exciting hop varieties that have only been developed in the past 10 – 20 years. I mentioned this last week in my review of Clown Shoes Galactica which predominantly features the galaxy hop. Green Flash has decided to feature the Green Bullet hop in the aptly named Green Bullet beer. I’ll let Green Flash’s blurb about this beer take it from here.

Named after a super-robust New Zealand hop, Green Bullet™ is a well-balanced Triple IPA being bottled today for the 1st time ever. Brewmaster, Chuck Silva initially released this Pacific Gem to celebrate the Green Flash 9th Anniversary in 2011, and it was an immediate hit! Now, this cult favorite will be available from coast-to-coast as a seasonal release from September through December 2013. Be on the lookout for this high-caliber addition to our arsenal in 4-packs, 22oz bottles and on draft, because you do not want to miss the release.

Continue reading “Beer Review: Green Flash Green Bullet”

Beer Review: Clown Shoes Galactica & Hoppy Feet

Ohio is receiving lots of distribution from new (to us) breweries at the end of 2013.  New Belgium, Deschutes, and others will be here before the end of the year but it’s getting kicked off with Clown Shoes. Clown Shoes is a contract brewing operation out of Massachusetts that’s known for somewhat insensitive beer names like Tramp Stamp, Lubrication, and Brown Angel. Controversial names haven’t stopped them from making big and interesting beers for a few years distributing them to a variety of states before finally coming here.

Clown Shoes is initially gracing Ohio with 6 different brews: Galactica and Hoppy Feet are here in 4-packs of 12 oz bottles, Chocolate Sombrero, Genghis Pecan, and Muffin Top are all in 22 oz bombers, finally Tramp Stamp is draft only, at least for now. I did a review of a bottle of Tramp Stamp that I brought back from Georgia last year, you can read that here. I also had a bottle of their Chocolate Sombrero which, in short, is a spicy chocolate imperial stout starting out with some heat that slowly builds and adds in rich chocolate as the glass warms.  I have yet to have Genghis Pecan or Muffin Top and my thoughts on Galactica and Hoppy Feet are just below!

Continue reading “Beer Review: Clown Shoes Galactica & Hoppy Feet”