Just over a year ago the other Cincinnati beer bloggers and I got together to try all the IPAs from Cincinnati and crown Blank Slate’s The Lesser Path as the King of the Cincinnati IPA. Earlier this year Rick Armon from The Ohio Beer Blog was in town for the Warped Wing opening and he suggested the idea of repeating the King of the Cincinnati IPA competition, but on a statewide level as the King of the Ohio IPA.
One of the Christian Moerlein sales reps offered me samples of a few of their beers that have gone under recent recipe changes. I then decided to take these reviews as an opportunity to try to tell the story of Moerlein and help everyone know the company a little better. To tell the whole story I’ve split it up over three posts, 1 for each beer and each period of Moerlein’s history.
- Barbarossa and the pre-prohibition Christian Moerlein
- OTR Ale and the rebirth of a brand
- Northern Liberties and the reformulation of Moerlein
After Hudepohl brought Christian Moerlein back as a brand in the 80s the situation stayed much the same for Moerlein. That was until 2004 when Greg Hardman stepped in and began buying up as many of the Cincinnati brands he could get his hands on and brought Christian Moerlein back in full effect. The soul of newest rendition of Christian Moerlein was very much a Cincinnati soul. They sponsored events around town, named their beers and focused their artwork on Cincinnati, and of course their main sales market was Cincinnati.
Despite all that Cincinnati soul the liquid in the bottle was not from Cincinnati, or even Ohio. It was being contract brewed out of a brewery in Pennsylvania. Contract brewing is not a dirty word like some think. It’s how Sam Adams got started and how Quaff Bros continues to exist! It was, at the time, the only option available to Moerlein and they always had the goal of bringing everything back to Cincinnati.
That goal was partly achieved in 2011 when Moerlein began making an extremely limited amount of beer in Over-The-Rhine, in fact it was just 1 beer., Arnold’s 1861 Porter (only available at Arnold’s). More steps were taken with the opening of the Moerlein Lager House on the banks (if you go get the pretzels!) but any beer bought in a bottle at Kroger was still from out-of-state.
Finally Greg Hardman’s dream was realized in the spring of 2013 with the opening of a full-scale 15,000 barrel plant in the historic Kauffman Brewery in Over-The-Rhine. As of today all Moerlein beer, bottle or draft, is brewed in Cincinnati. But there was still 1 big change, a head brewer. Richard Dubé was the head brewer at The Lager House from the day it opened and began to tweak the Moerlein recipes that were served there. With the opening of the production brewery in OTR he became the Vice President of Brewing Operations and those recipe changes got put into bottles of Christian Moerlein all across the tri-state area. That’s the Moerlein story up until now, where it goes from here time will tell but until then let’s drink beer!
Now I’ll openly admit that I disliked Moerlein beers, they didn’t taste good and weren’t “Cincinnati beers” to me since they were made out of state. I specifically did not like Northern Liberties. It just wasn’t that good, especially compared to the amazing work being done with IPAs across the country. Luckily Richard’s recipe changes have made a world of difference and when we did the King of the Cincinnati IPA competition Northern Liberties came in at the top spot of the 3 packaged IPAs we sampled (Mt. Carmel IPA and MadTree Psychopathy being the other two). Here’s what Moerlein says about this brew:
You’ve made a discovery–a well-hopped IPA inspired by the revolutionaries of Cincinnati’s Northern Liberties. North of Liberty St. and beyond the reach of municipal law, the area was known for tolerance of beliefs and behaviors, which were shunned in Cincinnati proper prior to 1849. Moerlein Northern Liberties draws inspiration from these free-spirits with this hoppy, well-balanced, copper IPA in pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Hoppiness.
As previously teased one beer has been named the King of the Cincinnati IPA. Last Saturday a plethora of local
beer bloggers expert tasters and myself got together to drink a bunch of free donated beer, hooray free donated beer! The full list of bloggers is:
- Beer Mumbo’s Danny Spears (BeerMumbo.com),
- BeerQuest ABV’s Ian Hoopes (BeerQuestABV.com),
- Brew Professor’s Mike Stuart (BrewProf.com),
- Queen City Fresh’s Chris Stevens (QueenCityFresh.com).
The blind tasting was proctored by
- Suds Anonymous’s Jack Behrendt (SudsAnonymous.blogspot.com)
- Loose Screw Beers’ Matt Rowe (@LooseScrewBeers on Twitter).
If you don’t read these guys blogs and/or follow them on twitter I’d highly advise it. They’re all cool and knowledgeable dudes each covering Cincinnati beer in a slightly different way. Also we’re each blogging our thoughts on this whole event and covering everything slightly differently so you should spend a few minutes reading all their posts on the event.
But back to the King of the Cincinnati IPA competition. I’m not sure who’s idea this first was but over the course of ~200 some emails we set a date and a place and got all the local brewers to donate growlers of their IPAs. To ensure fairness Jack & Matt stepped in to randomize the growlers and take care of pouring the samples so we were blind to what beer was in what cup.
The city has some fantastic IPAs some like Mt. Carmel, Cellar Dwellers, and Moerlein are more classic IPAs while Rhinegeist and MadTree produce more over the top hop-focused IPAs that are currently the rage. Rivertown comes in with a session IPA aiming for plenty of flavor with less alcohol so you can drink it over an extended session, hence the name. Blank Slate brings in a very different kind of IPA, as it does for all it’s brews, with what it calls a White IPA. It’s described as a wheat IPA “containing two different wheat malts in addition to oats and honey malt meld with copious amounts of Columbus, Cascade and Nugget hops”.
With all these slightly different IPAs it was hard to pick 1 winner but alas we did, in fact we picked two! Rhinegeist’s Truth and Blank Slate’s Lesser Path tied for first in the initial scoring. We then did a final round with no scoring just a straight up preference pick and while I myself went with Rhinegeist on the basis of it being more a true IPA I was out voted 3 – 2 so Blank Slate’s The Lesser Path took the King of the Cincinnati IPA title.
Since we crowned a king IPA for the Queen city folks may be anxious to give this a taste. If that’s you then the following list should help, but these places may have already sold out so call before you go!
|•Bar Louie||•Beer Sellar|
|•Dilly Deli||•Firehouse Grill|
|•Flip Daddy’s – Mason||•Liquor Box|
|•Mios Blue Ash||•Northside Tavern|
|•Remke Hyde Park||•The Comet|
|•Valley Wine & Spirits||•Vito’s Cafe|
|•Washington Platform Saloon||•Whole Foods – Mason|
Since our winner is draft only I want to give a special mention to Christian Moerlein’s Northern Liberties which was the highest ranked packaged IPA we tasted. Now I’m also realizing that out of 10 beers we tried only 3, Mt. Carmel, MadTree, and Moerlein are available in non-draft forms.
I want to thank all the breweries for making such great beer and letting us try some, all the bloggers for helping throw this together, and the Brew Professor’s family for putting up with us all for a night! We all had such a great time that it’s agreed we’ll do something like this again. Perhaps another style of beer or perhaps tap rooms or perhaps some other idea we’ve yet to think of!