A light drizzle spit a mist of tiny droplets into my face as I exited the taxi and stepped out onto the sidewalk of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine district. A neighborhood rich with the city’s history of beer. At the turn of the 19th century the area was home to over thirty breweries. Many of them run by German brewmasters, bringing their knowledge and recipes from the Fatherland. War and prohibition came next and with it the quick death of Cincinnati’s beer industry.
I climbed the steps, clutching the wet rail and scanning the brick walls of the historic building. Rhinegeist had taken one of those lost and forgotten breweries and restored it with their own vision of what great beer could be. It was no wonder that Rhinegeist translates to “Ghost of the Rhine” in German.
As I stepped onto the main floor I was struck with the cavernous space that made up Rhinegeist’s operation. The room seemed to go on forever. A jet liner could sit comfortably inside of the brewery, probably with room to spare. Indeed, the space was greater than that inside the massive cathedrals of Germany.
For all its space Rhinegeist utilized it well. Its barrels stood in formation towards the far end of the warehouse. The high ceilings were made more welcoming with strands of lights arching and dipping across the rafters, casting warm light on the taproom below. Benches and tables were scattered throughout with more than one modest bar tucked away against the warehouse walls.
Towards the floors center was where all the action happened. Ample space to house all manner of entertainment, Rhinegeist had everything from ping pong tables to billiards. Two long rows of cornhole cut through the center of the warehouse. I took a seat with my row of tasters and sipped on beer while I watched the bean bags fly.
With up to 50 different beers rotating on draft I wasn’t at want for choices. Knucklehead, an American strong ale hit me with its malty roots and roasty flavor. It was the perfect beer to start with, warming me up from the cold drizzle outside. Indestructobeard on the other hand did a dance with my palette. Bravo and Huell hops gave me a hit of bitterness while notes of citrus, peach, and mango sweetened things up.
Moving on I picked up a glass of Plow. A sessionable Saison, it was light and drinkable with hints of berry and floral notes accented with a taste of lemon. Marg Monday, Rhinegeist’s speciality gose combines the flavors of lime zest, juice, and salt mixed with aging in tequila barrels to infuse the beer with a slightly sour taste that’ll make your lips pucker.
As I travel around the country it always strikes me how invested and proud local brewers are of their community. Rhinegeist is no exception. In their young years since 2013 they have become a fixture of the Cincinnati community. Pushing creative beer and celebrating the Over-the-Rhine history and heritage with their restoration and revival of one of its founding breweries. Combining innovative minds and passionate craftsmanship they have an apt motto where with each beer, “the first sip calls for the third.”
With the taste of hops on my tongue I stared up into the rafters, past the low hanging string lights and the slow whirling fans. With the sound of music, laughter, and clanking pint glasses bouncing off the high ceiling it dawned on me. Rhinegeist, the Ghost of the Rhine, was no ghost at all. Rhinegeist was a phoenix risen from the ashes of a city who’s beer industry was wracked by Prohibition. I knew those long gone beer entrepreneurs of Cincy’s Over-the-Rhine would share in my sentiment. Closing my eyes I could picture those sounds of clanking glasses were coming from the brewmaster ancestors of Cincinnati’s past. A triumphant toast from the Ghosts of the Rhine.