Beer Review: MadTree Galaxy High

I have been impatiently dreaming of this day for over a year. I have been eagerly waiting for it for 2 months. I have been loving this day for the past 20 minutes. The following review of MadTree Galaxy High is highly biased. I love this beer. I love that it’s canned. I love that I’m drinking Galaxy High from a can at home.

MadTree Galaxy High

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Brewhaus Dog Bones

A few months ago I made one of my regular trips to Rivertown and noticed something new in the tap room. It’s a lot cooler, to me than a bunch of arcade cabinets though those are extremely cool! A few days later I was at Mt. Carmel and noticed something new in the tap room there as well, the same thing I Brewhaus Dog Bonesnoticed at Rivertown. This is when I got very curious, which led to what you are about to reading.

The things which sparked my curiosity were Brewhaus Dog Bone stands like the one to the right. Then I noticed it said “Proudly made with quality grains from” above the Mt. Carmel logo. Dog treats made from spent grains from local breweries? Only 1 word for this, Awesome.

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Urban Artifact Brings Out The Funk in Northside

It’s been well known for some time that the Grayscale Cincinnati project had taken up residence in the former St. Pius Catholic Church on Blue Rock Road in Northside. We learned earlier this year the project was fully funded, the build out was underway and the brewery portion of the project is called Urban Artifact Brewing. Grayscale Cincinnati founders Scott Hand and Dominic Mariano have partnered up with brewers Bret Kollmann Baker and Scott Hunter. The partners were drawn together by similar ideas and complementary skill sets, as well as complementary personalities.

All four indicate they gravitated toward Northside because of its welcoming and engaging community, its special small town feel, with an eclectic urban city presence and the unique opportunity presented by the beautiful and historic St. Pius Church (known at one time as St Patrick’s Church). Bret relocated to Cincinnati from Albany, New York while Scott Hunter relocated from the closer proximity of Deer Park. Besides the church, this Northside property has a spacious, 3-story house that used to serve as the rectory for the priests and more recently the Queen City Cookies Cafe, and a huge gymnasium that will serve as the actual brewhouse. Construction was well underway in mid-February when I visited for my interview.

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The brewery itself will start with an impressive 30 barrel capacity. The complex will include a both a theater and music venue plus a tap house in the church, a restaurant on the first floor of the rectory and a beer garden between the house and the church. Though there will be parking on and around the site, both Bret and Scott Hunter are avid cyclists, who plan on having plenty of bike racks for the cyclists and being very tied into the local bicycling community. Scott Hand is an architect who is charged with overseeing the design of the project. He and his wife Kelly relocated to Cincinnati from Chicago, where they became active in the local homebrewing community.

There will be plenty of entertainment as Dominic, a music professor & noted local musician will be booking diverse local and regional music acts, as well as providing live streaming online for performances. The church will also be home to a local theater group, who will be performing regularly in its spacious interior. But musicians and actors are just part of the entertainment value. Beer will also have a starring role. I sat down with Bret to talk to him about what is in store for thirsty craft beer lovers; Scott Hunter also took a break from construction to join part of the conversation.

Chris Nascimento: “So, Bret, construction looks like it is well underway. When will Urban Artifact Brewing be opening & how many beers will you have on tap?”

Bret Kollmann Baker: “We will be opening in mid-spring, start out with 10 beers on tap.”

CN: “What kind of beers will you be producing? American IPAs & such?”

BK: “Actually, what we will be making beers inspired by sour brewing traditions.”

CN: “So lots of Belgian beers?”

BK: “Not just Belgian beers, but beers with Belgian, German and Flemish influences. What we are producing is more microbiologically inspired. We have a love of microbiology and will be using old world techniques with modern scientific application to increase the consistency & quality of what we produce.”

CN: “So what made you choose Northside?”

BK: “Lots of things, it’s a great neighborhood! Both Scotty and I live here, my wife and I bought a house here. It’s all about the community. Everyone has been extremely supportive, stopping by to congratulate us and asking what they can do to help. People here get the idea of marrying beer & art together. What we are doing really fits the culture in Northside.”

CN: “So what are your backgrounds and how did you decide you wanted to become brewers?”

BK: “Scott & I met at Ohio University, where I also met my wife Stephanie. Scott and I were both chemical engineering majors and founded a homebrew club at the university. We both have degrees in chemical engineering, and I also have a degree in brewing science and technology. After college, I purposely worked in some related industries. I worked for a lactic acid manufacturer, Cargill, working with a special yeast strain. I also spent some time working professionally for a winery at the Farhmeir Family Vineyard and for a distiller, the Albany Distilling Co.” Plus, last year, I conducted a seminar at the AHA National Homebrew Conference a historic lager yeast. It was called “S. Eubayanus: The Father of Lager Yeast”.

Scott Hunter: “I worked in food production. I worked as an engineer for Graphite Electrodes, and I am also getting another degree, working on my MBA.”

CN (incredulously): “So, wait, Scott, you are opening a new brewery AND getting your MBA?”

SH (chuckling): “Yeah. I am getting my MBA at Indiana-Wesleyan, at their campus in West Chester.”

CN: “I love sours & my wife is a huge fan as well. But what will make you guys different and stand out in what you do?”

BK: “All our sour organisms will be caught from the local environment. We will capture them, and then pick our favorite barrels, then use these to start the new barrels. The lactobacillus we are using was collected in the bell tower of the church, and it is unbelievable! We are really excited about it.

CN: “So you will be doing open fermentations?”

BK: “Small scale stuff. We will be doing some spontaneous fermentations, and are installing a cool ship, probably above the brewhouse. It’s all flat, reinforced and that location will work out really well.”

SH: “The real skill is not just in producing the wort, the beer, but in blending it….”

BK: “and having the cojones to dump it if it’s not working. You can’t blend away suck….”

CN (laughing): “I heard Gordon Strong say the same thing about blending mead.”

SH: “We will be working with traditional sours, guezes. Beers with flavor & depth. Flavors from Pediococcus. Beers with flavor & depth. Flavors from Pediococcus and Brettanomyces take time to develop. We want sublime, complementary barrels.”

CN: “So, how big will be the barrel farm?”

BK: “We will be starting with about 10 barrels and will add 30 barrels a month. There will be different barrels consisting of spontaneous fermentations, local mixed cultures and various spirit and wine barrels imparting flavors as well. Our flagships will be done using some special techniques to ferment in the absence of oxygen. We will do this with most of our seasonal beers as well. Our flagships are all made using a modified sour mash technique.”

SH: “To give you an example of a beer of a beer that has inspired us, look at Orval. Orval doesn’t go bad. It starts fresh and hoppy and ages beautifully, becoming funky and wild. I prefer not to drink any Orval younger than 2 years of age.”

CN: “Will you use kegs, serving vessels or some combination of the two in your taproom? And how much beer will you be producing in your first year?”

BK: “We will be using all kegs in the taphouse and music lounge. We will produce 3,000 barrels in our first year (365 days of production).”

CN: “How big could you guys go with the production in this facility?”

BK: “The brewhouse has the capacity to do 45,000 barrels a year. As we grow, if we find we outgrow the present space, especially with the barrel farm, we hope to expand the barrel farm into a warehouse space within Northside.”

CN: “We have a great local brewing community, and many of our local brewers are doing collaborations with each other. Does Urban Artifact plan to do any collaborations with other local breweries?”

BK: “We have plans to do some collaborations with other breweries in the Cincinnati area; as well as elsewhere outside the Cincinnati area.”

CN: “This is all pretty amazing, what else are you doing that is interesting and different?”

BK: “We are working with some new, experimental yeasts with a major yeast manufacturer. We can’t really say what, (Bret reaches over to pull a specially labeled sample out of a nearby fridge and shows them) but here is an example.”

CN: “This is really exciting, guys, I can’t wait to try some of your beers. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!”

I should note that Urban Artifact already has formed some community partnerships as they work on their build out. They have rented out the second floor of the old rectory house for use as office space by Groundwork Cincinnati, who has cleaned up the Millcreek, including developing the Greenway Trail. Jess of Madcap Puppets is renting space in the church, which is very evident by the huge dragon puppet that has taken up space in part of the church. Gaia’s Oasis is also partnering up with them to put in a showcase garden.

The brewhouse is now in place, and Urban Artifact has obtained both their federal and state permits. So far, as of March 13th, Urban Artifact has been through two production brews, with more coming in short order. While I was not given an exact opening date, my impression is that “mid-spring” will be happening sooner rather than later.

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Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself

Hi! My name is Chris Nascimento and I will be a contributor to Queen City Drinks from time to time. Why? Well, I used to blog about beer for a couple of other blogs, namely the now defunct Circle 3 and I did a couple of posts over at Cincy Voices as well. I had always meant to get back into blogging, but I got wrapped up in various projects. I should also note other people created beer blogs worth reading, so it became less of a priority and fell by the wayside.

Still, I’ve missed sharing my views and experiences with beer, which is something I am pretty passionate about. Back around last December, I mentioned as much on Twitter and Tom Aguero here at Queen City Drinks saw this,  reached out to me and offered me the opportunity to be a contributor. So before Tom could sober up, I quickly accepted the offer and promised to get blogging again with the specific, agreed upon date of “soon”. I have been busy with lots of other stuff, so “soon” ended up meaning about another four months.

What could be more important than blogging about beer? Well, I do a bunch of other stuff. I enjoy a beer now and then. I serve on the board of a few different organizations, including Cincinnati Beer Week. I run a homebrew shop called Brew Monkeys over on Cincinnati’s west side. I am also a member of the Cincinnati Malt Infusers homebrew club, presently serving them as PR officer. I have been involved with putting on a slew of other events, including beer festivals, and over the years I have judged in several homebrew competitions on a regular basis and made a number of beers myself. I have founded a few other events and otherwise kept busy working on stuff that allows me to enjoy craft beer & homebrew.

Oh yes, I’m not sure if my family wants me to mention them, but I will do it anyway. I am married to Wendy, a very tolerant, understanding woman who has attended way more beer events than what she has probably cared to even though she also really likes good beer. I have three children, two sons and a daughter. My eldest son is also a craft beer enthusiast and has dabbled with homebrewing. My daughter knows a lot about beer from overhearing stuff over the years, but has asked me not to talk about beer TOO much, and my youngest son, being autistic, just looks at me, shakes his head and says stuff like “Not beer again!” All three of my kids lead active lives, including many things that have absolutely nothing to do with beer. I try to be involved in or attend all their non-beer activities whenever it is appropriate for a Dad to do so.

While all these experiences may give me a unique perspective with a few things, let me be clear with the following DISCLAIMER: All views expressed by me on this blog represent MY views and SOLELY my views. Any opinions, thoughts, reviews I share here DO NOT represent the official views of ANY organization I currently serve, NOR those of my wife, family, friends or anyone else other than me.

A little bit of what to expect-I don’t write about every single beer event happening, that’s someone else’s gig. If you want to know about the fifty cent off deal on Yuengling at the Happy Canoodle Pub & Grill, don’t ask me. I simply don’t care enough to inquire about it or remember it, much less tell anyone about it. I try to stick to beers, events and topics I feel are worth exploring. If I don’t have too much good to say about a event or beer, I will generally just ignore it. If I feel a event or beer is REALLY BAD, and you, the craft beer enthusiast will likely waste your valuable time and hard earned dollars on it before finding this out, I WILL take the time to warn you. This is especially true if my perception is there is an attempt being made to scam you. But this doesn’t happen too often, so don’t look for much of this kind of stuff.

I have a few pieces I have been working on, so you will be getting to see more of my beer-fueled, innate ramblings in the near future. Among them are:

-Some homebrewing specific articles.

-An exclusive Q & A with the brewers at soon open Urban Artifact Brewing discussing what to expect out of their brewhouse.

-An update on new happenings at Old Firehouse Brewing

– Progress of the new nanobrewery opening soon in Mt Healthy, Fibonacci Brewing

-Opinion pieces on beer industry related topics I feel are worth exploring.

You have been warned. I should also note, any piece I write will dramatically improve when paired with the right beers while reading it. Usually, the more beer you drink, the better it will get. If you are really gluttons for punishment, I am an avid social media user. You can find me on Facebook, as well as on Twitter as @brewnas.

 

For the Love of Lagers! Part 2: More Than Fizzy Yellow Water

With Bockfest happening this weekend, it’s time for me to get off my lazy ass and finish this post that I’ve stewed on for a few months now. Last June I wrote a plea for fellow craft beer enthusiasts to embrace the Love of Lagers. I realized then that far too many folks think lager = pilsner = Budweiser and nothing else.

Lager just means that the wort ferments into beer with a yeast that prefers cooler temperatures around 35° – 40° Fahrenheit over weeks or months. To contrast that, ale yeast likes to ferment around 64 – 70 degrees for a week or two. On top of that there seems to be a pervasive idea that lagers have to be a pale yellow color. Today we’re going to dispel the notion that all lager style beers are flavorless yellow fizz by highlighting a few different darker lager styles.


The Color of Beer

First off a few quick words on color. In beer, we have the Standard Reference Method (SRM) scale for defining color. The lighter the color of the beer, the lower the SRM number. As you can see below beers like Budweiser, Miller, and Coors –what many Americans think of as the total sum of all beer – all fall at an SRM of 2. Today, we’ll be checking out looking at SRMs of 15 and up!

Chart courtesy of Wikipedia
Chart courtesy of Wikipedia

That’s enough info on SRM for today’s discussion. If you still have lingering questions and want to know more about SRM check out my Learning About Beer post on the subject.

Doppelbock – SRM 24

With Bockfest soon I wanted to begin with a bock, but I decided to double down and go with doppelbocks. Both bocks and doppelbocks are super malty beers showing off flavors of toasted biscuits. Emancipator DoppelbockThese are great late winter/early spring beers for when it’s still chilly out.

When it came to a beer to pick for doppelbocks I had to go with Moerlein’s Emancipator due to it winning a silver medal at GABF! This is a great example of the doppelbock style. Here’s a full review of it I did 2 years back. Be sure to try it this weekend at Bockfest!

Vienna Lager – SRM 17

Vienna lagers were the first type of lager I liked before I even knew what a lager was. I imagine this is the case for an extreme number of people due to 4 words, Sam Adams Boston Lager. Before we get into this style ask yourself, when was the last time you heard someone order a “Boston Lager” or did they just order a “Sam Adams”? It seems few people actually realize that “Sam Adams” is a lager. If you want to keep things more regional look for Great Lakes Elliot Ness.

Vienna lagers are pretty similar to Oktoberfest beers, the main difference being the intensity of all the aspects. Oktoberfest steps up everything in Vienna lagers just a bit more. I was going to put Oktoberfest beers here, but it’s time to brew Oktoberfest beers, not drink them. Vienna lagers are best summed up as having a clean toasty character with a dry finish.

Schwarzbier – SRM 30

Dark HelmetLike the bitter chocolate and roasted coffee notes from a stout but don’t want all the heavy body and high ABV? Then Schwarzbier, literally translated as black beer, is for you!

My favorite example of this style is Brew Kettle’s Dark Helmet, it’s a tasty beer, regional to Cincinnati, and I love Spaceballs.

Have you tried any of these styles or any other non-pale yellow lagers? If so, what are your favorites?

Reinforcing the 3-Tier System

Tomorrow (Wednesday March 4th, 2015) the Kentucky Senate will vote on HB168. House Bill 168 will redefine the requirements for owning an alcohol distributor in the state of Kentucky. The Kentucky house approved it last week. The Senate’s vote is the last step before the Governor signing the bill into law.

3-Tier System?

In brief, a distributor is a company that buys beer from the brewery, stores it and employs sales people to convince retailers to sell the beer. Distributors form a part of the 3-tier system. For a full background on the 3-Tier system please see my series from 2013 beginning with my introduction.

Two extremely different companies are very upset about this legislation. I’d like to help clear the air and share my opinion on the situation. The two companies are AB-InBev and Rhinegeist, the elephant in the room and the mouse the elephant is afraid of.

AB-InBev owns a distributor in Louisville and last year they bought a distributor in Owensboro. The purchase of that distributor in Owensboro is what set all this off.  Currently any brewery in Kentucky is unable to own a distributor in Kentucky, but out of state breweries can. 1That is exactly what this law is going to change. Anyone who owns a brewery will be unable to own a distributor in Kentucky, which is where Rhinegeist comes in.

Rhinegeist has used Ohio’s laws that allow a brewery to self-distribute their beer to do exactly that. Yes, self-distribution laws are a relaxing breaking of the 3-tier system, turning it into a 2-tier system. The way people argue for self-distribution is that Rhinegeist can only self-distribute Rhinegeist. When Rhinegeist decided to expand to Kentucky they couldn’t find a distributor “with the right craft-focus and a small enough portfolio to ensure our mindshare.” to quote Rhinegeist owner’s Bryant Goulding and Bob Bonder’s op-ed in The Courier-Journal. As a result, they decided to open Riverghost Distributing to carry Rhinegeist products and other breweries products, in the state of Kentucky. Now we see why Rhinegeist is siding with AB-InBev. Both AB-InBev and Rhinegeist will have to sell, or close, their distributors in the state of Kentucky if this law passes.

Sorry, Rhinegeist but that’s a GOOD thing

Good thing from my point of view. It’s a bad thing for the owners of Rhinegeist because this means someone else gets a cut of their profit. As it stands now Rhinegeist makes more per beer sold than MadTree does2. Rhinegeist also pays a number of sales people and delivery drivers. Plus they maintain a fleet of vans to enable them to self-distribute. Most breweries have distributors take care of that overhead. So, Rhinegeist losing Riverghost will mean lower profits per beer in Kentucky for the folks at the top. The same on all that goes for the AB-InBev owned distributors as well.

This is a good thing for everyone except these two companies. If Riverghost starts carrying other brands and there comes a day where one store only has one spot available on the shelf, who gets that spot? I have an extremely hard time believing that that spot will be fairly assigned to the product most sought after in that market. That spot will be assigned to Budweiser or Truth.

My biggest problem is that this is a slippery slope that could lead to decreased competition and eventual vertical integration. If a distributor or store is owned by a brewery there is far less reason for that distributor or store to care about other breweries products. Same goes for a distributor owning a store or bar. Why should they push someone else’s product when the folks at the top can make more money pushing the products of the brewery they own?

Part of what has allowed craft beer to explode is the separation of the 3 tiers. Sure, it’s not great but it’s the best we got for now and getting read of, or blurring the lines between, the tiers is not going to help anything. One of the reasons England’s craft beer explosion has been more muted than ours is because of tied houses, where a brewery owns a bar. As I said before, when one tier owns another it lowers the competition. The tied houses in England only serve the beer of the brewery that owns them, unless customer demand for other products reaches an extreme point.

This Will Cost Jobs

Both AB-InBev and Rhinegeist have said that the passage of this bill will cost jobs. That’s only true if AB-InBev and Rhinegeist decide to shut down their distribution companies. They’ve both proven that there is a strong need for these distribution companies to exist. They’re both savvy businesses as well. They’re not just going to dump all the money they’ve invested in this. No jobs will be lost. The only thing that will change is who is at the top of these 3 distributors and that the 3-tier system will be more reinforced in the state of Kentucky.


  1. Thanks to Ryan Phillips for clearing that up for me

  2. MadTree is distributed in Ohio by Cavalier & Kentucky by Beer House