Mio Vino Micro Winery

In my continued quest to learn about wine a friend introduced me to a new place in town. Mio Vino is a micro winery in the south end of Blue Ash (Google Maps) that’s getting ready to celebrate its one year anniversary.

Mio Vino Micro Winery Blue Ash Front Window

My Wine

Mio Vino is a rocking little joint jammed with atmosphere. It’s set on a corner of a street in an old building with old shop windows. It leaves an initial impression that it could’ve been here for 50 years. Just looking at it from outside it made me feel warm, comfy, and relaxed.

Mio Vino Entrance


All those feelings continued inside growing to the Cheers feeling that “everybody knows your name” or will at least treat you like they do and that you’re a good friend. As you can see below there are a couple of tables scattered about the room with seats ranging from 2 to 8 for bigger groups. In the corner of the room, next to where the picture was taken from, is a little spot for bands. Friday night was a guy and a guitar singing Christmas songs, Friday was July 25th so ya know… Christmas in July.

Mio Vino tasting room

On the flip side of that room is a small bar for about 5 people with a TV on the back wall. The TV was off that night but I’m told it’s usually playing Sports Center. To the right of the bar are some very comfy looking couches and coffee tables to lounge around while enjoying your glass of wine.

Oh yeah, about that wine

I’m only learning about wine now and am not going to claim to be able to tell good wine from great wine. I can only tell you what I like and what people tell me is good. I liked the 4 different wines I had, Call Me a cab Cabernet. Grape therapy is a solid red that screams grapes all over the place. Mudd eyes is a Chilean Malbec packing a nice puckering punch. Red & white pomegranate Zinfandel was super sweet and fruity, a bit too much for my tastes but if you enjoy fruity wines check this out. These are mostly reds and so far in my wine journey I’ve found I’m a much bigger fan of reds than whites. Don’t worry though Mio Vino has plenty of whites and a few blushes, here’s the whole list. And yes, it really is just $12 for a bottle!

Mio Vino Wine Menu


Mio Vino started up as “a dream and a love of wine” a dream of a guy who likes to make wine. He wanted to share that love with others and decided to open Mio Vino. What’s different here than so many other small wineries or breweries is that his love was making wine and that’s what he wanted to share. That’s why one of the core features of Mio Vino is making your own wine, with their help.

You choose the grapes, work with the team there to make the must (like wort for beer), pitch your yeast, then wait patiently for the yeast to do its thing. After a few weeks you’ll come up with a fancy label and wait some more… probably less patiently this time. A few weeks more you and a bunch of friends come back to Mio Vino and bottle your very own wine that you made yourself!

Fancy Feast

OK, feast may be an exaggeration but fancy is an understatement. Mio Vino sports a short list of snacks all of which sound amazing. I can confirm that the Brie with Jalapeno Jelly went down delicious on top of the crackers. That’s what my friend suggested we get so I never consulted the menu till I began writing this post at home the next day. Now I have to go back just to get that Cream Cheese with Pineapple Habanero Sauce! Here’s the full appetizer menu:

Mio Vino Food Menu

Whether you love wine or are, like me, trying to learn to love it swing by Mio Vino at 7908 Blue Ash Road Deer Park, Ohio 45236 and try some great local wine, or make your own!


  • Sunday/Monday – Closed
  • Tuesday/Wednesday – 4:30 pm – 10 pm
  • Thursday – 4:30 pm – 11 pm
  • Friday – 4:30 pm – 12 pm
  • Saturday – 2 pm – 12 pm

Go like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to stay up-to-date with all their events!

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Randall the Enamel Animal Jr. (Beer Infusions) + Recipes

Dogfish Head has been known for odd or extreme beers for some years now. Randall the Enamel Animal was the original way to test these weird extreme beers without making huge batches.

Randall The Enamel Animal

Randal The Enamel Animal in action at Brass Tap – U Square with Trois Dames Sour with Sour Patch Kids, Warheads, Lemon Heads, Lemon, Lime and Orange Peels

After the popularity of Randall the Enamel Animal in bars Dogfish Head realized they should make one for the home consumer, enter Randall the Enamel Animal Jr.

Here’s how Dogfish Head describes Randall the Enamel Animal Jr.:

Our Mini Enamel Animal will give you the power for off-centered infusions. Just twist off the top; add hops, spices, fruit or whatnot, fill with off-centered ale and savor the fruits of your creativity. – See more at: http://www.dogfish.com/store/other-accessories/randall-jr.htm#sthash.vXot1A3j.dpuf

Let’s break down exactly what a Randall the Enamel Animal Jr. is and then get to the good bits, recipes!!
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For the Love of Lagers!


When it comes to craft beer enthusiasts I know far too many who see a lager and shy away. I admit I had this problem for a while myself but I’ve slowly come around. After discovering my own love of lagers I’ve tried to proselytize others and found surprising resistance. This reluctance from folks who’ve I’ve converted to enjoying things as wild as sours got me pondering. The result of that pondering is three ideas to try to understand why the hate?

I couldn’t come across many hard numbers on this but did find the below chart from back in 2011. Beyond the hard numbers the lack of popularity of craft lagers is obvious with a trip to any better beer store. Just look around the store and see all the IPAs, wheats, stouts, and sours vs. the small selection of lagers. Another way of looking at this is that out of all the breweries in Cincinnati only 3 regularly make lagers, and I’m including Sam Adams in that number.


Why the hate?

I think the prime reason is that we’ve been conditioned to love lagers, then over conditioned to love them, resulting in our hate. Budweiser, Miller, Coors and others have shoved flavorless light (or, worse yet, lite) lagers down our throats for 30 years. Trying to convince us that this is what “beer” is supposed to taste like. I think this long-term advertising, or more bluntly put brain washing, has resulted in a Clockwork Orange effect among those who have broken from its grasp. Now many beer enthusiasts are left with an intense dislike of anything that resembles a lager, mass-produced or not.

My second conclusion is that no matter what I’d like to believe, or convince people of, lagers just aren’t that exciting. A malty, floral, maybe slightly spicy lager can’t compete on the level of tongue tingling excitement with something like a stout with vanilla beans, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, and habaneros.

One of Cincinnati's underground lager tunnels for the temperature controlled fermenting and conditioning.

One of Cincinnati’s underground lager tunnels for the temperature controlled fermenting and conditioning.

Lastly, lagers are a less financially sound decision for the often cash strapped craft brewer. They are harder to brew because a lager will show off any flaws in the brewing process far more easily than an IPA will. Lagers are more time-consuming because they have to be lagered—fermented and stored at cool temperatures before packaging—for weeks to months where an IPA can be completed in 11 days. And, as I’ve said and has prompted this article, craft beer drinkers are less likely to drink them. So why should a craft brewery spend so much more time making a more difficult product that their customers won’t get excited for?

If you have another reason I missed join in on the conversation in the comments below. Now then let’s move on to the elevator pitch about…

Why we should love lagers!

All around tasty beverage

Plain and simple lagers are tasty and refreshing beverages. The shear market share they occupy is plenty enough proof of this. If they were bad or disgusting no one would drink them, no matter the advertising powers at play. Budweiser and Miller Lite are not bad beers, they’re just not exciting. A real craft lager though can be an exciting and delicious adventure when all you want is a
clean refreshing beer.

Palate Fatigue

“Variety’s the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavour.”
-William Cowper

Your tongue can get tired of having the same thing time and time again, this is called palate fatigue. Palate fatigue is more relevant when you’re having a flight of 5 or 6 beers but I think it still applies here. Drinking super hoped IPAs or bodacious oatmeal Russian imperial stouts day in and day out you can lose perception on how different they are from each other. A nice clean lager can refresh your palate and your mind.

The Original Session Beer

Session IPAs are all the rage these days and are becoming the top-selling beers at many breweries. But if you want to knock back a 12-pack whiling away a sunny afternoon there’s no need to succumb to the latest fad. Succumb to a centuries old staple and grab a crisp refreshing lager. Lagers are highly quaffable, often under 6%, and go with just about any food at your family BBQ. The chart below shows the ABV distribution of 150 of the most popular lagers on BeerAdvocate.

Market Share

Those are all great reasons but here’s the real kicker that makes me think more craft breweries, and craft beer enthusiasts, need to love the lager. America is a country that loves its lagers and if we want to beat AB-Inbev or SABMiller we need to beat them at their own game! It’s easier to sell a macro beer drinker on a “really high quality Budweiser” then it is on a “bitter, citrus, pine flavored IPA.” Once that macro beer drinker has had a craft lager they’ll be more interested to try other beers by that brewery and blossom into a craft beer enthusiast.

What to drink?

Don’t misunderstand me on any of this, this is no cry to go enjoy a Miller Lite. This is a rallying call to find the closest craft brewer to you and try their lager if they have one or ask them to make one if they don’t. I realize relatively few craft breweries are making lagers, compared to the total number of craft breweries, so some good examples with wide-ranging distribution are: Victory Prima Pils, Brooklyn Lager, Sierra Nevada Summerfest, Sam Adams Boston Lager, or my personal favorite craft lager—New Belgium Shift

My fellow Cincinnatians and I are extremely lucky in that we have not 1 but 2 breweries making multiple lagers. For a local lager find the Helles, Dunkel, or Blueberry Lager from Rivertown or Moerlein Exposition or Barbarossa. Both of these breweries and a few more locals also make seasonal Dunkels and Marzens. Rhinegeist also currently has the Puma Pils though I’m not sure how long that will be around.

Anyone have other reasons that we should embrace lagers? Or a specific craft lager folks should be embracing? If so drop a comment below!


Filed under Beer, Opinion

Craft Connection Brewery Tours

The industry of local brewery tours has exploded in the past year. Just under 1 year ago Tonic Tours became the first in the city. Today we have a total of 5 companies offering tours of various breweries. Fellow Cincy Beer Blogger Jesse Folk wrote a post introducing all 5. Last week the owners invited me to join a group for a tour on the new Craft Connection Brewery Tours. D7K_8146 Continue reading

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Book Review: American Sour Beers

American Sour Beers is a new book coming out next week from the premier sour homebrew blogger, Michael Tonsmeire. Michael began the road to this book with his blog The Mad Fermentationist. I was constantly referred to his blog when I began looking into brewing my first sour. He’s had one of the best blogs about all things sour for years, so I’m very excited for this book.

American Sour Beers

Here’s the publisher’s blurb with my thoughts after the jump:

One of the most exciting and dynamic segments of today’s craft brewing scene , American-brewed sour beers are designed intentionally to be tart and may be inoculated with souring bacteria, fermented with wild yeast or fruit, aged in barrels or blended with younger beer. Craft brewers and homebrewers have adapted traditional European techniques to create some of the world’s most distinctive and experimental styles. This book details the wide array of processes and ingredients in American sour beer production, with actionable advice for each stage of the process. Inspiration, education and practical applications for brewers of all levels are provided by some of the country’s best known sour beer brewers.

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Know Your Local Brewery: Bad Tom Smith Brewing

Over the past year there have developed 2 magic words to say to a Cincinnati beer enthusiast to get them up in a huff and talking shit. Those words are Bad Tom. I only know of a few people who like Bad Tom beers while everyone else is quick to deride them. For myself I can say that I’ve only had their beers a few times, many months ago, and in the mix of multiple other beers. Each of those times left me unimpressed, but not disgusted.

Bad Tom Smith Brewing

I recently wrote a post about poor quality craft beer and fears that it’ll hurt other breweries. In that post I said there is “1 brewery [in Cincinnati] that is producing barely drinkable swill.” This caused quite a storm but was hyperbole. I wrote that to cause controversy and succeeded at that beyond my expectations. I will now emphatically state that I do not think anyone in Cincinnati, or anywhere, is making “barely drinkable swill.” Bad beer sure, beer I don’t like totally, barely drinkable swill no.  The majority of folks assumed I meant Bad Tom with the second runner-up being MadTree. 

With all the hatred streaming towards Bad Tom, including that which I riled up myself, I set out to learn more about them and their beers. Most importantly I wanted to sit down and try their beers with a clean palate and let you all know what I really think.

About Bad Tom Smith Brewing:

The story of Bad Tom Smith Brewing starts back in 2012 when 3 friends decided to take 1 of their hobbies and go pro. Charles Boucher is the homebrewer of the group who has become the head brewer at Bad Tom. Sean Smith is the business man and great-great-nephew of the company’s namesake. Another friend launched the brewery with them but has since backed out. Throughout 2012 they remodeled their building at 4720 Eastern Avenue, bought their brew house and fermentation tanks, and got their Ohio state license to brew beer. The first batch went into the mash tun on January 3rd, 2013.

They built the brewery out of 4 43 barrel tanks that were bought used from a local flavor company. 1 is used as a boil kettle, 1 for a mash tun, and the other 2 for fermentation tanks. In their first expansion since opening they’ve just added a brand new 20 barrel bright tank.

What’s in name? Double Barrel, Bad Tom, now Bad Tom Smith.

The original name of the brewery was Double Barrel Brewing which was a name that the 3 original founders came up with. Unfortunately Double Barrel is also the name of a beer from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. out in California. Firestone Walker sent Double Barrel a cease and desist letter to stop these guys from using that name. The founders of Double Barrel then came up with, in my opinion a much better name, Bad Tom Brewing. Why I do I think this name is better? Because it’s got a story behind it, not just something they came up with.

Tom Smith was a gun for hire in late 1800s down in Hazard, KY. After killing several people he earned the name Bad Tom. Bad Tom Smith is also the great-great-uncle of Bad Tom Smith Brewing owner Sean Smith! So they went from Double Barrel to Bad Tom and that stayed for a while. Recently they changed from Bad Tom to Bad Tom Smith. Many folks around town I talked to speculated that it was another cease and desist. Sadly the true story is not nearly as exciting. They just decided to change the name themselves. Sean explained this decision was both to establish a better connection with his great-great-uncle but also to avoid any potential future legal entanglements.

Now for the beers…

I promise that I am delivering these thoughts with no hyperbole of hatred or passing pleasantries. I’m not reviewing each and every one of their beers in turn but did have them all. First off I’ll say my favorites were the Black Kettle stout and the new Fink’s red rye. All of their beers share a problem, to get into that we’ll have a quick talk about brewing beer.

When you brew a beer you soak the grains in water to make sweet wort. You boil the sweet wort and add hops making bitter wort. The bitter wort (not beer yet) is still boiling hot. We cool it down as fast as possible to below 80 degrees. Now we pitch the yeast. The only thing a brewer makes is food for yeast, yeast makes beer. The bitter wort has loads of sugar in it from the grains and the yeast eats this sugar-making alcohol and CO². To keep the yeast happy we have to keep it kinda cold. For ales this is around 70º, lagers around 55º.

Now we reach the meat of the problem with Bad Tom Smith. Like their Twitter description says “We’re just 3 guys who built a brewery with our bare hands”. Well, now they’re 2 guys because 1 left. But they’re still 2 guys who built a brewery with their bare hands. Truthfully they did this in an old school craft brewer fashion, like the original craft brewers were doing in the 70s and 80s were doing. Scraping together equipment from wherever they could be it former dairy tanks or former flavor tanks like Bad Tom Smith has.

Bad Tom Smith Brewery

Fermentation Tanks

Here’s the kicker on those flavor tanks. They have no glycol jacking like modern stainless steel fermenters, nothing to keep the yeast cool while it eats the wort. They are effectively fermenting at air-conditioned room temperature. At least at the edge of the 40 barrel tank, it could be 1oº to 15º degrees more inside!

Bad Tom Smith has one other problem and that’s with recipe formulation, however this only effects 1 beer that I noticed. For their Brother Clement they add clementines to the boil, whole clementines… skin and all. Most breweries prefer to go with purees or juices. This may reek of big corporate greed but in truth it’s the stark reality of the situation. It’s more costly and more troublesome to deal with whole fruit.

All of these problems come on top of, or perhaps due to, the fact that the head brewer still has a full-time 40 hour a week job… somewhere other than the brewery.

After all this I took some time to talk to the guys of Bad Tom Smith about the upcoming beer festival they’re putting on.


Sean has a buddy who works at the Cincinnati Recreation Commission (CRC) and approached him about partnering up with the CRC to put on a beer festival. The proceeds of the event will go to the Cincinnati Recreation Foundation to help build playgrounds and help at risk kids. Lunkenfest will be taking place on June 28th which happens to be the anniversary of Bad Tom Smith’s hanging. It wasn’t planned on that date it just happened that way. Here’s the Facebook Event page for Lunkenfest.


The last thing that I have to say for now on Bad Tom Smith Brewing is that no matter what you think of them or their beer they have the best phone number in town (513) 871-HOPS (4677). Also, the absolute worst thing about Bad Tom Smith Brewing that is far worse than any other brewery in town is their total lack of off-street parking.

Every spot surrounding their building is reserved for Terry's Turf Club employees

Every spot surrounding their building is reserved for Terry’s Turf Club employees

With all that said what are your thoughts on Bad Tom Smith Brewing?


Filed under Beer, Cincinnati

Bourbon Bottles for Father’s Day

If you haven’t figured out what to get your Dad for father’s day yet it is not too late for you snag a great present and become his favorite child. The secret is bourbon. Here are a few special version bottles that are sure to make your old man proud this Sunday and are still readily available in most liquor stores. And don’t forget that June 14th is National Bourbon Day so you have two reasons to celebrate this weekend.


Woodford Reserve Double Oaked: Woodford Reserve takes their finished bourbon and ages it again in different barrel, this one twice as charred as the standard bourbon barrel. The result is a very smooth and creamy bourbon with just an edge of bite. I ordered this bourbon at a hotel bar and was seriously tempted to lick the glass when it was finished.


Maker’s 46: Maker’s Mark fans tend to be very loyal to their brand and unlikely to be swayed by gimmicks or flavoring. To make their special bottle they take the standard aged Maker’s Mark and then age them again inside barrels containing seared French oak staves. The idea is to create bolder, more complex flavors, while eliminating the bitterness that usually comes with whiskies that are aged longer. The Maker’s Mark fans I know seem to have embraced it and I can honestly say that I like it better than standard Maker’s. The 46 is complex with a sweet front and a strong finish. 


Knob Creek Single Barrel: If your dad likes the bold flavor of Jim Beam’s pre-prohibition style small batch bourbon, you can make is day with only an extra $10 and get him the single barrel. This is a big bourbon with a big finish, which you would expect at 120 proof. As much as I hate the cliché, this is a pretty manly bourbon. Give it to your dad to take along for a weekend in a cabin or sipping in the man cave.



Wild Turkey Rare Breed:  If your dad will appreciate the pure flavor of a barrel proof bourbon but could do without as much burn this might be the bottle for you. Wild Turkey is already known for distilling at a lower proof so that they can bottle with less water. In their Rare Breed they combine 6, 8 and 12 years old barrels but don’t add water so they all come out at barrel strength, in this case a relatively modest 108.2 proof. It is a great value and despite Wild Turkey’s reputation as a rough and ready whiskey, it is surprisingly complex and smooth.


New Riff Ranger Program: Of course I can’t ignore fathers who are eager to support Cincinnati’s newest distillery and to get some pretty cool perks at the same time. For $60 your can buy your dad a membership to New Riff’s Ranger Program. Four years from now he will receive a hand bottled and personalized single barrel bourbon. In the meantime Rangers will receive a 10% discount on all non alcoholic gift shop items, advance opportunity to purchase New Riff’s limited and rare releases, an insider newsletter, and exclusive invitations to bottling parties, including the bottling of his very own Ranger Bottle. For the dad that knows that good things come to those who wait. 


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Fifteen Minutes of Fame with New Riff


New Riff Distillery has only been open a few weeks but they are already putting that beautiful new event space to good use. Tuesday evening I was invited to attend the first of what looks to be a very interesting new series hosted there by New Riff’s Creative Director Amy Tobin. 15 Minutes of Fame brings together four notable Cincinnatians under a common theme and then gives them 15 minutes to talk about that theme. Last night’s word was STYLE and the guests all delivered that in spades.

2014-06-10 19.48.39-2

The speakers were mixology expert Molly Wellmann, local tattoo artist Chris Sanders, Butcher Betties owner Alison Hines and fashion designer Amy Kirchen. It was a phenomenal group of speakers. They all spoke eloquently on the theme and were both entertaining and inspiring. I loved how a common thread of individuality and self-expression came through even with subjects as diverse as high fashion and killing your first chicken. 

2014-06-10 19.10.20

The event came with one cocktail, an unusual wine and popsicle combination, and lasted for about two hours including time for questions from Amy and the audience. It was a very enjoyable evening and I left feeling once again how vibrant and exciting Cincinnati is these days. The next 15 minutes of Fame will be held in August. The guests have not yet been announced but the theme is REEL and we’ve got a hint that this will include both the film and the fishing variety.

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Learn About Barley Wines + Stone Old Guardian Review + Barley Wine vs. Barleywine

[Ed. Note: Kyle is a friend I met on Twitter (@KyleWDavis) and is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced barley wine fanatics I know. I have been trying to do more educational posts on different styles but get busy with a billion other things. So I figured this would be a great opportunity for Kyle to step in and help us learn about barley wines]

Barley Wine History

A barley wine is an alcoholic beverage dating back to ancient Greece, but the current offerings from breweries on both sides of the pond draw inspiration from England in the late 18th century. This is when British aristocracy began to celebrate a desire for any food or drink that weren’t readily available or affordable by the middle and lower classes.  Barley wines require larger amounts of ingredients and take more time to produce than most typical beer, which made them just decadent enough to be held in high regard.

Photo courtesy of Victor Szalvay

Photo courtesy of Victor Szalvay

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Book Review: Canned: Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can

Canned: Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can is a new craft beer book on the shelves showing off the gorgeous cans of the craft beer industry.

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