Is Beer Saving Cincinnati's Neighborhoods?
Weeks before he's up for re-election, at the end of a campaign said to be the most expensive in the city's history, when Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley stepped out to give his annual State of the City address, in which politicians typically talk about all of the great things they have done for their constituents, Cranley chose to go with beer.
"Beer is bringing back our neighborhoods," he said, throwing the spotlight on to the various breweries that have become economic drivers in areas of the Ohio city better known for their failures than their triumphs. To drive his point home, Cranley even entertained his audience with a short film about Cincinnati's beer scene. (You can see it for yourself, below.)
While microbreweries certainly are popping up everywhere, creating jobs wherever they go, can beer really have that much of a lasting impact? Absolutely, say industry watchers, all across the country—the Brewers Association which represents the interests of small and independent breweries nationwide, estimates that craft brewing contributed nearly $68 billion dollars to the United States economy last year, and created nearly half a million jobs.
Broken down into little pieces, that's still potentially a lot of money and plenty of jobs—so much so, that some cities have been known to offer rather sweet financial incentives to get a piece of the action. One of the most striking, recent examples can be found in Virginia, which came under some scrutiny for the sweetheart deal it struck with San Diego-based Stone Brewing Co., to lure them to Richmond's riverfront; officials in Virginia have also done major deals with Oregon's iconic Deschutes Brewing and San Diego's Ballast Point.
It's easy to see why, if you look at the big picture—in nearly every state, if not already all fifty, good breweries have become bona fide tourist attractions, as essential to a destination's appeal as food and culture. Study after study shows just how real beer tourism is, these days; a major event, like Denver's Great American Beer Festival (going on this weekend, as it happens) estimated its impact on the regional economy in the neighborhood of $30 million, that's about the same as Portland, Ore.'s massively popular Oregon Brewers Festival, held in July.
As for Cincinnati, Mayor Cranley used the breweries in his city as an example of growth in the regional economy, which grew at a rate more than double the national average over the last year. All down to those vast supplies of very good beer? Highly unlikely, but why don't you go judge for yourself? Here are some of the best breweries in Cincinnati right now:
Brink Brewing Co.
Proving the mayor's point, this recently-arrived brewery and tap room has proved a powerful lure to the resurgent College Hill section of Cincinnati, a good hike from downtown. Try the Armored Heart, a Russian Imperial Stout brewed with locally-roasted coffee.
A disused Catholic church in the city's Northside area is now home to this brewery that deals mostly in rather adventurous tart and wild ales—slide on into the basement taproom and confess your sins to one a Wild IPA, or an adventurously-flavored gose. In good weather, there's a great courtyard with outdoor seating.
Near the city's near-ancient Findlay Market in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, this crowd-pleasing brewery with a rooftop deck revived the remains of a 19th century bottling plant. (It's one of the most important sites in Cincinnati beer history, which is as long and colorful as you'd expect in a town this German.) There's a lot to work with, here—maybe start with the dry-hopped cider.
This year-old-ish brewery is one of many changes that's come to the long-in-decline Walnut Hills neighborhood; fall is perhaps the perfect time to sample the crisp but earthy Cedar IPA. If, however, you can get your hands on some of their hilariously-named Salmon Shorts Sighting, a blonde with a red dye-job (by way of some strawberries, along with rooibos tea from South Africa), grab it and give one last toast to the good weather, before it's gone.