Rhinegeist head brewer Jim Matt had to order new pint glasses just a week after the opening of Over-the-Rhine’s newest craft brewery.
“People liked them so much that the first 1,500 walked out the door,” Matt says, noting that all eight kegs they sold at nearby Neons were gone by 9 p.m. opening night.
For Cincinnati’s newest brewery, this is one of those “good problems” to have. Rhinegeist co-founder Bryant Goulding says they’re also already running out of IPA.
“We’re going to double our batch sizes,” he says. “This is a huge beer town.”
Rhinegeist is the seventh thirst-quenching venture to open locally in just more than a year, joining MadTree, Listermann’s Triple Digit, Blank Slate, Cellar Dweller, Fifty West Brewing Company and Double Barrel.
Many are coming out of the gate strong. MadTree is a hit — their PsycHOPathy was named Best Canned Craft Beer at a Ballpark in Outside Magazine. When I drove to Jungle Jim’s to get a growler of their Identity Crisis to try before I first wrote about them back in March, they were sold out.
Tom Streeter, co-editor of locally based beer blog Hoperatives, says this is a nice problem to have. “It’s a pretty good sign when you open your doors and in the first couple of weeks you start running short of beer. It means people like you.”
And Rhinegeist seems to like Cincinnati, too. Co-founders Goulding and Bob Bonder met when they were both living in San Francisco, where they worked together until 2007. Bonder moved to Cincinnati to open Tazza Mia, and when the brewery bug bit him, he asked Goulding to help him draw up a business plan.
After a weekend visit in September 2011 that included pizza at A Tavola and drinks at Neons, Goulding started to take Cincinnati seriously. The Connecticut native moved here this year.
“There’s a real cool energy here,” says Goulding. “And once we saw this space, it was like an itch we had to scratch.”
The Rhinegeist space is truly impressive. Located at 1910 Elm St., just about a block north of Findlay Market, the historic building was at one point part of the original Christian Moerlein brewery.
The tap room is right next to the brewery operation, with tall windows along the west wall and huge skylights in the new metal roof. The renovation was arduous work, but it happened relatively quickly — in about three months, from start to launch. Through Facebook, curious bystanders watched the project come to life, creating engagement and pent-up demand the minute the first brews poured.
Bonder, also the owner of Tazza Mia coffee and 1215 Wine Bar, is grateful for two things: first, how quickly the project came to life, and second, how Rhinegeist is an immediate “destination.”
“This was a destination the second we opened,” he says. “I was not anticipating that. We had a line all day, and our first week has been cloud nine, with everyone excited and talking about it.”
“Beer culture is embedded in this town. It’s in the genes of people in Cincinnati,” he adds.
Even with a wave of craft breweries over the past 10 years, Bonder is not worried about the market getting too full. He says the 2,000 new breweries that have opened during that time are making only 8 percent of the country’s beer. There’s room for more growth, and nobody sees it slowing down.
“Freshness makes a difference, a big difference, especially with hoppy, aromatic beers. Local breweries get beer out faster, with better flavor and aromatics, and beer drinkers appreciate the difference,” Bonder says.
Rhinegeist’s core portfolio includes four beers: the hoppy wheat Spikelet, with a 5.5 percent ABV; the light session English mild Uncle, with 3.8 percent ABV; Cougar, a golden ale with 4.8 percent ABV; and Truth, the high octane IPA that rolls in at 7.2 percent ABV.
Their first limited edition — they are calling them “rarities” — is in the works. SaberTooth Tiger is a double, or Imperial, IPA. This hop-heavy brew with 8.5 percent ABV will be released on Aug. 3 at the brewery.
Streeter of Hoperatives calls Rhinegeist’s success “a big deal.”
“The thing about Rhinegeist is that it didn’t have to be in Cincinnati,” he says. “It could have gone somewhere else, but the fact that it didn’t says a lot about where we stand as a market. We now have three major production breweries within walking distance in OTR. It’s a pretty exciting time to be a beer drinker in Cincinnati.”
Rhinegeist’s tasting room at 1910 Elm St. is open Thursday-Sunday. Their beers are on tap at various locations around town, including The Lackman, The Famous Neons Unplugged and Dutch’s Larder.
CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: email@example.com