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By Allyson Jacob · July 28th, 2004 · Where Are They Now?
Vol. 2 Issue 36
Vol. 2 Issue 36

Then: In 1996, microbreweries were all the rage in Cincinnati. CityBeat profiled seven different brewpubs that had sprung up in the Queen City since the phenomenon took hold on the East and West coasts in the 1970s. "Not until the Oldenberg complex opened in Fort Mitchell in 1987 did (Cincinnati) encounter the microbrewery trend firsthand," Ernest J. Jasmin reported. "And when Main Street Brewery opened in 1994, the flip side of national micromania -- brewpubs -- finally arrived as well." (Issue of July 25, 1996)

Now: Though brewpubs still operate in the Queen City, they're no longer the trend of the moment on the local bar scene and many have closed.

"Ours is a niche market," explains Mike Cromer, owner of BarrelHouse Brewing Co. in Over-the-Rhine, adding that it remains a profitable business. "Beer is still popular in Cincinnati."

Cromer cites his Reg Leg Ale, available at Great American Ball Park, and Flying Pig Pilsner as two of the best-sellers for BarrelHouse. The microbrew usually has 10 different selections on tap, rounding out the favorites with seasonal offerings like stout and cream ale.

Cromer came to the microbrew industry after spending 12 years working with GE Aircraft Engines as a finance manager. "I decided to start my own business," he says in a matter-of-fact way. "We've seen a lot of players in the industry come and go since 1996, based on the quality of their product."

Beer is always central to the conversation with Cromer. "Beer is really all about the product," he states. "(At BarrelHouse), we make great beer." He ascribes much of the microbrew's success to his company's brewmaster, Rick DeBar. "He's been with us for nine years. He's great. And it's hard to make good beer."

BarrelHouse is in the middle of a month-long ninth anniversary celebration. "We're offering $1 pints all month long, through the end of July," Cromer explains, a bit of the salesman creeping into his voice. "And Aug. 5-7, we're celebrating the 35th anniversary of Woodstock. Lots of local bands creating the original sounds of Woodstock."

He swings into full salesman mode. "You should come on down to BarrelHouse and try the best beer in town. In the nation."

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