Cincinnati will soon be bursting with new craft breweries. The Moerlein Lager House, a brewpub along the Ohio River, is slated to open this weekend. Triple Digit Brewing, an off-shoot of Listermann Brewing Co., releases its first beer next week. And then there are Blank Slate Brewing Co. and Double Barrel Brewery – two smaller production breweries near Lunken Airport. Both will offer draft at first and then have plans to transition into bottles too. I stopped by both breweries to get an update on their progress during a visit last weekend to the Queen City. (See videos below and check out previous posts on them for more background.)
Blank Slate, located in a nondescript gray building that used to house airplane parts, is shooting for an April 1 launch date. “I am planning to have beer in the fermenter in March,” owner/brewer Scott LaFollette said. The initial plan is to release a rye saison, possibly with peppercorn, and an English-American hybrid session bitter on draft. “Unless I change my mind, which I reserve the right to do,” LaFollette said with a laugh.
His father and father-in-law were busy caulking the cold storage unit during my visit. The brewing system – which includes a new seven-barrel Pacific Brewing Systems kettle – and some repurposed dairy equipment weren’t hooked up yet. LaFollette, a polymer chemist, said he’s ready to start brewing. He and his family have been doing all the construction work in the 2,000-square-foot brewery. “I’m itching just to be done with construction, really,” he said. There will be no tasting room at first. LaFollette, who can expand into neighboring space, would like to add a tasting room after a year.
Unlike Blank Slate, Double Barrel plans to offer a tasting room immediately. Owners Greg Brown, Sean Smith and Charles Boucher are busy gutting a small, former machine shop just down Eastern Avenue from the famous Terry’s Turf Club and Bella Luna restaurant. In fact, Terry’s owns the property and uses it as parking for its diner. During my visit, plenty of people stopped in thinking Double Barrel was Terry’s.
Brown and Smith – who were there during my stop – are just fine with that, knowing that the constant traffic should help garner a little name recognition for their brewery. The plan, Brown said, is to open May 1. They also don't have their brewing system operational yet. In addition to offering 12 beers on draft, Double Barrel plans to have gourmet popcorn, other snacks and free soda for designated drivers. The tap handles will be the butt of a shotgun.
The building was a mess when they started working on it. They found layers of metal dust and had to take a hammer and chisel away to remove stucco on the walls. “I wouldn’t call it a labor of love. I’d call it a labor of hate,” Brown joked. He added that they are tired of construction work. “All we want to do is actually brew beer,” Brown said. “I’m ready to do what we set out to do.”
The first beer will be Bad Tom Ale, an Irish red named after Thomas “Bad Tom” Smith. He was the last man publicly hanged in Kentucky in the late 1800s and is the great-great-uncle of Sean Smith.