Greg Hardman is Cincinnati’s newest beer baron. He runs not only the Christian Moerlein brand and the new Moerlein Lager House brewpub in downtown Cincinnati, but also controls some of the community’s most treasured brands: Hudepohl, Burger and Little Kings.
Question: One of your first jobs was as a beer distributor for Burger Classic. You’ve also served as president of the North American operation for Warsteiner Brauerie. How did you first get into the beer business?
Answer: In June of 1984, I was a graduate of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and like any other recent college graduate, I needed a job. I was offered two entry level positions, one was in the beer business and one was selling copying machines; being 21 years old at the time you can guess which of those was going to win out.
Interestingly enough, I did take the job in the beer business because I believed I could be good at it. No, not just because I enjoyed beer, but because it utilized all skill sets that I learned at Ohio University in business.
The other company, a large multinational group had a much better name and extensive training program, but I believed I would succeed best being in the beer business using a wider range of my degree.
Q: You’ve brought back Cincinnati beer brands that were either dead or dying, including Hudepohl, Little Kings and Burger. Why?
A: After graduating from Ohio University and obtaining a job as a beer salesman in Athens of all places, I called on a new bar called Hanger-5 and its owner Bruce Richmond. Bruce had an idea to feature Burger Beer, a Cincinnati beer brand for $.25 beer night on Thursdays.
Twenty-five cent beer night in Athens was like throwing gasoline on a fire and in the first night of the feature, Hanger-5 went through 60 kegs. It was incredible and this went on week after week. What was interesting, Burger was actually a good beer for the price and we began selling some Burger beer in and around Athens due to this.
It was at this point I began my direct link with Cincinnati’s great heritage beer brands. Later, I became a sales representative for Warsteiner Importers Agency a wholly owned subsidiary of the Warsteiner Brauerei of Germany.
Upon my first day on the job with Warsteiner, I discovered our Cincinnati beer distributor was Hudepohl-Schoenling Distributing Co., the spinoff distributing company of Hudepohl and Schoenling Brewing Companies.
It was actually run by Bob Pohl, who headed Hudepohl Brewing Co. during the development of Christian Moerlein, a brand of beer and a brewing company dating from 1853, as a “Better Beer Brand” a precursor and pioneer brand of today’s craft beer movement and the first American beer to pass the German purity law of 1516 known as the reinheitsgebot.
To say the least, I had a lot of touch points with Cincinnati’s brewing heritage along my career path and it was my belief at a given point in time in 2004 that I was literally the only individual with the resources, institutional knowledge and skillset to bring back Cincinnati’s grand brewing traditions and great heritage beer brands, if I didn’t do it a great part of our Cincinnati brewing heritage would be lost forever. I wasn’t willing to let that happen.
Q: The Moerlein Lager House, a giant brewpub along the Ohio River, opened earlier this year. How have the first few months gone?
A: The Moerlein Lager House is a world-class brewpub exceeding our expectations. It is one of those brewpubs that is a must-see for all beer enthusiast and foodies alike.
We celebrate Cincinnati’s grand brewing traditions and feature not only freshly brewed Christian Moerlein Lager and Ales onsite, but also all of the Cincinnati great heritage brands, which are also sold locally throughout Cincinnati like Hudepohl Amber Lager, Hudy Delight, Hudy 14K, Burger Classic and Little Kings Cream Ale.
Additionally we have a stellar guest beer program of up to 20 guest taps and 200 bottles. It’s truly a unique place with great food, great beer and 360 unobstructed views of the Ohio River, Great American Ballpark (located right next door), Paul Brown Stadium, Roebling Suspension Bridge, the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati Skyline. It’s a simply must place to believe it.
Q: What’s your best-selling beer and why do you think it’s so popular?
A: Our best-selling beer in Cincinnati is Moerlein OTR “Over-the-Rhine” Ale. However in the summer it is Moerlein Lager house Munich Style Helles, due to its crisp light German Pils malt and hop flavor.
Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. also owns Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co. which is a wholly owned subsidiary. Hudepohl Amber Lager has been a great seller for us in and around Cincinnati and it is an all malt non-adjunct lager that has good flavor.
Think major session beer here, but it’s a good one. We also sell Little Kings Cream Ale throughout the country. Little Kings has a very loyal and unique and vocal following, where consumers press their local distributors and retailers to carry the beer.
Q: Which beer – any beer in the world – do you wish that you created/invented/brewed and why?
A: I think beer is evolving rapidly and through craft brewers like Christian Moerlein new styles are being developed all the time. I’m partial to wet hop beers and in particular Sierra Nevada and Deschutes versions.
Though the beer I wish I created or invented has not been brewed yet, but I have a personal recipe I have been working on for years and sometime in the future I’m going to bring it out. It will be one of those moments where beer drinkers will say, now that’s a fine beer, may I have another. Now isn’t that the greatest compliment.