Rhinegeist Brewery is huge. How big? It has enough open space that itís starting an indoor Whiffle Ball league on Monday (Dec. 2).



The Cincinnati brewery and tasting room is cavernous, encompassing 25,000 square feet on the second floor of a former bottling plant for the old Christian Moerlein in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. It seems even larger thanks to a vaulted ceiling. (Check out photos below.)



The exterior is red brick and you might start questioning what you're doing when you first walk into the building. You have to climb winding stairs to get to the brewery itself. Once there, the scene is jaw-dropping because of the openness.



Rhinegeist has a definite industrial feel thanks to the concrete floors and giant poles throughout. This is no modern, cookie-cutter brewpub. Wooden picnic tables are sprinkled around as seating. The brewhouse and taproom are at the far end of the building. And there's no physical barrier to keep people out of the actual brewing area -- other than being respectful, of course.



Rhinegeist is one of several craft breweries bringing old brewery buildings back to life in Ohio. There's also Thirsty Dog (Burkhardt) in Akron, the new incarnation of Christian Moerlein (Kauffman) in Cincinnati and Portsmouth (Portsmouth) in Portsmouth.



Rhinegeist -- which means "ghost in the Rhine" in German and has an odd-shaped skeleton head as a logo and tap handle -- has been producing beer like crazy since opening in June, co-founder Bryant Goulding said during a tour last week. The plan was to make 1,600 barrels in the first year and the brewery is hitting that mark in six months, he said. The brewery has the capacity to produce about 20,000.



The tasting room has four or five beers on draft at all times, and sells growlers and howlers, along with hats and glasses. A large chalkboard behind the bar announces the current selections. The bar area has flat-screen TVs for those who can't tear themselves away from the medium.



Rhinegeist, which is self-distributed, also is available in about 175 accounts in the Cincinnati market. Truth, the brewery's West Coast-style India pale ale, accounts for about 50 percent of sales, with Cougar, a golden ale, coming in second with 25 percent.



"If we're going to make a national statement, then we have to brew the beer that makes that statement," Goulding said. "We're looking west constantly for our inspiration. We're kind of a San Diego-minded brewery here in Cincinnati."



The community has embraced the brewery quicker than anticipated, he said, adding that about 2,500 people showed up at the brewery's grand opening.



As for what's coming up next, Goulding said Rhinegeist will begin canning in January.



"It's better for the beer," he said about the packaging. "There's the portability and fun factor but it's about the beer."