What used to be more of a quiet events venue on the western edge of Athens has been transformed into a public gathering space for the first time in years. And it’s about time; Athens’ west end doesn’t have a lot of restaurants or hang out places if you live there — as I did for two years — and there wasn’t a lot to draw people around campus and to the east this far away. Now that’s changed. This spot isn’t just a bar, but also kind of a hang-out space, a little more low-key than what you will find uptown on Court Street. That’s a nice thing, especially during the day, and especially when you need somewhere to relax a little bit.
Dayton’s newest brewpub, The Wandering Griffin has sprung up in a former bar chain location in Beavercreek. This bar makes use of a unique space to give it sort of a deconstructed feel; heavy wood tables and furnishings, a low-lit bar and dramatic lighting give way to a bar that favors creative culinary ideas and a wide variety of beers, both made in-house and produced across Dayton and all of Ohio. The Wandering Griffin is here to celebrate not just Gem City, but all of Ohio and the surrounding region, where many great kinds of beer are worth note and where brewers often collaborate to make a better beer.
A brewery catering to the beer lovers all over Louisville, Bluegrass Brewing Co. reps itself as “Louisville’s Original Brewery” having launched the first of the brewery’s three locations in St. Matthews in 1993. Today it has three locations, including a tap room downtown where people congregate right across the street from the KFC Yum! Center and other big venues to have a drink after a show or a performance. It’s a pleasant experience, and the beers aren’t too bad.
Springboro, Ohio gained a craft beer shop when Crooked Handle Brewing Co. opened near Dorothy Lane Market and with a special focus on bringing a comfortable place to drink and enjoy craft beer. There are a few other sports bars in this strip, so instead the place is something of a more relaxed environment with fewer distractions, a place where you can talk to the bartenders and make a few new friends. All told, it’s a pretty enjoyable experience.
An iconic name in Cleveland’s culture long before the current craze of Craft beer struck the nation, Great Lakes Brewing Co. has been brewing beers in the Ohio City neighborhood for over 30 years. Bottles of this beer have been a regional favorite around Ohio for years, and as the place becomes ever more well-known around the country, I can say for sure that this beer is one of the best known to come out of Ohio. In spite of all of this, the bar itself feels relatively low key, a classy establishment easy to love. You’ll remember the time you came here in person.
Maybe the most high-profile Cincinnati-based craft brewer to result from the recent beer boom, Rhinegeist has quickly gained a statewide following in the few years since it was set up thanks to wide distribution and canning of beer that has brought many kinds across the state. True to form, the brewer itself opened up shop in a historic Over-The-Rhine warehouse once home to the Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. With a nod to that history, and the German character that helped bring this neighborhood to life in its time, the brewery’s open and welcoming beer hall is an experience by itself.
Served up with a healthy dose of history for its namesake, Taft’s Ale House honors a Cincinnatian who just happens to have been President of the United States once. So it’s nice that this eccentric church-turned-brewery has an aura of history to it, and a heck of a lot of character. While the libations are what bring the crowds to this spot on the weekends, it has a huge menu of food to keep people returning, including a brunch menu that isn’t often advertised. The food here is really worth a special visit.
Since it has opened in the Covington neighborhoods a stone’s throw from downtown Cincinnati, Braxton Brewing Co. has quickly become a community meeting space for its craft beers and spacious interior. The beer menu here is typically pretty small at a time. There are about half a dozen beers on tap at any moment, most of which are rotated among Braxton’s seasonal brews.
The craft beer boom has meant new breweries are popping up all over the place. Oftentimes new brewers get creative with the real estate; from long-vacant industrial spaces to innocuous strip malls, farmhouses, and old fashioned barns, you find craft beer spots just about anywhere. But to blow everyone else out of the water in creative re-use? Go for an old church building. So it is with Church Brew Works, sitting inside this massive old chapel in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, this one serves food and local beer into the late hours with its fearless motto: “And on the eighth day … man created beer.”
With something of a sports bar feel, Rivertowne attracts people to its four locations across Pittsburgh with an assortment of its own craft beers and apps that fill up the numerous Pittsburgh fans while rooting for their favorite Black and Yellow teams. The high-traffic locations where you find this spot often leave long lines, especially on game day, but I wasn’t attracted by the charm that brought others in the doors. The food is sloppy and the beers are forgettable.