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Christian Moerlein Brewing | Over-the-Rhine (OTR) Ale

Christian Moerlein Brewing | Over-the-Rhine (OTR) Ale

Just north of downtown Cincinnati sits the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The enclave got its name because of the high German population that settled this part of the city in the 19th century. Crossing the former Miami-Erie Canal into this neighborhood was said to be like crossing the Rhine River into Germany.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, German immigrants flocked to the central Midwest, and the territory stretching between Cincinnati, St Louis and Milwaukee became known as the “German Triangle.” It’s no coincidence those three cities became hotbeds for lager brewing in the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of these early German immigrants to Cincinnati was Christian Moerlein, who soon built a brewing empire in the Queen City. Despite becoming one of the largest breweries in the country, the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company died with Prohibition and was largely forgotten.

Fortunately, one current Cincinnati resident has a long memory. Greg Hardman bought the Christian Moerlein brand (as well as dozens of Cincinnati’s other lost brands) in the early 2000s and has been steadily working on restoring the city’s brewing heritage.

Christian Moerlein Brewing Company pays homage to the city’s former brewery district with its OTR (Over-the-Rhine) Ale, a British-style pale ale brewed with Cascade and Fuggle hops. A deep copper brown color, OTR Ale has lovely caramel malt flavors with subtle notes of pome fruit and grassy hops, and a touch of citrus and pine on the finish. Early in its production, the beer had a subtle anise tone, but this has disappeared in recent years. During a pairing dinner I led recently in Greenville, Ohio, I paired this with a lamb pasty made with mint, parsnip and onion, and it worked beautifully in combination.

It’s rare a city’s lost brewing heritage gets rescued and reclaimed like Cincinnati’s has. More craft breweries should take this example and look at their region’s brewing past. At Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, there’s memory in every pint.

ABV: 5.8% | IBU: 40

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