Moerlein Lager House comes into focus

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Greg Hardman?s vision is steadily coming into view.

By March, Cincinnatians will begin to see the first steel beams rising
along the riverfront for what will become the Moerlein Lager House.


The two-story, $4 million restaurant and microbrewery is slated to
open by late October ? serving up more than 5,000 barrels of
Cincinnati?s home-grown beer brands each year along with a carefully
crafted menu of 19th century foods.

? Photos: Moerlein Lager House
? Photos: Moerlein Brewing history

?The lager house will be something that is unique on a world-wide
scale,? says Hardman, CEO of Moerlein Brewing Co. ?We?re aiming to
make it one of the best microbrewery-restaurants in the world.?

Located just off Joe Nuxhall Way and adjacent to Great American Ball
Park, the restaurant will be perched above the recently relocated
Mehring Way. Already, work to build the lager house?s lower service
level ? where the beer will ferment ? has been finished. Construction
of the restaurant and microbrewery is poised to begin in the coming
weeks.

?Our location is spectacular,? says Hardman. ?We have 360-degree views
of both stadiums, the Ohio River, the (new riverfront) park. It?s
going to be amazing.?

Interior designs are now being finalized for the 15,000-square-foot
restaurant, which will seat up to 500 guests inside on two levels with
room for banquets and private meetings.

?When you walk into the Moerlein Lager House, you?re going to
experience Cincinnati?s grand brewing tradition,? says Hardman, who
has worked over the last five years to buy and revive Cincinnati?s
historic beer brands including Christian Moerlein, Hudepohl, Burger,
Little Kings, Top Hat, Hauck and Windisch-Muhlhauser.

The labels date back to the mid-19th and early 20th centuries when
German immigrants set up breweries, hundreds of saloons and bottling
operations in Over-the-Rhine and the West End.

? Quiz: Local beers
? Quiz: How much do you know about beer?

At the lager house, dining areas will be dedicated to key figures and
brands part of that beer brewing heritage, Hardman says. At the main
entrance guests will be greeted by a time line and mural of the former
Christian Moerlein Brewery in Over-the-Rhine.

Guests will also be able to peer into the working microbrewery or stop
into a Moerlein gift and merchandise shop.

Outside, another 600 guests can be seated in two outdoor beer gardens.
The first, located at the main entrance off of Nuxhall Way, will
include a hops garden, where hops used in the microbrewery?s range of
beers will be grown.

A second, more than 300-seat beer garden will be located on the
restaurant?s western edge overlooking the Cincinnati Riverfront Park?s
event lawn. It will have room for a stage and be operable in all
seasons, thanks to a retractable awning that can be enclosed by a
glass wall that rises from the floor. The two beer gardens can be
connected for large events.

Hardman has tapped the Cunningham Restaurant Group as the lager
house?s chief operator. The Avon, Ind.,-based firm operates Stone
Creek Dining Co. restaurants in Montgomery and West Chester.

The menu, he says, will be unlike any most local residents have
experienced.

?The goal is to match food with beer,? he says. ?We?re developing a
menu of late 19th century foods that celebrate Cincinnati.?

Highlights include rotisserie meats, stews, grain-spent breads and
signature salads. On tap, the lager house will offer Moerlein Brewing
Co.?s range of brands as well as feature guest beers, Hardman says.
All told, up to 150 employees are expected to work at the lager house.

For Hardman, the lager house is another step toward reviving and
capitalizing on Cincinnati?s beer brewing history.

Less than two months age, his firm began brewing small pilot beer
batches in a historic brewery facility on Moore Street in
Over-the-Rhine. It was the first time Christian Moerlein beer had been
brewed in Over-the-Rhine since the start of Prohibition in 1919.

Eventually, he plans to open the facility?s remaining pre-Prohibition
lager cellars and tunnels under the brewery for regular tours. The
tours will include a stop at the lager house.

Linking the two venues ? one in the heart of Over-the-Rhine, and the
other on the banks of the river - ?is symbolic,? Hardman says.

?This was the path beer flowed through Cincinnati to be transported
around the world in the 19th century,? he said. ?How cool is this
going to be??

http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20110209/BIZ01/302090111/Moerlein-Lager-House-comes-into-focus?odyssey=mod|mostview

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