Note: This is the first “real” post in a very long time. It seems appropriate that it’s announcing a brewery opening. When we went into mothballs a couple years ago we had somewhere around 35-40 breweries in town. Now we’re north of 60. We seem to have missed a couple. Sorry about that.
It’s not that unusual for breweries in Cincinnati to open in historic locations. Throw a rock in OTR and you’ll likely hit an old brewery building that someone is thinking about putting a brewery in. Don’t be throwing rocks in OTR (or anywhere else), though. You could put someone’s eye out.
Blue Ash probably isn’t where you’d expect to find a historic brewery building, though. And you’d be justified if you expected the building to be more than 23 years old. This is craft beer history we’re talking about, here, so the time-scale is a bit … compressed.
Firehouse Grill has been operating since 2011 as a gastropub in the building at 4785 Lake Forest Drive in Blue Ash that was once home to Watson Brothers Brewing. That brewery, along with such places as Main Street, Barrelhouse, and Oldenburg, form a group that operated in the 1990s and are collectively remembered among the longtime Cincinnati beer community as “ahead of their time.”
There must be something about operating in a building that once housed a brewery that gets into the woodwork.1 Owners Molly & Bob Davis announced in late June of last year that they’d be adding a brewery to their operation and today they’ve announced their opening weekend: February 20-23, 2020.
The addition of a brewery always seemed inevitable, to be honest. Firehouse has long been one of the stalwarts in the local beer community. They’ve consistently sponsored events featuring local craft beer in creative ways. Last March, for example, they hosted an event called “New Brew Fest” that showcased many of the (then) newest breweries in town so people see the range of what the city and region offers. Less than a year later, they’re one themselves. As Molly Davis put it in an email, “We’re the newest brewery in Cincinnati (until the next one opens!)”
Veteran Cincinnati brewer Justin Chaney (Swine City, Common, Brink) is Head Brewer. He’s planning to have five Firehouse -produced beers available opening weekend:
- Sycamore Blonde
- Blue Ash Brown
- Summit Saison
- Aviator Amber
- Flightpath IPA
With two more — a Belgian Wit and a Stout — on deck for later. The balance of the 40 taps at the bar will continue to feature a mix of local, regional, and national beers.
Planned activities include a $8 keep-the-glass special, swag givaways, tours of the 4-barrel brewhouse, food specials incorporating their beers and probably more. You can check their website or Facebook page for specifics about hours and such.
There’s one more connection between the old and the new that deserves mention. The decision by Firehouse to name its beers after local Blue Ash landmarks and lore has precedent in the very name of the brewery that preceded it at that location. There were no Watsons involved in starting Watson Brothers Brewing. The name came from aviators Hugh and Parks Watson who founded the airport that eventually became the Blue Ash Municipal Airport. It operated for 91 years before closing for good in 2012. (hat tip to the indispensable Gnarly Gnome for that last tidbit)
As a final note I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to saying “and you can check out our event listings for all the info,” instead of linking elsewhere, but, alas, I don’t think the new event calendar system will be up and running soon enough for this event. I’m working on it. Writing posts where I link to the evil Facebook is encouragement to get the darn thing done.
1 Attention Hamilton County health inspectors: That’s a metaphor!