Ever wonder what Cincinnati’s Brewery District was like during its pre-Prohibition heyday? Whether you’re a beer lover or a history buff, you can take a step back in time thanks to the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., a group of residents, business owners, and developers dedicated to making the Brewery District a great place to live, work, and play.
The Brewery District is roughly comprised of the Over-the-Rhine and West End neighborhoods north of Liberty Street—around 300 acres or 50 city blocks—including Findlay Market. This area features the largest collection of pre-Prohibition breweries and Italianate architecture in the country, along with other historical industrial and mixed-use buildings.
While the Redevelopment Corp. aims to repopulate the Brewery District with visitors, residents, and businesses alike through heritage tourism—think brewery tours, festivals like Bockfest, and the OTR Biergarten—its key initiative is the Cincinnati Brewing Heritage Trail. The Trail is an urban walking experience that combines physical installations with digital and audio content, so visitors can choose how they want to experience history. Iconic markers and a Brewing Heritage Trail app provide stories, photos, and augmented reality experiences that can be accessed any time without charge. Visitors may also choose to explore the Trail through guided tours or audio-guided apps.
“We can guide visitors all the way from their homes to our neighborhood, showcasing different stories via photos, audio, and video,” says Steven Hampton, executive director of the Redevelopment Corp. “These stories include digital augmented-reality experiences, such as being able to view lagering cellars 30 feet underground while you stand on the sidewalk above, or re-creating breweries long ago demolished. Most important, we can offer new and engaging content every time you visit the Trail with a library of content that is evergreen.”
Hampton says the group has secured funding for the first physical segment of the Trail, about 3/4 of a mile, which will be fabricated and installed this summer. They’re also working with the City of Cincinnati on a new local historic district to complement the National Historic District they created last year in the Mohawk neighborhood of the Brewery District.
Of course, while you’re exploring the Trail, you may want to stop off for a drink or a bite to eat. You can satisfy almost any craving at historic Findlay Market. Or try Dunlap Cafe on Henry and Dunlap Streets, an old-school greasy spoon and bar with an impressive beer can collection on the walls. Visit Christian Moerlein Brewery Company’s Malt House Tap Room and Wienerwurst Mike Franfurtary to experience one of the pioneers of Cincinnati craft beer while chowing down on a mean spent-grain pretzel with beer cheese. And Rhinegeist Brewery on Elm Street is a hands-down awesome place to have a beer and hang out with friends after a long day of exploring one of Cincinnati’s richest historic neighborhoods.