When the taxi drops you off at the Rhinegeist Brewery, in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, you're greeted by an unadorned doorway and a fairly nondescript sign. Walk in and climb the three flights of stairs to the entrance, though, and you're rewarded with an awe-inspiring sight—a massive, high-ceilinged, wide open space, easily the size of a Costco and roomy enough that the brewery hosts an indoor wiffleball league in the winter.
Rhinegeist is spread out in the former bottling plant of Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, a Cincinnati lager giant that was founded in 1853 but failed to survive Prohibition. (The Moerlein name's since been revived for a lager-centric brewpub located next to the Cincinnati Reds stadium.) Bob Bonder, owner of an Ohio coffee roastery, moved into the long-disused building in June of 2013, picking up an old 20-barrel brewing system from Mexico and bringing in staff from Indiana's Sun King and the local Rock Bottom restaurant.
Cincinnati now has a vibrant craft-beer scene, from the hip and IPA-loving MadTree to the highly experimental Ei8ht Ball (whose pub is actually located inside a liquor supermarket across the river in Kentucky). Rhinegeist, though, has to take the cake in the way a visit overwhelms your visual senses. You can feel beer history surround you as you try out their line of beers, ranging from the Dad hoppy holiday ale to bigger monsters like the Ink imperial stout. Even the way they sell is unique—Rhinegeist is one of now several dozen breweries to let you take home Crowlers, 32-ounce cans that are purged of air, filled with draft beer, and sealed up right in front of you. Invented by the Oskar Blues brewery in Colorado, Crowlers have yet to hit Oregon but offer a compact, cheap way to take home beer without worrying about it going bad—a godsend on a road trip when you're sampling breweries across the nation like this.