Growing up in Cincinnati, one of the things that really sparked my interest from a young age was the history of the city. Officially incorporated as a city in 1795, it’s one of the oldest cities away from the East Coast, and because of that it has such a richness about it. Walking through parts of downtown, I really begin to feel the weight of its history, and the many lives that were lived in its stately old buildings. In one of those buildings, sadly in disrepair today, was born the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company. Founded in 1853, it has the distinction of being Cincinnati’s oldest brewery as well as being the first American brewer to produce a true Bavarian Lager as laid out by the Purity Law of 1516. With all that history behind it, it’s no wonder that Christian Moerlein called to me, and became my very first craft beer experience.
After trying my first C.M. (an Over-the-Rhine Pale Ale), I began to seek out and try their other offerings. Excited about my new-found love of craft beers, I began to talk about it to everyone, including friends and family. When my 90-year-old grandmother overheard me talking about it, she called me over and dropped some family knowledge on me that left me both excited and uniquely connected to Christian Moerlein. She told me of my great-grandfather William Broxtermann, who, before the Prohibition, was a delivery man for none other than this fine brewer. She told me of how he would drive his horse-drawn cart through the streets of Cincinnati, dropping off fresh casks of Old Jug Lager to the various saloons and taverns around their neighborhood. To top it all off, she took me down into her basement and handed me this bottle, one her father had kept from those long-ago days. It sits now on a shelf in my apartment, a reminder of the history that I share with this brewery.
Because of all that history, I think they could probably put river water in a bottle and I would drink it and love it – but in all honesty, I really love the beers this company produces. Like most foods from Cincinnati, they tend to the sweeter side of things, but everyone needs a little sweetness now and then.
So, onto the review! Recently, Carney and I realized that we’ve been perhaps a little heavy-handed on what we were reviewing, focusing a lot on big hops and intense bitterness without really giving a fair shake to other flavors of the beer world. So, when I was at the liquor store last weekend, I found myself reaching for a Barbarossa, a Double Dark Lager from good old C.M. Having had it before, I knew already that I loved it and that it would give me a good time and a good review. Cracking it open, the yeasty, sweet scents of this beer transported me back to those first stumbling forays into the craft beer world. Drinking this beer is truly enjoyable. It’s got a musty, sweet, “thick” taste to it that seems weightier than most of the punchy ales I’ve been drinking, making it what I would call a comfort beer. It’s smoky, toasted, and has some flavors bouncing around inside it that just feel good. At only 5% ABV, you can have three or four and still come back for more. I wondered if I tasted a hint of cherries in the mix, but then just gave up on trying to analyze it. I reclined back into my couch, closed my eyes, and let history seep down into me. I thought of my family, so tied to this place and this experience. I thought of my city with its history, both good and bad. This beer truly put me in touch with something older, wiser, and beyond myself – and that is an experience I love to find in a beer.
So thank you, Christian Moerlein. Thank you on behalf of my family, my city, and myself. We’re all in this together, and that’s fine by me.