Craft, local and international beer is all the rage in the Cincinnati restaurant scene and has been for decades actually when Cincinnati was one of the top brewing cities in the country. BrewRiver GastroPub, which opened earlier this month, is on board with featuring local gems and other known and unknown favorites.
Just a week after opening, my friend and I braved the “new kid on the block” to see what all the fuss was about. Normally I give a restaurant a few weeks (or months even) to get on their feet, but my beer-loving bud wanted to try the beer now, dang it. And I was pleasantly surprised!
The mood: BrewRiver, located on Riverside Drive in the East End, boasts themselves as “A delicious tribute to Cincinnati’s brewing heritage.” In fact, they plan to open their own brewery and banquet hall in the old church, just across the street from the new pub. Currently the BrewRiver beers are brewed and barreled just over the Indiana state line.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a very friendly host who reminded us it was a beautiful evening, so we sat on the patio to enjoy a humidity-free night. Our server said hello and gave us time to mull over the pages and pages of beer options.
The drinks: There are House Draughts, Guest Draughts and Guest Bottles and Cans, followed by the wine list. They offer beer tasting flights ($2 each for house or $2.50 each for guests) and the BrewRiver GastroPub SteinClub. The club has yearly or a lifetime membership for brew lovers. I think my friend took home an application.
After much page turning, head scratching and question asking, I branched out and tried the Dark Horse Raspberry Ale ($5). It is from the “white, wheat and fruit” category of the menu. I didn’t taste the raspberry as much as the wheat palate, but it was still a solid choice.
My friend dove into a beer flight, mixing guest and house choices: BrewRiver RiverWater Dark Lager, Calliope India Pale Ale, one from Breckenridge Brewery, Island Queen Blonde Ale and the Felsen Aged Lager ($11).
Our server was knowledgeable on the food and beer selections which was impressive for being open all of seven days. He answered questions with confidence and ease. Bonus points for him.
The food: To start, we devoured the New Orleans-Style BBQ Shrimp ($10).They had a bold spiciness to them but the cold beer helped smooth out the finish.
For the main course, my dinner date was adventurous and tried the Oyster Po’ Boy ($12) with a cornmeal crust, iceburg lettuce, sriracha aioli and pickled ginger on local bread with hand-cut fries. I am told the oysters were crispy and the ginger was a great touch. I can attest that the fries were worth every calorie.
I was in the mood for some home cooking, so I went for the Buttermilk Crispy Amish Chicken ($16) with roasted fingerling potatoes and vinegar slaw. The crispy but moist chicken had a local honey drizzle on top to make this perfection. Though I was not a fan of the slaw and the potatoes were a tad under cooked, I was still a huge fan of this chicken dish and will be back for more.
The drinks, part two: Halfway though dinner it was time for round two. My friend went for a full pint of the BrewRiver Queen Island Blonde Ale ($5).
I stayed with the fruit trend and found a new favorite in the Samuel Smith Organic Cherry ($13). Turns out it is an 18.7 ounce (550 ml) “Victorian Pint” bottle. There was a bit of a sticker shock though with this beer when the bill came since the prices are not all listed on the menu. That is my only true complaint – loved the beer, not the hidden prices.
As if we did not consume enough calories already, we shared the Baked Apple Betty ($8) with house made Rogue Hazelnut Nector Gelato for dessert. Warm, cold, soft and crispy make up a perfect dessert in my book.
The verdict: Winner, winner chicken dinner! BrewRiver might be the “new kid on the block” but they know their stuff and are very proud of the menu and bar selections.