Fifty West expanding has been big news in the last week.  You might have seen the tweets about it, or the Facebook posts or you might even be a WCPO “insider” and gotten the exclusive right to read about it, but regardless… this is a big topic that has some aspects that for whatever reason, no-one seems to be talking about.

Before we get into who Fifty West is becoming, we need to really understand who they are as a brewery… their personality.  Let’s dig in, shall we?

Who Is Fifty West?

I don’t know if anyone has yet to really capture what Fifty West is… myself included.  What is Fifty West Beer? Ask anyone you know to tell a story that revolves around their favorite beer, or their favorite brewery and you’ll talk all night.  We all have these memories and stories that have made beer (especially craft beer) become what it is.  This beverage that we have all fallen in love with is part of society, not because we all drink it, but because it is the very thread of what ties humanity together.

I know that this is a big statement…but think about it.  You can go anywhere in the world and sit down at a bar and have a beer with someone… These moments tie us together in a way that I couldn’t begin to explain in words.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m not near the writer in ability that would be able to express this feeling.  This ability of beer, though, moves it’s way down into all parts of our lives. Think of how beer brings with it stories…memories… People and Moments.  This is far bigger than a beverage that is brewed from a few ingredients in a big kettle down the street or around the corner from your house.

This is Fifty West.

Fifty West is a group of people who want their beers to each have a story for someone, the names of their beers all represent journeys, and the biggest journey of all is one that you’ll make when you go to the brewery itself with your friends or family.

50w Rendering
The New Fifty West Production Facility (Click to see it bigger)

The Details

Breweries are growing, and it’s fantastic to see that here in Cincinnati.  There are some places that have been around for a while that are growing in really great ways (see the potential for what Mt. Carmel could be doing with their new outdoor space) and there are some that are fairly new and experiencing some good growing pains too (this is where Fifty West falls).

Fifty West has been pumping out as much beer as they can since they opened their doors in 2012, and it’s never been enough for this city to make the beer nerds happy.  They have received praise for their food, their beer, their festivals and their personality as a brewery… across the board, with them putting a high degree of focus on all of these factors.  Drinkers across Cincinnati have been clamoring for Fifty West beer on their local bottle shop shelves since the first pint of beer was poured at their copper topped bar…but they just haven’t been able to keep up.  All this has meant to anyone who pays attention, that a production facility was a inevitability at some point.

Fifty West expanding means they are going to make more beer… A LOT more beer.

Creating a Production Facility Around The Journey.

Fifty West Site Map
The new site map (Click to see it bigger)

I won’t go as far as saying that to have a million dollar plus expansion is easy….but anyone can do that shit.  It’s easy.  It takes another level of planning and understanding of who you are, and who you want to be to take on an expansion like that, that not only keeps your personality intact, but reinforces and even grows it.  The facility itself is big.  It’s going to be shiny and nice and make the brewery have an easier time to get their beer out to customers… yes, eventually it will give them the ability to package beer so that you can get it at home, but I get the distinct impression that that wasn’t even the point of it all.  They are expanding Fifty West to help more people take a journey that revolves around this brewery… and I LOVE that.

But, what does that mean?

So…here’s the big picture…  This is not just a building that is housing some really big ass tanks for beer (they’re starting out with 4 new 40bbl fermenters btw) this is about an entire “complex” of sorts that creates a destination for people to visit.  If you look at the map to the left, or above depending on what you’re reading this on right now… you can see a whole bunch of stuff – I’m going to hit some of the highlights to help illustrate the bigger picture.

50W-BrewpubThe Brewpub

We are all familiar with this space.  This is currently Fifty West Brewing company, and will become a very important part of what they are going to do in the future.  The brewpub space will act as their pilot system, enabling them to keep putting some of the fun “one off” and test batches that they have become known for around town on tap regularly.  The restaurant will continue to have a menu that innovates and changes seasonally, so anyone who has become a fan of what the brewery is currently doing needs not worry about any of that going away.

This is, and will always be the heartbeat of what makes Fifty West tick.

50W-ProductionThe Production Facility.

This is what’s going to get the fireworks, the fanfare and what everyone is going to be talking about.  They are putting a lot of money into this space to make sure that beer is being made to keep Cincinnati satisfied.  The building used to house Hahana Beach, and although that might be “going away” (more on that in a moment) this is another piece of the Fifty West puzzle that is crucial to making it all work.  The brewery will be putting out 5-7000bbls from this facility when it opens, with enough space under this roof to move up to 30,000bbls per year (think MadTree size).

The production facility will be designed to focus more on their “core” beers, those beers that are the most popular, and that local bars are clamoring for.  In the coming years, as packaged beer becomes a priority, this space will provide a home for this operation as well…


I know that there were some die hard fans of Hahana Beach that were sad to see that Fifty West was taking over the space, but fear not!  The volleyball courts are staying right where they are outside.  You’ll be able to head down to the brewery, grab a nice cold beer or two and play a few games against your friends.  It’s not Hahana Beach anymore, but that doesn’t mean that the people who have been enjoying that experience can’t still enjoy it, and tie it in to their bigger Fifty West Experience.  Besides… what sounds better after a hot game of volleyball in the sun outside than a cold glass of Punch You In The EyePA?

Create memories… Create Experiences.

50W-CycleFifty West Cycling

This is where things really start to shift from what the brewery currently is, to what the brewery wants to be.  Fifty West is not just another building in Cincinnati that has a bunch of people inside that like to make beer, they have this core philosophy of creating experiences for people that beer fits into.  Bike riding and beer are extremely closely intertwined in a lot of other cities, and 50W has recognized that a massive portion of their fans are also fans of bicycling.  They are creating a space next to the brewery that will act as a bike shop, and quite possibly a place for those of us who aren’t already “bike people” to rent a bike for the day, cruise along the bike trail (The scenic Little Miami Trail that will tie into the Wasson Way Trail).  This trail extends all the way north, 75 miles to Springfield, going through towns like Milford, Newtown, Spring Valley, Yellow Springs and Xenia.  If you’re interested, you can get more information about the trail itself over on their website.

50W Cycling is a move for the brewery that isn’t as much about shifting their focus to “other things” as it’s a way for them to solidify who they are, and bringing more things around their fans to provide them with things to do that will create memories and experiences.

50W-CanoeMariemont Canoe Livery

This is a company that was founded back in 2013, with their location opening up in 2014.  They offer a lot of different options for canoe trips on the river, all of which end right at their location.  It’s a perfect fit for being located smack in the middle of this new Fifty West complex.  I don’t want to keep repeating the same things about each of these features, but this is all part of who their customers are, and therefore who Fifty West is to their core.  The outdoorsy lifestyle is about more than just getting outside… If you look at the overall map of the site, it’s full of opportunities for people to not only enjoy nature and the outdoors, but to be with other people.

How can you take the every day experience of drinking a beer and lift it to another level?  You do it with your friends… you make it part of a “day adventure” that involves experiences that will remain in your head forever.  You can read a little more about the Canoe Livery here on their website.

The Drift Of It All

I hope this all makes sense, it’s actually a brilliantly simple concept that is being done in a big way.  What is at the core of why we all love visiting a brewery?  It’s about creating a memory or an experience around a beer.  We want to see where our beer comes from, meet the people who made it… but what if a brewery was able to tap into the underlying feeling behind that of making something bigger out of a beer?  I think that’s always been the core philosophy behind Fifty West and something that they are trying to solidify by this expansion.  It’s almost less about creating more beer, or moving into a bigger space as it is about really figuring out who they are, and what that means for the beers that they pour, and what they can do do help their customers and their fans live inside that philosophy every time they walk up to order a beer at Fifty West.

So, it’s not about Fifty West Expanding at all.  It’s about Fifty West tightening up who they are… growing up means becoming comfortable with who you are, and it almost brings a tear to my eye to see our little brewery doing that so well.

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