Cincy Brewing Company posted on its Facebook page in late January that they would start some renovations. For anyone who frequented the taproom, I’m sure that news is just as exciting as it was for me. If you haven’t been, these guys took over the old Rivertown space in Lockland, which is a little, uhhhh… “old school”.
When you show up at Cincy Brewing Company and sit down for a pint, the physical bar is a little higher than you expect, if you show up during the summertime, the space is a little warmer than expected. When you head to the bathroom, expect to take a while if you want your hands dry, those hand driers feel like they’re powered by a hamster running on a wheel. It’s a place filled with little things that are all just a little shy of being great. In short, it’s what you remember about a lot of those warehouse-style taprooms from 20 years ago.
A renovation is an exciting thing.
Early February came and with a post that Cincy Brewing Company would be closed for the entirety of the month to finish up these big renovations – and then nothing. No more has ever been posted to the Cincy Brewing Company account.
Sometime after the renovations started, there was word out from a consultant involved with a new project that Cincy Brewing was no more, and a new place would be opening up in its location. Cerveceria Ortega. This was going to be a brewery that focused on Mexican-style beers, specifically Mexican lagers.
In fact, if you look at their unfinished website, they tout a brewery that makes authentic “Mexican cervezas” – and they tell us that they are going to be Cincinnati’s only cerveceria. The word was that the new brewery, sorry, cerveceria, was looking for a head brewer to come in and craft these Mexican cervezas. There wasn’t an opening date planned, but the writing was clearly on the wall – Cincy Brewing Company was closed, and the business had been sold.
Most of the folks that I talked to were understandably doubtful about this new project. A lot of folks were putting their metaphorical money on the Cerveceria not ever actually opening, and things just closing down quietly for good.
Guess what? They were at least a little bit wrong. Cerveceria Ortega is in the middle of a long soft opening phase. They’re open. There’s a new beer (at least one… not a Mexican lager, though). You know that I had to stop in and check it out, right?
A New Brewery – Sort Of.
I say sort of when I call this a new brewery because it’s certainly a new business. New owners, a new name, a new theme. They definitely want to put their own spin on things. I also say sort of because it definitely feels and looks a lot like Cincy Brewing Company. The beers currently on tap are the same ones (with one exception) that you are probably familiar with. Heck, even their brewer ended up being Jeff who decided to stay on after the sale of the company (he was one of the folks that brewed when Cincy Brewing Company was in operation).
Speaking long-term, things will definitely keep evolving, but for now? It feels a lot like you remember it feeling like before.
That’s not to say that there aren’t quite a few differences that you’ll notice, too.
The bar is certainly a bit bigger. Strike that, they added on to the bar, and it’s massive. They wrapped it all around the cooler that was behind it before and then added a large u-section that extends out into the back part of the taproom with the stage and a pool table. The taproom space feels like it’s bigger than it was before, even though it’s not.
There’s also something else that I have to mention, that isn’t really great stuff if you’re a craft beer fan.
The Modelo, Oh, the Modelo
I get it before you say anything. If the idea of Cerveceria Ortega is to showcase Mexican lagers it shouldn’t be very surprising that every single other person in the room aside from us was sitting around drinking cans of Modelo. If, however, the idea of Cerveceria Ortega is to showcase Mexican-style beers that they brew there – they’re going to have a really big hill to climb. It’s going to be really hard to break the habits of the people that are filling the room currently.
I don’t think many places will be able to brew a beer that not only tastes comparable to Modelo but that is also going to be able to do it and make the price comparable to a $4 or $5 can of it.
You have a couple of options… stop selling Modelo, risk pissing the people off that have gotten used to expecting it there – or start brewing a bunch of stuff that fits the theme, but stands out with a personality that just can’t be matched by a macro lager.
Booze, Cocktails, The Real Solution
While the cocktail I ordered was a little expensive at $13, it shows the side of things that Cerveceria Ortega really needs to be leaning into. I think (and I could be wrong) that the real solution for these folks is to stop selling Modelo and other cheap macro beer – convince folks to drink the beer that is brewed there or to order a cocktail. There are a TON of great cocktails with Tequila, Rum, Cachaca, and even Bourbon that fit into the theme of the new space perfectly.
If you double down on a great cocktail program, make them cheap – approachable, refreshing, and easy to make… you can absolutely make a killing.
I’ll Be Back… And You Can Check Them Out Too
This is an extended soft open of sorts for Cerveceria Ortega… and with that, they have pretty limited hours right now. You can visit them from 4 pm-2 am on Friday and Saturday and from 2 pm-10 pm on Sundays. I expect that over time that will change as they settle into things.
The space is clean, the people are nice… it’s a fine little bar but needs to grow into itself. I’ll definitely be back, and I’ll keep you updated on how they are growing!
If you want to know more about Cerveceria Ortega, you can always pay attention right here on the Website. For more, you can visit their (still unfinished) website – or follow them on Facebook or Instagram!
2 thoughts on “Cerveceria Ortega Is Alive, Cincy Brewing Company is, well… not.”
A craft brewery selling macros feels extraordinarily dirty. It’ll be a while til I visit this place.
It’s definitely a little strange… but I am still really curious to see how they adjust things as time goes on.