Cincinnati’s MadTree Brewing Offers Crazy Beers in a Chill Setting

Unfortunately, there is no WKRP in Cincinnati museum, landmark or point of interest in Ohio’s second city (or third or fourth depending on who you asked). So if you found your Cincinnati-style chili, then beer is always a good alternative.

Rhinegeist Brewery was going to be my destination because I’ve heard of them, but a few of my beer travelers I met along the way that I was mad to not visit MadTree. Thus, I made it my second stop while passing through.

My first impression was that the place was huuuuuuuuuge. I didn’t even go outside. When I did, I was like, dammmmmnnnn, you people got space. So you won’t have trouble finding a place to enjoy your beer.

The five-year old brewery is quickly just as popular as Cleveland’s Great Lakes or Akron’s Hoppin’ Frog as the go-to beer for locals. MadTree has amazing array of beer selections.

That’s why I had to get two flights and a couple of six-packs to go to be all in of MadTree.

Even though they had a full food menu, I stuck to the beer:

  • Axis Mundi Russian Imperial Stout
  • Basic Batch Golden Belgian Blonde
  • Shade Gose
  • Happy Amber Red Ale
  • Cuppa Coffee English Mild
  • I’m On An Oat!!! Oatmeal Stout
  • PSA (Proper Session Ale)
  • Lift Kolsch

Skyline Chili Started the Cincinnati Chili Style … Is Not For Everyone

Between Louisville and Columbus is Ohio’s second city, Cincinnati. Besides WKRP, the Bengals and the Reds, the modestly-sized city most-famous offering to the world is their chili … which you serve on spaghetti. Ummmm, yum?

This begs the question, does chili cease to be chili when it’s served on pasta? I say no, it becomes a meat sauce. Put it on a hot dog, fine. In a bowl. Yup. I’ll even take it over rice. Pasta is a foreign object for chili connoisseurs.

Nevertheless, the place to get the local delicacy is Skyline Chili. The diner chain was founded in 1949 by Greek immigrants. Their recipe for chili is a kept secret for it’s herbs and spices. Most recipes have you using chocolate or chocolate ice cream. Yup.

Unlike a hearty, meaty Texas chili, their version is a bit more watery and thin. The flavor is there, but it’s not a sweat-inducing heat.

If you’re like me, and you don’t want a full on heart attack by getting a full plate, you get a side portion where they top it with a handful of finely shredded cheddar cheese.  For more traditionalists, you can get it “Coney style” on top of a hot dog with onion and cheese. Or, just get a cup of it with crackers.

Total bill for ice tea, small pasta and hot dog — $8. A perfectly reasonable amount to fulfill a curiosity.

The original location is no longer around, so there’s 100+ locations in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida. You can also get in cans on websites that sell canned chili.

There are plenty of other places in town that probably serve better chili, so you can have a whole chili tour of the city. Just stay away from me when you do because who knows what that does to your digestive system.

The Other Brewery to Visit in Louisville — Monnik

It tends to happen to me, I drink one more alcoholic beverage because I don’t want to miss out on something wonderful. I end up paying for it the next day.

Since Louisville is the epicenter of all things bourbon, you tend to want to try them all — within reason. I felt I had my full but the bartender at Haymarket told me he knows the guys at Monnik and that if I headed over there, they would make sure to stay open and not close early.

A Lyft took me over to the Schnitzelburg neighborhood, the center of the city’s German population, for Monnik Brewery. Indeed, they kept the lights on for me as only two other people were in the place on a Tuesday night an hour before closing.

The space itself has an industrial chic look with lots of wood countertops, Edison lightbulbs and open windows, which is key in the Kentucky summers.

While the food menu looked mighty tasty — heavy on the local meats — I just want to do my flight. What they are known for are War Fries, served with peanut sauce, mayo and onion. It’s a Dutch specialty that I had in Amsterdam that I wish not to repeat.

Here’s what I had:

  • Spacecataz Wyld Saison
  • Oude Specht Saison
  • Spacecataz Bière de Garde
  • IPA
  • Hauck’s American Pilsner


The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville is the Greatest Museum of All Time (G.M.A.T.)

This past weekend was the “Greatest Two Minutes in All of Sports” played out in Louisville. The other 364 days of the years in the city, you should visit a museum dedicated to The Greatest.

I love going to museums — big, small, history, art, science, halls of fame. The Muhammad Ali Center ranks up there to museums dedicated to one person — up there with the Picasso Museum in Barcelona or Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The best athlete in the history of sports deserves a museum worthy of his grandeur.  It works as a sports museum that chronicles his achievements in boxing. It works as a history museums for civil rights in the 60s.  Pull that together and you see why Ali means so much to modern history. He’s a man who shaped the world and a world that shaped him.

What I love above the museum is how it’s laid out where you go through time with Ali, from what Louisville was like when he was born in 1942 to specific points in the Civil Right movement. The first bit of trivia I learned — he was encouraged to learn boxing when his bike was stolen and the local policeman encouraged him to fight back against the bullies in the neighborhood.

The Ali Center is fairly modern, so there are plenty of multi-media installations that go beyond the boxing world. If anything, the museum focuses more of Ali’s influence in history over his sports accolades. It’s museum for all people even if you don’t care about boxing.

I wasn’t planning on staying for two plus hours, but I found myself watching the whole “Rumble in the Jungle” and “Thrilla in Manilla” fights. There’s a portion of the museum where you can look down onto a boxing ring and see projections of interviews and fights. Even better, Samuel L. Jackson narrates a few videos along the way without cursing.

Toward the end, the museum focuses on his humanitarian efforts when he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. At the end, there a few painting by artists inspired by the GOAT.

Plan for two to three hours at the museum, which has something for everyone.

Against the Grain Brews at a Ballpark in Louisville

As mentioned before, the great city of Louisville is known for several neat things — the baseball bat Louisville Slugger, the Kentucky Derby, bourbon, Muhammad Ali and J.Law.

For us beer geeks, we know Louisville as the location of beloved craft brewery Against the Grain. The breathe of their selection is staggering. They pretty much cover every style and offer up unusual takes on standards.

To dive deep into all things Against the Grain, you head to their brewery and BBQ restaurant located on the main drag in Louisville, ummm, Main Street.  Even better, it’s attached to Louisville Slugger Field, home to the minor league team, the Louisville Bats. A mile down the road is the Louisville Slugger factory and museum. You see a pattern here?

While the grain in the name is the wheat and not the wood, the brewery does some wild things like ramen brewed beer and lot of barrel-aged and smoked porters and stouts. While I didn’t eat there, it was a tough choice to figure out what 20 drafts to samples.

Some of the beers in their line-up do distribute outside of the state like Citra Ass Down and Kamen Knuddeln, so I went with the brewery exclusives.

  • A Beer Pale Ale
  • Bloody Snow Pilsner
  • Flex-Arcana Stout
  • Sigurd Vos Smoked Ale
  • Low-Key ESB
  • Aunt Claudine’s Salty Melons

I’m pretty I picked my flight based on the funniest names. To go, I got their Jackyale barrel-aged porter. “Double brown ale aged in bourbon barrels in honor of the greatest rock and roll band on this or any other time: JACKYL,” said the description.

For the beer  people, this is a must-visit if you find yourself in town. It’s a big beautiful space that overlooks a lovely ball field.

Haymarket in Louisville Might Be the Best Whisky Bar in America, But Is Surrounded By Controversy

Since I visited the whisky wonderland Haymarket in Louisville last July, the bar and the owner has garnered it’s share of nasty headlines. All came to head in November when the bar closed after rape allegation surfaced against the owner causing the staff to quit.

In March, a lawsuit was filed against Haymarket’s owner that detailed gruesome details of fetishistic sex gone wrong. Other former employees have accused the owner of misconduct. The owner denies the allegations, and still has time to comment on positive Yelp reviews.

I admit, this place was cool beyond belief. Not only was the whisky list the most impressive I’ve ever seen, the dive bar aesthetics amused me to now end. You can’t go wrong with vintage bottles, Spy Hunter video games, bobbleheads and all sorts of vintage kitsch filling every square inch of the walls.

The bartender guided me through their selections, when I told him that I was only in Louisville for the night, and I wanted to drink something I couldn’t get back in the Northwest. He lined up a flight of six and away I went. Let’s just say it was a rough morning.

The bar remains open as of now, which begs the question, do you go?

There’s not a right answer, but for me, I would find another bar if I found myself back in Louisville. I would feel uncomfortable if I saw the owner in the bar, knowing that he’s a bit of freak. Every corner in the city has a great whisky bar that has local and hard to find selections. If the owner sells the bar and the appeal remains, then I would recommend a visit.



The Evan Williams Experience in Louisville is Like a Theme-Park Ride with Booze

Besides being the home to the premiere horse racing event, baseball bats, Mohammad Ali and Jennifer Lawrence, Kentucky is the bourbon capital of the world. Eighty percent of the world’s golden booze is produced in the state.

Thus, you need to do something bourbon-oriented in the state even if you are passing through like I did. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is the most likely activity, where you go town to town looking for distilleries like Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and Knob Creek. It’s pretty spectacular the quality of fine spirits within the state.

In downtown Louisville, the big names have restaurants and tasting rooms where you can eat bourbon-infused dishes and sample their wares without venturing through the state. I did the Evan Williams Experience, which is basically a theme-park ride, history tour and sampling of the good stuff.

While you’re not strapped down to a cable car, you are led from theme room to theme room by a guide where you are shown the process and, my favorite in a “so bad, it’s good way”, video walls of actors in period costume.

There was a comedian who did a bit about one man shows where the actor plays a famous historical figure like Mark Twain, Lincoln or George Washing Carver. It always starts with an actor sitting down turning to the audience, acts startled and says, “Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there.”

As with the actor in the video wall, not a joke, starts with, “Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. My name is Evan Williams. And I’m looking to make the finest bourbon in the land.” I was very amused by this.

While they technically don’t make whisky in the building for the masses, they make it for show and to serve in the tasting room. After going through the usually tour steps, you end up in a recreation of Louisville through the last century and finally, a bar circa Mad Men 1960s. Another design aesthetic I loved.

You get three tastes from the Evan Williams line. Obviously, when you’re done, you exit through the gift shop. Most of the stuff you can get online or in stores, but I opted for the bourbon barrel coffee beans.

As for advice, I was able to get the next available tour when I arrived, but you can book advance just to make sure.