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Monday, February 7, 2011

Craft Beer Update from the Fort Thomas Midway

Nearly two years ago craft brews were launched (near simultaneously) with much fan fare by both Vito's and the Midway Cafe.  Today we thought we would check-in with the Midway Cafe's experience at brewing their own beer.

The Midway Cafe will celebrate 107 years of business this February. While I can't verify the claim; the Midway boasts being the oldest saloon in Fort Thomas and the only family owned micro-brewery in Northern Kentucky.

Given the history it only makes since that they have been successful expanding their micro brew concept since it was launched over one year ago.  Since that time, the Midway has expanded their lineup and on a recent cold February day was serving both a Pale Ale and a Porter.  These same beers are "always on" at the Midway because of their popularity.

Tim Gabennesch, the owner of the Midway Cafe, brews the beers himself in the basement of the Midway using a mash brewing process.  I won't bore you with the details of the process but to summarize a fairly complicated concept into layman's terms it uses multiple tanks with heating and cooling with the goal of injecting flavor through the hops and into your frosty mug.

In Tim's words, "We serve the freshest and use only the best ingredients to brew our beer.  We grind the malt, add the hops, boil the wort, ferment it to become beer, then carbonate it and serve it to you. Our beer is brewed with the freshest malts and hops I can buy. Anybody can sell cheap beer, not everybody can sell their own handcrafted beer using only the best ingredients."

For the Midway, what started out as a small quantity of hand-crafted beer has now grown to a production of 3 half barrels per week.  The craft beer business is now a key aspect of Tim's business strategy as he compete's with a rejuvenated Fort Thomas Pub and Fort Thomas Pizza that has an expanded bar.  To continue the successful history of the Midway finding customers from outside Fort Thomas is key to growth and differentiation.  The constantly growing lineup of craft beers says one thing "mission accomplished".

The craft brews have been successful but it requires that Tim's staff push the beer as an alternative to the international beer brewing staples found in any bar and grill in America.  This strategy is most successful when a patron agrees to a free sample of the craft beer - which the Midway will gladly pour to any takers.

Tim will be adding a Lager to his lineup in March and even plans a special Lager in time for St Patrick's Day (colored green of course).  Other expansion plans include future beer tastings of the craft beers as well as a future run on some of the national beer competitions.  The Midway Cafe is continuing the major resurgence of the Cincinnati area's brewing tradition and anyone interested in a good locally made beer has to make a stop at the Midway.


  1. Can someone recommend to Mr. Gabennesch to maybe fix up the bathrooms?

  2. a) Real men don't need to use the bathroom.... lol

    Bathrooms aside, Tim has done a great job with the beer.. I really look forward to each new batch. He isn't kidding when he refers to the quality.. It is really top-notch. (Does that sound like a commercial? Sorry.. I really, really love the beer!)

    Also, did you note what a handsome group of guys is in that picture?

  3. How about making the bar smoke free so you can taste the good food and beer?

  4. Better bathrooms and smoke-free would be great...

    But, don't let these comments detract from the quality of the beer.. It's worth a special trip.

  5. I agree no smoke and better bathrooms are needed. The last time my wife and I ate there we could't taste the food because the smoke was so bad. I would love to go back but I won't return until they go smoke free.

  6. The Beer may be good, I haven't tried it, but the food is terrible IMO.
    Also, the reason my wife and I haven't gone back, The service was some of the worst service I have ever had. I just got sick of it. We went almost every weekend, the staff knew us, still took almost an hour to get food, for 2 people.