If there is a limit to Greg Hardman's enthusiasm for the newly opened Moerlein Lager House and the Cincinnati beer brands it touts, he hasn't found it.

The managing partner of the two-story bar and restaurant, located just west of Great American Ball Park in a new city park, spoke about it just days after it opened. A multi-tasker, Hardman was getting fitted for a 19th century beer baron costume in preparation for marching in the annual Bockfest parade.

"You stick the Moerlein Lager House anywhere in Cincinnati, and it's awesome. You stick it in Smale Riverfront Park, and it becomes world class," he says.

Just in time for baseball season, the Lager House has opened to enthusiastic crowds who have bought into the establishment's blending of Cincinnati's venerable beer brands and newer craft beers as well as traditional and contemporary menu options. Six styles of Moerlein beer are on tap year-round, and two seasonal brews will be featured at any given time. Hudy 14-K, Hudy Delight, Hudepohl Amber, Little Kings and Burger beers are also sold year-round.

Hardman, whose Christian Moerlein Brewing Company owns more than 60 Cincinnati beer brands, plans to brew up batches of some of those old recipes on a regular basis. The facility is operated by the Cunningham Restaurant Group.

Avril-Bleh Metts, Of Course

Avril-Bleh & Sons, the iconic downtown butcher shop, provides their homemade brats, metts and other sausages for a tried and true complement to good beer, while a large menu of other options includes cedar roasted salmon, beer can chicken melt, beef stroganoff and a full array of appetizers.

"We're a craft brewer," Hardman says. "While we celebrate our past, we're all about brewing and food of the future."

Hardman and Tilsley & Associates Architects of Mount Adams made the most of the location by including glass walls that offer patrons sweeping views of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, the Ohio River, and the Covington riverfront and skyline.

The architecture is thoroughly contemporary while paying tribute to Cincinnati's brewing past. Sandstone walls are a paean to the foundations of the city's historic breweries; exposed wood beams connecting to steel girders are reminiscent of Cincinnati's industrial brewing era; and bedrock stairs hearken back to 19th century beer cellars in Over-the-Rhine breweries.

Ready for Fans

Hardman said the Lager House was designed to accommodate surges of baseball and football crowds with temporary bars and walls that can be removed to combine with the outdoor Hops Garden and Grand Moerlein Beer Garden.

Marble-top bars and dining room seating are surrounded by memorabilia including vintage Christian Moerlein Barbarossa ads that declare the beer a "health food." The first-base bag that Pete Rose touched to record his record-breaking 4,192nd hit is on display in the lobby, just across from the brand-new onsite brewer. It's visible through glass walls and open for free tours on Saturdays beginning at 11 a.m.

"What sets us apart are the views, the fantastic food, Cincinnati's brewing heritage, one of the prominent beers today in the craft beer movement and location," Hardman says.

"It turned out beyond my wildest expectations."