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Urban Artifact Brewery Tour

 

Urban Artifact’s home in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, was a house of worship for the first 140 years of its existence. Some would argue it still is, with the brewery’s fruited sour ales earning praise and devotion from the region’s beer faithful. 

Taking up an entire block on an industrial side street, the church property that houses Urban Artifact was built in 1873 as St. Aloysius Catholic Church, though for most of the next century it was home to St. Patrick Irish Catholic. After a short period as a cookie factory, it was purchased by the founders of Urban Artifact in 2014.

“I can’t believe how much the space has changed since then,” says co-founder and chief of strategic development Scotty Hunter as we stand in the taproom in the church basement. “We did all this on a boot-strap budget.”

The brewery has used every bit of the former church property to make a home in the Cincinnati metro area of just over two million people. The intimate taproom in the church basement has seating for 75. The gorgeous upstairs sanctuary, with its wood floors, stained glass windows, and vaulted ceiling, is used for special events. The rectory building next door holds office space for non-profits, as well as the brewery’s very own FM music station, Radio Artifact. The church gym, built in the 1960s, holds the production and packaging operation.

“Our name was partially inspired by this property,” says Hunter. “The church is an artifact itself in the urban core of Cincinnati.”

Formerly a blue-collar industrial neighborhood, Northside now balances the remnants of that working class life with a thriving arts scene.

“Northside to me is a hidden gem in Cincinnati,” says Hunter. “It’s walkable and eclectic.”



Formerly a blue-collar industrial neighborhood, Northside now balances the remnants of that working class life with a thriving arts scene.“Northside to me is a hidden gem in Cincinnati,” says Co-Founder Scotty Hunter. “It’s walkable and eclectic.”


Eclectic also describes Urban Artifact’s liquid offerings. There are no conventional IPAs, stouts, or lagers in sight here. The brewery has carved out a niche in the competitive Cincinnati beer scene by brewing a range of sour, fruited and funky beers. 

Urban Artifact’s Midwest Fruit Tart series is among their most popular, featuring gently sour ales around 8% ABV brewed with fruits ranging from berries to apricots to guava. The brewery periodically partners with a local chef or food professional to create beers in their Epicurean series, which riff on popular food flavors. 

A diverse array of barrel-aged and funky beers is released throughout the year in corked and caged bottles. These mixed-fermentation ales were once a bigger part of Urban Artifact’s identity, but the public clamored for more of the fruited sour ales, and Urban Artifact allowed their focus to evolve to meet the demand.

“We found what our customers respond to, and that’s shelf-stable fruited sours,” explains Hunter as we walk into the production room of the brewery where a new beer in the Midwest Fruit Tart series is being canned. Pie Bird is made with boysenberries, and the entire brewery smells like a berry muffin. 

As workers busily can the deep magenta-hued Pie Bird, co-founder and brewer Bret Kollmann-Baker steps aside to talk about the brewery’s unorthodox methods for collecting yeast and bacteria. 

It’s no secret to brewers that yeast and bacteria are everywhere. They’re in the air, on most surfaces and on us. The challenge brewers generally face is in keeping unwanted microbes out of their beer. The folks at Urban Artifact harness that reality to capture cultures from their property and surrounding environment to anchor their beers to their place of origin. 

“We set out fifty jars of wort all over the property to collect cultures,” says Kollmann-Baker. “The one we went with was collected in the bell tower, and it just produced this really clean acidity and notes of stone fruit.” 


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