On Location: Ei8ht Ball Brewery
On Fridays they bring out bacon. Twenty pounds of it. More if the crowd is expected to be big. The crispy strips are heaped high on a flat white platter that’s placed on a high counter. The mound is backlit by the picture windows dividing the brew house from the taproom.
There are two ways to enter the Ei8ht Ball Brewery taproom. Regulars tend to use the door off the gravel patio that faces the levee dividing Bellevue from neighboring Newport. Everyone else enters via the retail floor of The Party Source, a 125,000-square-foot liquor store located directly across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Those who park out front pass through the shadow of the New Riff Distillery.
The bacon gets top billing on Fridays, but the point of the exercise is to feature a particular brewery’s offerings. This day it’s Uinta on five of the 42 taps. Free Bacon Fridays are the brainchild of the taproom’s beer buyer and all-around impresario, Danny Gold. He led the effort to get the brewery opened in 2013. Occasionally seen wearing a Castro-style cap, he even has the beard to go with it. He provides an element of motion even when the taproom is nearly empty. He’s constantly checking on something behind the bar then heading out to his desk outside the taproom doors on the retail floor.
By 4 p.m. the crowd is starting to build. The 10 stools at the bar are already filled, and the dozen or so metal high- and low-top tables won’t last much longer. Pouring beer behind the bar is local institution James “Peanut” Kahles. He is literally and figuratively the face of the Ei8ht Ball taproom. His job title is murky, but it’s clearly his bar when he’s behind it. He’s a distinctive figure with his gray handlebar mustache, long beard, suspenders and black bowler hat. Distinctive enough that the Ei8ht Ball website features his image as part of its design.
Brewer Mitch Dougherty comes back to the taproom about 5 p.m. When the bacon comes out. He’s been talking to his counterparts in the distillery. He’s won multiple medals at the World Beer Cup and Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers in the past, so he stays in close touch with them about the availability of barrels. He’s in the process of finishing the carbonation on Little Richard, a triple-berry sour aged in red wine barrels. His Doppio coffee porter is on a nitro tap. It’s a popular choice on this raw winter day when the nearby river makes its presence known.
By 5:30 the bacon is gone. The crowd remains. The beer continues to pour.