CINCINNATI — I sometimes forget what a rich cultural resource we Lexingtonians have in Cincinnati, just 80 miles north of us. I am reminded of it every time I head there for a premier event, such as the recent performance by Shen Yun, the New York-based company famous for its classical Chinese ethnic and folk dancing.
The troupe's recent performance at the Aronoff Center for the Arts became the catalyst for me to make a weekend of it: to combine the show with an underground walking tour, a new art exhibit and the opportunity to sip bourbon in a glamorous locale.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood had some formidable beer drinkers. Statistics show that in 1893 alone, Cincinnatians consumed 40 gallons of beer per capita — 21/2 times the national average. By 1914, Cincinnati breweries were producing 1.5 million barrels of beer annually, three-fifths of which remained in the city.
For the most part, the gritty saloons that catered to the area's Irish and German working classes are long gone, but you can get a feel (and a taste) of the city's brewing heritage on a Prohibition Resistance Walking Tour.
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During the annual Bockfest, the oldest and largest festival of its kind in the nation, beer lovers will be able to visit three pre-Prohibition brewing sites, including cellars and tunnels below city streets, used for storing the lager. Afterward, they can head over to the banks of the Ohio River to enjoy a tasting at the new Christian Moerlein Lager House, which opens Monday.
This year, Bockfest is March 2 to 4.
If bourbon is your preferred libation, Orchids Restaurant in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel, just a block from Fountain Square downtown, recently unveiled its private-label select bourbon from Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg.
That means you can sip specialty cocktails such as the Netherland Plaza cocktail, the bourbon blackberry and the Palm Court Manhattan in the glamorous surroundings of Orchids or the Bar at the Palm Court. If you wish, pair the bourbon with crisp short-rib sliders, specially created by executive chef Todd Kelly.
It seems there's always a quality exhibition in one of Cincinnati's excellent museums. Last year, it was The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt at the Cincinnati Museum Center. This year, ancient Egypt gives way to 19th-century France, with the Cincinnati Art Museum's exhibit Monet in Giverny: Landscapes of Reflection, which ends May 13.
This small exhibit — only 12 paintings — is a bit of a departure from the usual Monet fare. Painted during the artist's later years, these canvases go beneath the surface to show what lurks below those calm waters speckled with their iconic water lilies. A companion exhibit, Picasso Master Prints, which showcases the artist's achievements in the medium of printmaking, runs concurrently.