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YOU'VE ENTERED THE BAVARIAN BREWERY OF OLD...
The Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc., was once the largest brewer in the state of Kentucky and the largest employer in Covington, KY. Out of dozens of breweries that operated during the 19th and 20th centuries in the Cincinnati area, it's the only one with a remaining structure that was used for former Brew and Mill Houses. This edifice is visible and easily accessible off I-75 at the 12th Street Exit in Covington. (See a location map to visit.) It was formerly Brew Works and Jillian's, and was re-purposed in 2019 for office use as the Kenton County Government Center. There is also a Bavarian Brewery Exhibit that explores the history of the old brewery structure, accompanied with artifacts and Breweriana items on display. A Riedlin - Schott Room (named after the families who owned and operated the brewery), is available to Kenton County residents for community activities. This room and the exhibit (including the display areas), will be used for brewery tours featuring the history of the brewery. In addition, this website will help augment the brewery's history, while also documenting the progression of inventions and events that impacted the broader brewing industry.
Main objectives of this website are to:
One of the primary objectives of this site is to provide a virtual museum of brewery memorabilia, referred to as Breweriana, as it relates to the former Bavarian Brewery. The items displayed herein and in the exhibit have been obtained from the Behringer Crawford Museum (BCM), both Riedlin and Schott family members, other individuals and online images. The artifacts in the exhibit display cases are also expected to be rotated periodically.
An active effort will be made to increase the collection of Bavarian memorabilia through gifts and loans. If you have any such items, photos, or simply have additional information to supplement this web site or the displays, please contact us.
The photo above of the Bavarian Brew House, built in 1911, was taken in 1932. The red arrow shows the location of the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit now in this building, which was repurposed into the South Wing of the Kenton Co. Government Center. The second and fourth floor middle windows were opened and now feature bridges that connect across an atrium to the North Wing of this office complex. The exhibit is located next to Information Desk in the atrium and easy to access.
Play a Bavarian's Beer 1960 Radio Jingle
BAVARIAN BREWERY BEGINNINGS
The origins of the brewery began in 1866 when it was established by Julius Deglow. The instituion became known as the Bavarian Brewery Co. starting in 1870. After passing through the ownership of various proprietors, it fell into bankruptcy in 1877. In 1882, William Riedlin acquired an interest in the property with John Meyer, and began operating under the proprietorship of Meyer & Riedlin in 1884. (See the photo on the right.) It was officially named the Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc. in 1889 and was situated between Pike and 12th Streets in Covington, KY. The brewery once occupied over 6 acres of land, including ice ponds, ice houses, various buildings and stables for about 100 horses.
The brewery expanded considerably in the early 1900s; several buildings demolished and most rebuilt. The complex was transformed as shown in the lithographs above and below. The Bavarian Brewery became the largest brewery in Kentucky shortly before WWI and Prohibition, with a peak annual production of 216,000 barrels. Just before the onset of Prohibition, Wm. Riedlin, who incorporated, owned and was President of the brewery since 1889, passed away on February 26, 1919. Only two weeks later, his son William Riedlin, Jr., contracted the Spanish Flu and died. The surviving family members included two daughters and a granddaughter.
Before William Riedlin and his son passed away, they created the Wm. Riedlin Beverage Co. This was an effort to continue operating the brewery property during Prohibition by producing non-alcoholic beverages and ice, and to retain many employees. After William Riedlin's death, his son-in-laws, Clarence Cobb and William C. (Will) Schott, along with the former brewmaster, Joseph Ruh, administered the company. It struggled to be profitable and was reorganized as the Riedlin Co. in 1922. Will became President, Joseph remained as an officer, while Clarence soon departed. In 1925 the Riedlin Co. was dissolved, the plant equipment was sold and certain properties -including the brewery buildings - were purchased by Lucia Riedlin Schott, William Riedlin's youngest daughter. Some properties not directly connected to the brewery were also sold before Prohibition was repealed in 1932.
The main brewery property, which had been mostly concentrated on W. 12th Street, was retained through Prohibition. However, some of the obsolete buildings and property considered unnecessary at that time around W. Pike Street were sold, as shown on the aerial below. In 1935, a group headed by the husband of Riedlin's granddaughter, Murray Vorhees, acquired and reopened the brewery. It was under-capitalized and sustained damage in the Great Flood of 1937, going into foreclosure at the end of that year. The brewery was acquired in bankruptcy by Lucia Riedlin Schott's husband, Will Schott, and three of his brothers, Chris, George and Lou. It was incorporated in January, 1938. The Schott Brothers, as they were known, committed more capital to the enterprise and brought business expertise from operating cooperage, galvanizing and real estate businesses. They added equipment, expanded the brewing capacity, and improved advertising and distribution, which made the brewery successful as the country entered World War II. Their three main brands were Bavarian Master Brand Beer (bottled), Bavarian Beer (draft) and Schott Ale.
POST WORLD WAR II
After the war, rations limiting the materials needed to brew beer were soon lifted and the brewery ramped up production, making some operational changes and improving their marketing capabilities. In 1945, the President, George Schott, resigned, Lou Schott became President, Will Schott remained as Vice President, and his son William R. (Bill) Schott succeeded Lou as Secretary/Treasurer. In the Spring of 1946, the brewery's draft and pasteurized beer names were consolidated into one name; Bavarian's Old Style Beer. (See the middle photo below.) It was promoted with a new label and different ad slogan; "A Man's Beer." Soon, demand for Bavarian's Old Style Beer outpaced production, and the brewer acquired the Heidelberg Brewing Co. plant in 1949 to increase their output. The annual production grew to 350,000 barrels by 1950-1951. However, the plant was located just several blocks to the north and did not expand their market area. In addition, the two plants essentially duplicated a good portion of their workers, buildings and equipment, which increased their expenses. To deliver their beer in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky they had nearly 100 drivers and a fleet of trucks as shown in the far right photo below. They also they contracted with numerous distributors for the other portions of their Tri-State market area. As the brewery tried to pass on increased costs in a very competitive market, while confronted with more national competition, they lost market share and became unprofitable by1954. As a result, they closed the Heidelberg plant in that year and developed a a Consolidation and Modernization plan to restore profitability. At this same time, they were involved with litigation by G. Heileman Brewing challenging their use of "Old Style" in their name and also filed suit against Anheuser-Busch (A-B) who planned to introduce Busch Bavarian Beer in their market, threatening their main beer brand. In resolving these litigations, Bavarian Brewing Co. agreed to modify their brand name, but A-B was unable to sell their new beer in Bavarian's Tri-State market area. In order to modify their brand and develop new packaging and advertising programs, Louis L. Schott was promoted to Marketing Director in the summer of 1956. A year later, the brewer introduced Bavarian/s Select Beer, rebranding their image using prominent advertising and design firms based in New York City. They also opened a new warehouse on the brewery site. In the mid 1950s, the Bavarian Brewing Co. became profitable once again.
BAVARIAN MERGED WITH INTERNATIONAL BREWERIES (IBI) 1959 - 1966
Although they had restored profitability, Bavarian Brewing Co. was still engaged in fierce local and national competition. To help lower their costs and become more competitive, they needed to add a new Bottling Plant, which would require a substantial investment. Believing that they could be more competitive by joining a larger firm, in 1959 Bavarian Brewing Co, Inc., merged with IBI, a regional brewer with four other breweries and several different brands. The officers of the brewery at the time it was sold were William R. (Bill) Schott (President), William C. (Will) Schott (Vice President) and Louis L. Schott (Secretary / Treasurer). They are shown in the photo below with Bill Berckman, the President and CEO of IBI.
The following year, the brewery obtained their new Bottling Plant intended to help increase production. Even though the main brand for the Bavarian Brewery plant was Bavarian's Select Beer, the Covington plant also brewed IBI's other brands of beers and ales. These included the beers and ales of FrankenMuth, Old Dutch, Phoenix, Silver Bar, Tropical and IBI Malt Liquor. The labels for these brands are shown on the far right below. In 1962, Bavarian's Select Beer was awarded a Gold Medal at an International Beer Competition in Belgium. However, the national brewers were also providing increased competition at this time, leading to sale declines not only for Bavarian's, but also for IBI's other brands. Encountering financial difficulties, IBI ultimately decided to leave the beer business and liquidate its breweries. The Bavarian Brewery was closed in May of 1966. However, about a month prior to closing, IBI licensed Bavarian/s Beer to to Associated Breweries. Even after this licensee also left the brewing business, in 1972, Bavarian/s was licensed to other brewers, and its brand still remained available into the late 1970's.
THE BAVARIAN BREWERY SOLD (1966)
OPERATED AS CENTRAL SALES (1967 - 1995)
The brewery and its equipment was sold at auction in late June, 1966, to the Los Angeles based International Fastener and Research Co. A year later, the brewery property was purchased by Justin Schneider and used for his company, Central Sales. A warehouse building was constructed adjacent to the Stock House with the main access off of Main Street. The Bavarian Tap Room was used as a bar in the 1970s. But the main brewery buildings sat mostly vacant for three decades and deteriorated appreciably over that time, as shown by the photos below.
THE BREWERY RENOVATED AS BREW WORKS in 1996
& BECOMING JILLIAN'S FROM 1998 - 2006
In 1996, Ken Lewis transformed the former brewery into a giant supermarket for liquor and gourmet foods along with a large assortment of beers, known as the Brew Works at the Party Source. The management changed within a year to offer additional food service and some entertainment. In 1998, the property became known as Jillian's, part of a chain that expanded nationally with a total of 30 locations. Jillian's added more entertainment options and concert venues to the property. However, the chain had difficulties in servicing their debt and closed their location in the former Bavarian Brewery in 2006, causing the property to become vacant again. Below, the photo to the left shows Brew Works in 1997 and the two on the right are from 2008 to around 2010, after Jillian's had closed.
THE BREWERY VACANT (2007 - 2015)
& RE-PURPOSED As The Kenton County Government Center (Opened 2019)
The property sat vacant for a couple years after Jillian's closed, but was purchased in 2008 by Columbia Sussex. This Kenton County company owned hotels and casinos throughout the country. The made a wager that Kentucky would soon pass gambling laws and that the property could be used as a casino. When those plans failed, the owner demolished some ancillary buildings and a few years later also planned to demolish the main structure, despite a previous agreement not to do so. This was met with local resistance and in 2015, a "Save the Bavarian" movement was launched to preserve the remaining buildings. At the same time, the administration facilities for Kenton County had become outdated. A study was conducted to consider alternatives and a possible new facility. The county decided to purchase the former brewery property for their administrative offices in 201 re-purpose the historic castle-like structure once used as the Brew and Mill Houses.
The image below left shows the initial architectural renderings from 2017 and is set in contrast to a photograph of the buildings taken two years later in 2019. Lighting on the former brewer property was not originally considered, but was added in part through a private donation. The Kenton County Government Center, located at 1840 Simon Kenton Way, Covington, KY, was dedicated on November 15, 2019, and the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit was opened on this date. This exhibit is located off of the main lobby of this office complex (in the center of the building images shown below), and in the former Brew House (shown at the top of this page). It provides a storyboard that tells the history of the brewery across a 30-foot long display resembling its former buildings, containing 22 windows and 61 panes with pictures and information. Artifacts are contained in a barrel-like display and in two additional display cases on the floor above. A photo of the main exhibit and display is shown in the bottom right. More images, which include pictures of each window providing for a virtual tour, can be viewed here.
For a much more detailed summary of the brewery's history, please see the Bavarian Brewery Historical Summary covering 14 time periods and linking to more detailed chapters that explore the 150-year story of the Bavarian Brewery property.