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 brewery and it buildings, accompanied with artifacts and Breweriana items on display. A Riedlin - Schott Room (named after the families who owned and operated the brewery), is available for community activities, meetings and events. 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.
SHARE OUR HISTORY
If you have any information, photos, or items about to the Bavarian Brewing Co. you are willing to share or donate, please Contact Us.
The photo above of the Bavarian Brew House, built in 1911, was taken in 1932. This building was repurposed into the South Wing of the Kenton Co. Government Center in 2019. The red arrow shows the location of the main Bavarian Brewery Exhibit, which is now next to the Information Desk. Above it on the second floor are additional exhibits and a meeting room. The windows above the arrow were opened and connect to bridges across an enclosed atrium to the North Wing of this office complex.
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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. A photo of the original building is shown. 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 of the workers.) Besides the Original Brewery building (A), the property had two ice ponds, ice houses, lager cellars, sheds and other buildings. (The ponds are indicated by the map, and the buildings identified by letters are on the postcard shown further below.)
During the Meyer & Riedlin ownership, the Mill House (B) was added around 1886 and the Brew House (C) was built in about 1888. Refrigeration was also added during this period, which eliminated the need for the ice ponds. By this time, the brewery site was situated between Pike and 12th Streets in Covington, KY.
In 1889, the name of the Bavarian Brewery became the Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc. This change allowed the brewery to become more capitalized and allowed its growth to accelerate. In the 1890s, additions included the Mechanical Building (D) - in c. 1890, the Bottling Department building (E) - in 1892, and the Ice Manufacturing Plant (F) - in 1895. By 1900 the brewery complex consisted of several buildings shown in a postcard and identified with letters. In 1899, a photo of the workers was taken from W. Pike Street and displayed below. It was situated between the original Brewery Building (A) and the Bottling Department (E). The photo of horse drawn wagons was taken in front of the stables and wagon shed (located east and left of buildings E and F). Bavarian had about 100 horses and dozens of wagons to deliver beer, porter, ale, tonic and ice.
The brewery expanded considerably beginning around 1902. A couple buildings were demolished with new structures built on those sites, and several new buildings were added on open space. The complex occupied over 6 acres of land. Within a decade, the Bavarian Brewery complex was transformed as shown in the accompanying lithograph c. 1912. Each of the building names and the dates they were built are identified by letters and numbers, which can be viewed by clicking the image. During this expansion period trucks were beginning to replace need for the horse stables and sheds for dozens of wagons, which undoubtedly required some modifications to these structures.
The photos below, with buildings that correspond to the letters on the lithograph above, include; the Stock House (3) built in 1903, both the Engine Room (6) built in 1907, Boiler House (5) built in 1906 and the Tall Stack (4) built in 1904, and the Bottling Department (7) built in 1908, which replaced a smaller frame structure one on the same site.
Below is a photo of the Bavarian Office Building (9) built in 1909, which replaced the original Brewery Building (A). Behind it is the older Mill House (B) and the Brew House (C). In the 1910 photo of the Brew and Mill House (10), it was connected to the Stock House (3) and was across from the water cooling tower (1), which was demolished shortly thereafter. The photo of the Bavarian Beer Truck (c. 1910), was one of others that would replace the the need to have horse drawn wagon deliveries of beer. During this period, another new Ice Plant (8) was constructed, just east of the original Ice Plant.
After the completion of the buildings noted, 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 operated the brewery as its President since 1889 - passed away on February 26, 1919. About two weeks later, his son William Riedlin, Jr., contracted the Spanish Flu and died. The surviving family members included two daughters, a granddaughter and two grandsons.
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 and the plant equipment was sold. Various properties - including the brewery buildings - were acquired by William Riedlin's youngest daughter, Lucia Riedlin Schott, and his son-in-law, Will Schott. Some properties not directly connected to the brewery were sold before Prohibition ended.
The main brewery property, which had been mostly concentrated on W. 12th Street, was retained through Prohibition. However, some of the obsolete buildings considered unnecessary for brewing south of W. Pike Street were sold by Lucia Riedlin Schott and her husband during Prohibition - beginning in the mid-1920s. By the time Prohibition was in the process of being repealed in 1932, the brewery property that became operational was concentrated north of W. 12th Street, which is shaded in yellow as shown on the aerial below. A group headed by the husband of Riedlin's granddaughter Rosemary, Murray Voorhees, acquired and reopened the brewery in mid-1935. 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 of beer at that time 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 accompanying 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 nearly 340,000 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 accompanying photo. They also they contracted with numerous distributors for the other portions of their Tri-State market.
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 by 1954. 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. By 1957, 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 (third from right) the President and CEO of IBI.