1. BEGINNINGS OF THE BAVARIAN BREWERY (1866 - 1881)
Breweries in Northern Kentucky After the Civil War

The opening of the Suspension Bridge after the Civil War and the favorable prospects of growth for Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky made the prospects for operating a brewery in the area appear attractive.  As noted previously, there were seven breweries in Covington before the Civil War. Afterwards, three did not reopen, including; the Stade Brewery, the Conrad Winisch & Co. Brewery and the former Frank Hone & Co., which had become the Wichman (Weakman) Brewery. Of the four that reopened, only two were under the same ownership; the Geisbauer Covington Brewery and the Charles Lang (& Knoll) Lewisburgh Brewery. The two breweries that operated under different ownerhips were the H.H. Kurre & Co Brewery, (formerly Duhme & Co.) and the Nordloh & Co. Brewery (formerly the Licking Brewery). The later mentioned brewery was taken over by B. Lotterman a year later in 1867.

In the city across the Licking River from Covington, Newport, there were only two breweries immediately after the Civil War. One was the oldest brewery in that city known as the Newport Brewery established in 1850 and operated by the Constans family on Monmouth Street. A new brewery in that city in 1867 was the Jefferson Street Brewery, operated by John Butcher (Butscher). This city also had 27 cafes, compared to six breweries and 52 cafes in Covington. Since Newport was only half the size of Covington - a relationship that has continued for many decades since - the number of breweries and cafes in these cities was in relative proportion to their population.

 

Since there were fewer breweries in Northern Kentucky after the war than before, it encouraged three new ones to open in Covington. In 1866, the (Michael) Seiler & Co. and the Henry Meyers & Co. Brewery were established, but they both closed within a couple of years. In that same year, the Deglow Brewery opened, which became the Bavarian Brewery a few years later. The Deglow operations began in the building shown in the photo below. This brewery had a particular challenging time shortly after it was established and throughout the 1870s. A summary of the brewery's seven different partnerships over its first 15-years is indicated in the side bar below. 

 

c. 1900. Above is a photo of what is the original Bavarian Brewery established by Julius and Louis Deglow. What is curious, however, is the notation on the building that indicates the years 1848 and 1910. We know this building was razed in 1910 to build brewery offices. However, it is unclear if this building was built in 1848, or possibly makes reference to an older Bavarian Brewery, which may have been established in that year in Cincinnati, as discussed below.  Photo is courtesy of Kenton Co. Library System; restored by L.R.S.

EARLY BREWERY OWNERSHIP

Julius H. & Louis Deglow (1866-1868)

J.H. Deglow & Co. Brewery (1868-1869)

​J. Deglow, C. Best & G. Renner (1870-1871)

Charles L. Best (1872-1877)

G. Knorr, C. Ruh & F. Schaub (1877-78)

​Knorr, Ruh & Schaub Brewery

Charles Ruh & John Meyer (1878-1879)

John Meyer​ (1879-1881)

Operating Names: The brewery was first known as the Deglow Brewery. Around 1870 it became known thereafter as the Bavarian Brewery until 1889, with exception of a period in about 1877-1878 when it was known as the Knorr, Ruh & Schaub Brewery.

Earlier Origins of the Deglow & Bavarian Breweries

According to the book "100 Years of Brewing," it's possible Julius Deglow started a brewery just before the Civil War around 1861 with the assistance of two other men, Charles Best and George Renner. According this source, after the Civil War this brewery moved to 369 Lexington Pike (now 533 W. Pike Street). However, if and where this earlier brewery may have operated is unknown. According to C.B. Truesdell, a historian from Newport, KY,  due to fears that the Confederacy might attack Northern Kentucky, the breweries in Covington and Newport ceased operations during this period, even though the breweries in Cincinnati continued to operate. So, if there was an earlier Deglow Brewery before the war, it may have only operated briefly. 

 

What was the original Deglow Brewery on Pike Street is shown in the above photograph. However, the main proprietors of the brewery in 1866 appeared to be only Julius Deglow and his brother Louis; not Best and Renner.  Information supplied by the Bavarian Brewing Co. confirms the establishment of the brewery in 1866, not earlier, and to the Deglow Brewery. 

 

When Best and Renner became proprietors with Julius Deglow in the brewery in 1870, apparently it also became known as the Bavarian Brewery, which was not the first time this name was used in the Cincinnati area. Apparently, there was an earlier Bavarian Brewery that operated in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) area of Cincinnati beginning around 1848, before it closed in 1865. This brewery was also known as Fortman's Bavarian Brewery located at the southwest corner of 12th and Main St. in Cincinnati, OH, and owned by Franz and/or Francis  Fortman. After Fortman closed his brewery, apparently some of his workers started working at  the  Deglow Brewery in Covington. According to an unpublished  manuscript in 1954 by C.B. Truesdell, these workers influenced the naming of their new workplace, and this may explain why it became the "Bavarian Brewery" - in about 1870. Using this brewery name by Deglow and his partners may have helped sell their beer due to its previous name recognition. Additionally, it would have been easier to use one name for the brewery, rather than the name of multiple proprietors. With the frequent change of proprietors, maintaining once principal name, the Bavarian Brewery, would have also helped sustain the brewery.  Additionally, according to Truesdell, William Riedlin may have become acquainted with Fortman when they both lived in Cincinnati in the 1870s and Riedlin may have become familiar with the Bavarian Brewery in Covington through this relationship.

In the above photograph the years 1848 and 1910 are shown on the building. It is known that this building was razed for an office building in 1910. Therefore, it would appear that the earlier date is when this structure was built. However, the building may not have been built until after 1848, as there was an inference by Truesdell that this building may have been constructed when the brewery began in 1866, because the land in this area at that time, and until 1855, was vacant and owned by the Western Baptist Theological Institute. So, if this building was not built in 1848, perhaps this year may have referenced something else - such as when the Bavarian Brewery was first  established in the OTR area of Cincinnati. 

Further, it should be noted that on the site of the Fortman's Bavarian Brewery in Cincinnati there was an even earlier Bavarian Brewery, established in 1836, owned by Agniel & Flashman. Therefore, even though the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, was considered to be established in the building shown in the photo above in 1866, it seems the roots of the Bavarian Brewery may go back further to around 1848, or even to 1836, in Cincinnati.

IMPORTANT EARLY YEARS OF THE BAVARIAN BREWERY

A summary of activities in the early years of the brewery are briefly examined in the following.

1866. In this year, Julius H. Deglow and his brother Louis established the Deglow Brewery on property he obtained located at 369 Lexington Pike (now 533 W. Pike Street) in Covington, KY. This was considered to be the official date for the establishment of what was renamed as the Bavarian Brewery a few years later.

1868. In this year, it appears Louis Deglow was no longer involved in the brewery and  Julius H. Deglow Brewery became the sole proprietor. It is unclear if it continued to operate as the Delgow Brewery or it became the J.H. Delgow Brewery.

 

1870. Around 1869 it seems J. H. Deglow had a severe hand injury, losing three fingers and a thumb. Deglow subsequently appeared to relinquish some control in the brewery to Charles L. Best and George J. Renner in about 1870, however, both of these men may have previously been working with Deglow. Thus, the name of the brewery became the Deglow, Best and Renner Brewery to include the names of its new proprietors. However, around this same time, as referenced above, the brewery also became known for the first time as the Bavarian Brewery. Since J.H. Deglow owned the brewery property, the interests Best and Renner acquired were subject to a lien J. H. Deglow placed against the property.

 

1872. It seems J.H. Deglow decided to leave the brewery business to pursue a tanning business on property he owned next to the brewery. George Renner decided to take a position with another brewer and leave as well. This allowed Charles L. Best to take control of the brewery in 1872. To do so, Best paid G. J. Renner $2,000 and owed Deglow for a lien of $34,800 for the brewery property. The firm was then known as the Bavarian Brewery Co. with C. L. Best as the Proprietor. Renner then went on to work in other breweries in Wooster, Mansfield and Akron, Ohio. His son G. J. Renner, Jr. worked with his father, until he acquired a brewery in 1889 located in Youngstown, OH, which became the Renner Brewing Co.

1877. In January, 1877, the Bavarian Brewery Co., with C. L. Best as proprietor, filed for bankruptcy. The assets were reportedly $48,000. They consisted of a property fronting 50-feet fronting on W. Pike Street and extending to 12th St., fixtures, and ten to twelve thousand dollars in accounts. However, the brewery was only appraised for $20,000 and nearly one-half of the accounts were non-collectible. Therefore, the actual assets were deemed to be about $27,000 against total liabilities amounting to nearly $50,000. The sole secured creditor was J.H. Deglow with a debt for the brewery and fixtures of $35,000. The major unsecured creditors were A. W. Schleutker for $5,500, Nicholas Best for $2,100 and St. Aloysius Church for $1,000. Tisdale and Dengler, attorneys, filed the notice. In 1877, George Knorr, Charles Ruh, and F. Schaub purchased the brewery out of bankruptcy, subject to the Deglow lien. The new owners renamed the brewery in their names.

 

1878. In March of 1878, Knorr, Ruh & Schaub was the fifth largest brewery in Northern Kentucky, selling 300 barrels of beer in that month alone. This compared to 800 for Butcher & Wiedeman, 610 for C. Lang & Co., 580 for C. Geisbauer, 460 for Steinriede & Wehming, 210 for Deppe & Co. and 60 for A. Meister. However, it seems that the bankruptcy temporarily damaged beer sales for the brewery. It had been reported a few years earlier that the brewery was producing about 500 barrels monthly. Apparently, the new partnership name for the brewery after bankruptcy was only in place for a relatively brief time. Evidence suggests that the brewery was still widely referred to as the “Bavarian Brewery.” Apparently John Meyer acquired an interest in the brewery and joined, Charles Ruh, the brew-master who remained as a prior owner, possibly in late 1878. The two became proprietors of the Bavarian Brewery.

 

1879. About a year after Meyer and Ruh acquired the Bavarian Brewery, Charles Ruh suffered fatal injuries in a carriage accident and died in October, 1879. John Meyer acquired an interest in the brewery from Charles's wife, Elizabeth Ruh by the end of the year. However, a one-half ownership interest was still retained by J. H. Deglow.  Anton Ruh, Charles' brother, became the new brew-master of the brewery, and John Meyer became the sole proprietor. Meyer was from a village in the Province of Oldenburg, Germany, west of Bremen, in what is known today as the German State of Lower Saxony. Meyer sought out additional capital and a partner to help him purchase the remaining one-half interest from a Deglow family member. This provided an opportunity for Wm. Riedlin to acquire an interest in the brewery from Meyer in 1882. After Riedlin sold Tivoli Hall, a property he had operated for about five-years located at what is now 1311 Vine Street in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) area of Cincinnati, he embarked on a new endeavor as a brewer.  (See period 2. Meyer and Riedlin and The Wm. Riedlin Family.

Other Northern Kentucky Breweries

Like the Bavarian Brewery, shortly before and after the decade of the 1870s other breweries in Northern Kentucky were trying to be successful, or simply attempting to survive. The following provides a brief summary of these other brewers in Covington and Newport, Kentucky. In 1868 H.H. Kurre & Co. Brewery became the John H. Herzog & Co. Brewery. In 1870, the former Licking Brewery closed, which was operated by B. Lotterman. In Newport, John Butcher entered into a partnership with George Wiedemann and the new entity was known as the Butcher and Wiedemann Brewery in 1870. It replaced the Jefferson Street Brewery.

 

It was common for the ownership in a brewery to change, sometimes frequently, as it did with the Bavarian Brewery, and with many other breweries in Cincinnati area, as well as throughout the country. A unique characteristic with most breweries before Prohibition is that they were mostly family businesses, with sons or son-in-laws involved in the ownership and operations, or occasionally a wife or daughter. When their were no family connections or heirs to continue the brewing business, the remaining family members usually sold the brewery to other individuals or families.  For a brewery to be sustainable through decades and become a true generational family business, it was essential for a successive generation to continue and improve its  operations. It was unusual for this occur for more than a couple generations and especially for a century. However, as will be explored, this became the situation that developed with the Bavarian Brewery beginning with an ownership interest by William Riedlin.

​​

In 1872, the annual production of the largest brewery in Covington at that time was 12,000 barrels at Charles Knoll & Co. compared to 6,000 barrels for Herzog & Co. In 1876, Henry Steinriede acquired the former Herzog & Co. brewrey and took a partner, Henry Wheming, and it became the Steinriede & Wehming Brewery. A photo of it is above. In 1877, George Wiedemann obtained control of the brewery from Butcher in Newport and it became Geo. Wiedemann & Co.  Butcher established a new brewery in that year, and it was known as the Butcher and Schussler Brewery. Five years later Wiedemann acquired this brewery, and became the only brewer in  Newport. Also in 1882, The Steinriede and Wehming Brewery went into receivership, and no longer operated thereafter. However, it was used for malt storage by John Brenner Brewing Co. for several years thereafter, until it was closed and razed. 

For a location of most of the noted Covington breweries, which operated usually for at least a few years, please enlarge and view the map below. Please note that this map also shows the location of the earliest brick homes in the area owned by the men who owned the land where the Bavarian Brewery became located, or their descendants, and the Western Baptist Theological Institute, discussed in the previous Background History section. 

MAP LEGEND: The green rectangle is the Western Baptist Theological College.

Earliest Brick Houses:  1) The Carneal House, 2) Elmwood Hall and 3) The Sandford House.

Breweries:  1) The Covington Brewery, Geisbauer, Seiler-Brenner, Brenner, New Kentucky, Jung; 2) C. Lang (Knoll), Lewisburgh, J. Seiler, Phoenix, Covington, Covington Star, Blaze-Merriman; 3) Kure, Herzon, Steinriede-Wehming, J. Brenner Maltsters; 4) C. Windisch; 5) Bavarian Brewery (original and expanded site), Licking Iron Works (tan) -around it: 6) (i) F. Hone, H. Wichman (Weakman): (ii) Licking Brewery, Skiff-Hall, Nordloah, Lottermann (Lottman); (iii) L. Weber.   

​​In summary. The beginnings of the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, were full of challenges. The brewery, was established in Covington possibly as early as 1861 involving Julius Deglow. However, apparently it was not until 1866 that a brewery operated as the Deglow Brewery on the Lexington Highway (W. Pike St.). This was considered to be the official year the for the establishment of what became the Bavarian Brewery a few years later, in 1870. This renaming may have been connected to some of its workers who worked for a Bavarian Brewery in Cincinnati that was founded in 1848, if not earlier, and closed in 1865. As noted, during the brewery’s first couple of decades it went through several different ownerships and endured a bankruptcy. As a result, this brewery was occasionally known by the names of its owner(s) or proprietors, but it primarily kept its commonly-known name - the Bavarian Brewery. After Wm. Riedlin acquired an interest in the brewery beginning in 1882, the rocky beginnings of the Bavarian Brewery came to an end, and its growth and viability dramatically improved.

T I M E L I N E

To place the events described above in  perspective, following are some major events that occurred in Time Period 1 from the founding of the Bavarian Brewery in 1866 until 1881:

  • Andrew Johnson is President (1865-69)

  • John A. Roebling (Covington-Cincinnati) Bridge Opens (December, 1866)

  • Ulysses S. Grant is President (1869 - 1875)

  • Ice making, refrigeration & machinery innovations (1870s)

  • Pasteurization of beer (1873)

  • Telephone invented (1876)

  • Rutherford B. Hayes is President (1877 - 1881)

  • Light bulb invented (1879)

  • Phonograph invented ( 1879)

Note: After an invention was made, it could take a decade for commercialization and another decade for adaption. For a summary of all the periods in the history of the Bavarian Brewery.  See the entire Timeline.

SOURCES:

Robert A. Musson, Brewing Beer in the Queen City Vo. IX: Bavarian Brewing –NKY, Early Covington Breweries pgs.3-10 and 63-65.

Cincinnati Enquirer, October 4, 1972, pg. 7. Notice that Chas. L. Best acquires ownership of the Bavarian Brewery from Renner.

One Hundred Years of Brewing, republished by ARNO Press, New York, 1974, pg. 406. (Originally published by H.S. Rich & Co. 1903.)

Cincinnati Enquirer, January 8, 1977. Notice of the bankruptcy of Bavarian Brewery by C.L. Best.

Cincinnati Enquirer, June 12, 1877. Notice that J.H. Deglow obtains a judgement of $27,748 against C.L. Best with interest from 12-2-1875.

Don Heinrich Tolzmann, George Wiedemann, Little Miami Publishing, 2015.

Cincinnati Enquirer, December 16, 1879. Notice of sale from Elisabeth Ruh to John Meyer for one-half interest in the Bavarian Brewery,

Cincinnati Enquirer, August 24, 1884. Notice of the sale of Bavarian Brewery from J.H. Deglow to Meyers & Riedlin for$24,000.

C.B. Truesdell, (The History of) The Bavarian Brewery, 1954. (Unpublished manuscript.)

Kenton County Historical Society – Maps of Kentucky in 1784 and Covington in 1851.

The background photo is of the original Bavarian Brewery. It was razed and replaced with an office building for the Bavarin Brewing Co. in 1910. An explanation of the photo is contained in the text above.    

 
The Historic and Former
 
 
Bavarian Brewery

 
In Covington, Kentucky