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 created favorable prospects of growth for Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and made the prospects for operating a brewery in the area attractive. In Northern Kentucky, consisting primarily of Covington and the smaller city to its east across the Licking River, Newport, there was no shortage of saloons or cafes. Shortly after the war, Newport had 27 cafes and two breweries compared to 52 cafes and six breweries in Covington.  Since Newport was only half the size of Covington - a relationship that has continued for many decades since - the number of cafes in these two cities was in relative proportion to their population. As explained in the following, in the process of satisfying the supply for beer in Northern Kentucky, the ownership of breweries frequently changed and new breweries were formed, sometimes only briefly. The brewing industry at this time was highly competitive and challenging, and there were technical limitations on the scalability of an individual brewery. However, that began to change in the later 1870s.  

In Newport Kentucky, the two breweries operating immediately after the Civil War were:.

  • Newport Brewery. This was the oldest brewery in that city, established in 1850, and operated by the Constans family on Monmouth Street.

  • Jefferson Street Brewery. This was a new brewery in beginning in 1867 operated by John Butcher (Butscher).

  

After the first brewery in Covington located in the center of Covington, most of the other breweries that opened were located on the opposite sides of town. They were primarily either on the west side in or near the Lewisburg area close to Willow Run Creek, or near on the east side near the Licking River and 11th/12th Streets - close to the Licking Iron Works.  A map that locates most of the breweries mentioned below is at the end of this section and they are also identified by the numbers next to the names of the breweries below.  Out of several breweries that existed in Covington before the Civil War, only three reopened, and there was only one under the same ownership, as discussed in the following.  

  • Covington Brewery (1).  Located at Sixth and Scott Streets, this operation was owned by Charles (Karl) Geisbauer and was the only brewery in the city that remained under the same ownership.

A couple existing breweries that operated under different ownerships were:

  • H.H. Kurre & Co Brewery (2b), formerly the Lexington Brewery and Duhme & Co. (see the previous section), this company was operated by H.H. Kurre and Felix Fritz in 1866.

    • John H. Herzog & Co. Brewery (2c). The above noted brewery was acquired by John H. Herzog starting around 1868, however, Fritz remained and Phillip Ammann, a former Cincinnati brewer, became another principal. This brewery was located in Lewisburg.

  • Nordloh & Co. Brewery (6i-a)formerly the Licking Brewery, was reopened in 1866. 

    • B. Lotterman  & Co. (6-i-b)The above noted Norloh & Co. was acquired by B. Lotterman 1867 and only operated for a couple years thereafter.

 

Three breweries that existed before the Civil War, did not reopen. These included the Stade Brewery, the Conrad Windisch & Co. Brewery and the former Frank Hone & Co., which had become the Wichman (Weakman) Brewery. Seemingly to make up for the closure of these breweries in Covington, a few new ones emerged. Two were small breweries that only existed for a year or two  were:

  • Henry Meyers & Co. This brewery was located a the northwest corner of Eleventh and Bush Streets near the and operated in 1866 for only about a year.

  • Seiler & Co.  This brewery was owned by Michael Seiler and Michael Ehrmann and operated in 1867 and 1868. It was situated on the south side of the Lexington Pike, opposite Main Street.  

However, there were a couple other breweries that ultimately became more established, including:

  • Lewisburg Brewery, aka Charles Lang & Co. (3a) This brewery was established in 1867 by Charles Lang and Frank Knoll. The brewery was at the northwest corner of Lewis and Baker Streets.  

  • Deglow Brewery. This brewery began in 1866 in a structure located at 369 Lexington Pike, just east of Lewisburg. It was the predecessor to what became the Bavarian Brewery a few years later in 1870, and the principal subject of this writing. The Deglow and Bavarian 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. 

 

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: As noted above, this brewery was first known as the Deglow Brewery. Around 1870 it became known as the Bavarian Brewery until 1889, except for a period in 1877-1878 when it was known as the Knorr, Ruh & Schaub Brewery.

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.

Earlier Origins of the Deglow & Bavarian Breweries

According to the book "100 Years of Brewing," it is 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 to 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 an unpublished  manuscript in 1954 by 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 the Civil War, 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.  According to Bavarian Brewing Co. records, the establishment of the brewery was confirmed to be from the Deglow Brewery established in 1866, not earlier.

 

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. Based on the writings from 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, may  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, may have been 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 important 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 Newport and Covington during this time period. 

In Newport, there were a few some changes in brewery formation during the 1870s. 

  • Butcher & Wiedemann Brewery.  John Butcher entered into a partnership with George Wiedemann in 1870. It replaced the Jefferson Street Brewery. 

  • Deppe & Co. The owner of the Newport Brewery, the Constans family, has financial difficulties in 1874. They sold their brewery at auction to John A. Deppe in 1876. It operated until 1789.

  • Geo. Wiedemann & Co. In 1878,  After a partnership with Butcher for about eight years, George Wiedemann obtained control of the brewery, and named it after himself.

  • Butcher and Schussler Brewery. After Wiedemann severed his partnership in the Butcher and Wiedemann Brewery, Butcher obtained a new partner and in 1877. They then acquired Deppe & Co. in 1879, reducing the number of breweries in Newport to two. However, in 1882, Wiedemann acquired this brewery and became the only brewery in Newport.
     

In Covington, there were also various changes that occurred in the brewing industry during the 1870s.

  • Bavarian Brewery. As previously discussed, this brewery had several different proprietors during the 1870s.

  • Licking Brewery a/k/a B. Lotterman.  This brewery closed in 1870. 

  • Louis Weber Brewery. This small home brewing operation began in 1872 and only operated for about a year. It was located at the northwest corner of Wheeler and Bush Streets.  

  • Herzog & Co. Formerly the Lexington Brewery, Duhme & Co. and H.H. Kurre & Co. this brewerywas sold to H. Niemeyer in 1875. Only a couple months after the purchase, a  kettle of pitch caught fire and the plant suffered a devastating fire. It needed to be rebuilt and  was acquired by Henry Steinriede in 1876. 

  • Steinriede & Wehming Brewery. Shortly after acquiring the above mentioned brewery, Henry Steinriede became partners with Henry Wheming. However, this brewery went into receivership  in 1882. It was then used for malt storage by John Brenner Brewing Co. for several years until it was closed and razed. Photos of this brewery are shown below. The location of this brewery was on north side of Lexington Pike (now Pike Street) and behind a building on the east side Western Ave., which has operated as Herb and Thelma Tavern since 1965 and was previously Heine's Tavern starting in 1939. 

  • Geisbauer / Seiler & Brenner Brewery. In 1877, Charles Geisbauer transferred the operations to his son, Louis (aka Lewis). However, due to an apparent slump in the industry, the brewery was forced into receivership in 1879. It was sold the following year to John Seiler & John Brenner.

 

By the mid 1870s, the largest breweries and their annual production in Covington were Charles Lang & Co. (aka Lewisburg Brewery) with about 10,000 barrels, the Geisbauer Brewery with some 9,000 barrels, Herzog & Co. with about 5,000 barrels and the Bavarian Brewery (Knorr, Ruh & Schaub) with about 4,000 barrels. In Newport, Butcher and Wiedemann were producing near the same level as Charles Lang, at about 10,000 barrels and Deppe & Co. produced about 3,000 barrels. 

Due to a significant population difference, it was not surprising that Cincinnati had several times more breweries and much greater beer production than in Northern Kentucky (NKY). In 1872, Cincinnati had 32 breweries and produced 436,483 barrels of beer with an average annual production of 13,640 barrels per brewery. In contrast, NKY had six breweries that produced 35,232 barrels of beer with an average production of only 5,872 barrels of beer for the year. What made the average production per brewery in Cincinnati nearly twice that of Northern Kentucky, in part, was the emergence of major brewers in Cincinnati. By 1877, Christian Moerlein Co. became the largest Cincinnati brewer  with a yearly production of 72,588 barrels. The other largest Cincinnati brewers at that time and their annual production were Windisch-Muhlauser with 59,475 barrels, George Weber with 52,894 barrels and John Kauffman with 39,529 barrels. Since there were no brewers in NKY of size similar to the larger ones in Cincinnati during the 1870s, it contributed to a lower production average in NKY. 

The location of most of the noted Covington breweries in the 1870s, with exception of those that only existed for a year or two, are shown on the map below.  Please note that this map also shows the earliest brick homes in the area that were also owned by the men, and/or their descendants, who owned the land where the Bavarian Brewery became located. It also locates the the Western Baptist Theological Institute. Both these homes and the Institute were discussed in the previous Background History section. 

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 Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati and 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 continually improve their brewery  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.

​​

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 brewing business in Northern Kentucky was much smaller than across the Ohio River in Cincinnati. However, it was nonetheless very competitive both before and after the Civil War. The Queen City, as it was also known, had over six times the population as Covington and Newport, and about three dozen breweries throughout the 1870s. In contrast, the noted Kentucky cities had about one-half dozen breweries at any one time throughout this period. This resulted in a larger number of breweries per capita in Northern Kentucky than in Cincinnati. Between the end of the Civil War and around 1880, most of the Northern Kentucky breweries either changed ownerships multiple times, or they operated for only a year or two before going out of business. Becoming a brewer was not an ordained method to wealth. It appears there were more brewers that lost money than made money during the 1870s, especially in Covington. The Bavarian Brewery alone had seven different ownerships over this period. Even though this  brewery was established in Covington possibly as early as 1861 involving Julius Deglow, 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 for the establishment of what more commonly became known as the Bavarian Brewery, starting in 1870. This renaming appeared to have been connected to some of its workers who had been previously employed at Fortman's Bavarian Brewery in Cincinnati that opened in1848, if not earlier, and closed in 1865. The Bavarian Brewery was also known by the names of its owner(s) or proprietors, but primarily maintained its common name. As examined in the next sections, the rocky beginnings of the Bavarian Brewery would come to an end, and its growth and viability would dramatically improve, when John Meyer, the sole proprietor of this brewery in 1879, established a partnership with William Riedlin beginning in 1882.

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.

Holian, Timmothy J., Over the Barrel, Sudhaus Press, 2000, pgs. 153-154.

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