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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, but Covington had about twice that number - 52 cafes and six breweries.  The number of cafes and breweries in these two cities was largely in proportion to their population, as Newport was only half the size of Covington.  As explained in the following, to satisfy 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.  

The first brewery in NKY was located in the center of Covington and established in 1837 by a Frenchman, Peter (Piere) Jointe (Jonte). In contrast, the first brewery in Cincinnati was founded by Englishman Davis Embree, about 25 years earlier. The first lager beer introduced to America was in 1840 and is credited to John Wagner who resided in Philadelphia and was from Bavaria. Previously, the predominant brewers, mostly from England and France, were making ales and porters. However, with the revolutions in Europe during 1848, a large influx of Germans began immigrating to America. They preferred lager beer, and concentrations of Germans were attracted to certain cities where German communities became established, such as Cincinnati. Even though lager was more difficult and time consuming to brew, it became the preferred type of beer. It is somewhat unclear where or when the first lager beer was made in Cincinnati, but there are indications it was in the late 1840s and may have been at either at the Fleishmann, Herancourt, Noll or Fortmann breweries. The first lager beer in NKY was likely somewhat later, and likely at the The Covington Brewery, under the operation of Karl (Charles) Geisbauer. An explanation for the popularity of lager beer is that it was a relatively light beer with less alcoholic content than ales, which to use a former national beer slogan - was "less filling." These qualities allowed it to be consumed in greater quantities and, at that time, allowed it to be considered as a "family beer."  With the population of Cincinnati exploding at this time because it was a transportation hub and builder of steamboats, its brewing industry grew rapidly and became dominated by those of German ancestry. However, this took possibly one or two decades longer in NKY, with German breweries sprouting up in this region during the 1860s, shortly before and after the Civil War. For more infomration about the first brewereies in Northern Kentucky, pleas see Early NKY Breweries.

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. If this occurred it would have made Deglow one of the second earliest breweries in Covington. 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 closed shortly after opening. And, those few breweries in Covington that opened just before the Civil War, would have reopened around the same time as the Deglow brewery began on the Lexington Pike.



Julius Deglow  (1866-1869)

​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 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.

What was the original Deglow Brewery on Pike Street is shown in the above photograph. 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. This may explain how Riedlin may have become familiar with the Bavarian Brewery in Covington.

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 may be when this structure was built. However, the building may not have been built until after 1848. This is because there was an inference by Truesdell that this building may have been constructed around the time the brewery began in 1866. Further, it appears 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 another date - 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 & Fleishman. 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, including its name and some of its workers, may go back further to around 1848, or even to 1836, in Cincinnati.


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. It appears Louis Deglow was no longer involved in the brewery in 1868 and  Julius H. Deglow Brewery became the sole proprietor. The brewery may have still operated as the Deglow Brewery, or it may have become the Julius.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, who had previously been working with Deglow. Consequently, the proprietors of the brewery became Deglow, Best and Renner. 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 with his brother Louis on property they 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 was obligated to a lien of $34,800 for the brewery property owned by Deglow. 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 became proprietors after purchasing 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 barrels 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.” Later in 1878, apparently John Meyer acquired an interest in the brewery and joined, Charles Ruh, the brew-master who remained as a prior owner.  Meyer and Ruh 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. His home was next to the brewery property at 244 W. 12th St. in Covington. (With address changes it became 522 W. 12th St. decades later.) 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 four-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.

A recreation of barrel lids representing the first five proprietors of what became the Bavarian Brewery are shown below and displayed in the Riedlin-Schott Room at the former brewery. There are several more barrel lids displayed representing other later owners of the brewery.

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, about 10,000 barrels, and Deppe & Co. produced about 3,000 barrels.


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.


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.    

Trademark from Tray B in B.png

The Historic and Former
Bavarian Brewery

In Covington, Kentucky

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