A HISTORICAL SUMMARY
THE BAVARIAN BREWERY HISTORY
By Time Periods Spanning Over 150 Years
There was a tremendous transformation of the Bavarian Brewery in its first 90 years, as shown by the photos below. Over the following decades, it also endured many more changes, but not as a brewery. To complement the brewery's history as provided in the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit, efforts were made to provide a more detailed account of the brewery, along with many additional pictures, within this website. In doing so, it was necessary to identify various periods in the evolution of the brewery, from several years to over a couple decades. A summary of these periods is contained below. To explore any particular time period in greater detail, simply click a title that is underlined. We hope to have those periods that are not completed yet, which say "Under Construction," accessible fairly soon.
Period 1: The Beginnings (1866 - 1881) Julius H. Deglow established a brewery in 1866 on a site of what became the Bavarian Brewery a few years later. (A photo of this property is above on the left.) From the beginning, the brewery had several different ownerships and was fraught with difficulties, including a bankruptcy in 1877. In 1880, the brewmaster, Charles Ruh, became a proprietor of the brewery along with John Meyer. However, a year later Charles Ruh died in an accident and his brother Anton succeeded him. Evidently John Meyer believed he needed another partner to help grow the brewery.
Period 2: The Meyer-Riedlin Years (1882 - 1889) These years began when William Riedlin invested in the Bavarian Brewery Co. with John Meyer in 1882. They created a partnership, became proprietors of Bavarian Brewery and featured a celebrated lager beer in their name. Two significant developments that occurred several years early that changed the brewing business were pasteurization and ice making for refrigeration. To capitalize on these developments, Meyer and Riedlin began expanded the brewery by adding ice making capabilities and a bottling department.
Note: Even though the operating name of the brewery was modified to be the Bavarian Brewing Co. the property has been known as the Bavarian Brewery since its very early roots. Consequently, the domain for this web site, and the name for the Exhibit about the brewery located in the Kenton County Government Center, is based on this name.
Period 3: The Late 1800s (1889 - 1900) Kentucky made it much easier to incorporate in 1889, and Meyer and Riedlin took advantage of this by forming the Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc. Wm. Riedlin became President, John Meyer was Vice President and J.H. Kruse became Secretary / Treasurer with Anton Ruh serving as the brewmaster. Within a couple years thereafter, Riedlin acquired Meyer's interest and Anton Ruh, the brewmaster, became Vice President. During this period, there was the Panic of 1893 in Europe and the Panic of 1896 that impacted the U.S. Despite these financial uncertainties, the brewery endured and grew. Various building improvements were made during this period, including a new brew house, malt house, water cooling tower, ice house, bottling department, stables, engine room and boiler house.
Period 4: The Early 1900s (1901 - 1919) The decade beginning in 1903 was the largest expansion period for the brewery when several new fire proof buildings were constructed, replacing some structures built only about a decade before. Around 1906, William Riedlin, Jr. became Vice President. The Riedlin's also created the Riedlin Realty Co. in 1910 as a separate entity to hold their real estate holdings. Riedlin's daughters married in 1909 and 1914. Anton Ruh remained the brewmaster, but was assisted by his son Joseph, who became the brewmaster when his father died in 1917. The construction during this period enabled the brewery capacity to grow to 215,000 barrels of beer annually by around 1914, when it also became the largest brewery in Kentucky. However, in the five years before Prohibition officially began in 1920, William Riedlin and his two sons passed away.
Period 5: Affiliations of Wm. Riedlin ('til 1919) Like many successful brewers, William Riedlin was active with local business, city government, politics and civic and social associations. This section covers his affiliations and provides some photos and descriptions of some of these organizations.
Period 6: Prohibition & the Roaring 1920's (1920 - 1929) William Riedlin was survived by two daughters and a granddaughter. Their husbands and families became involved in what remained of the Riedlin businesses. However, the name of the brewing company, which had been changed to the Riedlin Beverage Co., in 1918, was unsuccessful. It closed in 1925 and all the brewing equipment was liquidated. William Riedlin's daughter, Lucia, and his son-in-law, William C. Schott, made arrangements to the retain main brewery properties, while disposing of the ancillary real estate.
Period 7: The Great Depression & The Brewery Reopening (1930 - 1937) With the onset of the Great Depression and the scarcity of jobs, it hastened the repeal of Prohibition, which most people considered a failure anyway. The husband of William Riedlin's granddaughter, Murray L. Voorhees, and a descendant of the original founder of the brewery, Leslie Deglow, reopened the brewery in mid-1935 to a crowd of 8,000. Bavarian native Fred C. Faller was the brewmaster. They updated the capacity of the brewery to 125,000 barrels; however, this was only about one-half of the production before Prohibition. The management did not obtain as much capital as they had sought in a public offering and were unable to build a bottling department and provide for other needed operations. The Great Flood in January 1937 created some damages causing additional financial hardship for the brewery. It went into receivership a few months after the flood and the brewery filed for bankruptcy in late 1937.
Period 8: The Schott Brothers & WWII (1938 - 1945) The brewery was acquired out of bankruptcy in December of 1937 by the husband of Lucia Riedlin Schott, William C. Schott, and three of his brothers; Chris, George and Lou. They incorporated the brewery in Kentucky as the Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc., in January 1938. Walter Gruner became their brewmaster bringing experience from other brewers. The new ownership provided more capital into the brewery, provided a bottling department, began to advertise and added more employees. They produced multiple brands including Bavarian, Bavarian Master Brand Beer, Riedlin Select Beer, Cincinnati's Pride Brand Beer, Bavarian Bock Beer (seasonally) and Schott Ale. However, when the U.S. entered WWII, grains and other ingredients were rationed, many men were abroad at war and sales slowed.
Period 9: The Schott Family & Post WWII (1946 - 1952) - Under Construction - After WWII beer sales began to pick up. At that time, George Schott retired as President, Lou Schott became President, Wm. C. Schott remained as Vice President and his son, Wm. R. Schott became Secretary/Treasurer. The operation of the brewery began to transition from the Schott Brothers to the (William C. and Lucia Riedlin) Schott Family. There was also a change in the brewmaster, with Albert Gruner succeeding his father. Besides a management change, the brewer's main beers, Bavarian in draft and Bavarian Master Brand Beer in bottles, were both changed to Bavarian's Old Style Beer, or Bavarian's. Their main slogan became "A Man's Beer." They advertised extensively in papers, sponsored several different radio programs and promoted their beer and the Reds at Crosley Field. The brewer also began offering their beer in cone top cans around 1948. That year they also started sponsoring "Midwestern Hayride" and other programs on TV, just a year after televisions were introduced. As sales increased and to meet this demand, the Bavarian Brewing Co. purchased the nearby Heidelberg Brewery in 1949. That same year, a former Bruckmann Brewery property was acquired, which was used as a Cincinnati distribution facility for Bavarian. Their production grew to 350,000 barrels by around 1950.
Period 10: Schott Family Turnaround Efforts (1953 - 1959) - Under Construction - After trying to pass on an increase in their price of beer in 1952, the following year Bavarian suffered a marked decline in sales and their production declined to about 200,000 barrels. In 1954, restructuring decisions were made to sell the Heidelberg property (Plant 2) and the Cincinnati distribution facility along with consolidating their operations at their main plant in Covington, KY. At that time, Lou Schott resigned as President, William R. Schott became President, William C. Schott remained Vice President and his youngest son, Louis L. Schott became Secretary / Treasurer. The slogan for the beer was changed to "... And Hers Too!" in 1953-54, and then to "Flavor...at its finest." Around 1955 Anheuser-Busch was trying to market Busch Bavarian Beer in Bavarian's area. In an effort to prevent this, Bavarian litigated and prevented Busch Bavarian from being sold in Bavarian's market area by a court decision in 1956. In 1957, Bavarian changed their brand to Bavarian's Select Beer, which accommodated a "New Look" featuring a label with three flags for "Time, Tradition and Skill." Their advertising featured a local "Bavarian Girl," Brenda Cotter. (A photo of the brewery in mid-1955 is at the top of this page.)
Period 11: International Breweries Inc. (IBI) Years (1959 - 1966) - Under Construction - The Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc., owned by the Schott Family, merged with IBI in 1959. William C. Schott resigned, but his sons, Louis L. and William R. remained. However, a couple years later, Louis left to join another family business while William R. remained as plant manager and a Board member of IBI. About that same time, IBI began experiencing financial difficulties. In efforts to increase sales, IBI bottled and brewed several other brands it owned at the Bavarian plant, besides Bavarian/s. They included FrankenMuth, Old Dutch, Phoenix, Silver Bar, Tropical Ale and IBI Malt Liquor. However, this proved unsuccessful. William R. Schott left the IBI Board and the brewery in 1965. A year latter, the Bavarian Brewery plant was closed as IBI liquidated their breweries, renamed their company and entered a different business. This ended the involvement of the Riedlin and Schott families in the brewery for three generations and 83 years; from 1882 to 1965. The entire property and its equipment was purchased at auction in 1966.
Period 12: Closing of the Brewery / Buildings Vacated (1967 - 1995) - Under Construction - The land and buildings that were formerly the Bavarian Brewery were purchased by Justin M. Schneider for his company Central Sales in 1967. This business only needed the land and most buildings were left idle. Previously, the former Bavarian Bottling Plant, which had been acquired by the Hannakin Dairy, was sold to Glier's Goetta in 1967. The former Bavarian Office Building had also been previously sold and used for a time as a paint store. A bar, the Bavarian Tap Room, named after its location, operated out of the main brewery structure in the 1970s A portion of the Mill House was repainted to promote this business. Most brewery structures essentially were abandoned and neglected for about three decades.
Period 13: Brew Works & Jillian's (1995 - 2006) - Under Construction - Ken Lewis acquired the brewery for his business, The Party Source, and opened Brew Works in 1996 as a giant supermarket for liquor and gourmet foods as well as a restaurant and bar offering beers brewed on site. The City of Covington supported the restoration process and the property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In less than a year, Wynkoop Brewing Co., based in Denver, took over. Specializing in craft brewers, they offered brewing on the premises (U-brew) and added entertainment. The management changed again to Jillian's in 1998. They curtailed the onsite brewing, but expanded the entertainment options, which included multiple concert venues. Jillian's was a chain that expanded rapidly, incurring a large amount of debt as they grew, and had 30 locations by the early 2000's. Unable to refinance their debt, Jillian's filed for bankruptcy in May of 2004. Most of its locations, including the former Bavarian Brewery, were acquired at a bankruptcy auction in September, 2004. The location was operated by JBC, but with declining revenues, the property was closed in July, 2006. Most of the other Jillian's were also closed around that time.
Period 14: Columbia Sussex & Save the Bavarian (2006 - 2015) - Under Construction - The property sat vacant for a couple of years and was then sold to Columbia Sussex in 2008 for approximately $5.5 million. This company owns hotels and casinos, and speculated that gambling laws in Kentucky would be approved allowing for the development of the property. Shortly thereafter, legislation approved gambling in Ohio, but not in Kentucky. The property was listed for sale again. The ownership began to demolish some of the auxiliary brewery buildings, thinking the property would be more marketable by doing so. Columbia Sussex threatened to demolish the larger brewery structures, even though they had previously agreed to preserve them. This resulted in a "Save the Bavarian" movement to preserve the iconic castle-like looking buildings in 2015. It received strong support. Local authorities refused to allow the owners to renege on their former agreement to retain the main brewery complex.
Period 15: Kenton County Government Center (2016 - Present) - Under Construction - The county's administration buildings were dated and needed to be replaced. After conducting a study to compare alternative sites, the county decided to build a new administration building on the former Bavarian Brewery site and re-purpose the iconic Brew and Mill Houses into office space. Negotiations with Columbia Sussex eventually resulted in Kenton County buying the former brewery property for about $4.5 million in July, 2016. That structure would be connected to a new multi-story office structure. The total complex would cost about $25 million and accommodate nearly 300 employees. It was believed that the new and repurposed buildings on the former brewery site, besides being much more functional, would also be much more convenient for most Kenton County residents with its location off of I-75 and with an abundance of free parking. The opening of this new Kenton County Government Center was in mid-2019. The Bavarian Brewery Exhibit with display cabinets, including artifacts of the brewery, was unveiled during the dedication of this office complex on November 15, 2019. It is located off of the lobby of Kenton County Government Center and in the former Bavarian Brewery Brew House. It is open to the public for viewing during the weekday business hours.
Photographs were primarily obtained courtesy of the Kenton County Library, the Schott Collection in the Behringer - Crawford Museum and through the personal collections of descendants of the former brewery owners. The noted museum is the curator of the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit, maintaining and periodically changing some of the items in the display cabinets. The brewery artifacts in the display cabinets were provided to the noted museum primarily from the Riedlin and Schott families. The creation of the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit, this website and the donation of various brewery artifacts were with generous support from a Riedlin and Schott descendant.
Images of any Bavarian Brewing Co. items that are displayed on this website, whether they were obtained from the public domain, provided by the consent of individual collectors or are those that were donated or loaned and are part of the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit, were acquired in order to create a type of virtual museum. We have provided various acknowledgements within this website for their use. However, should there be any concerns over our use of any of these images, or if there is any information provided that needs to be corrected, please let us know. (See Disclaimers.) We can be reached at the email shown below.
PLEASE HELP US
We are very interested in additional information material, photos, items or other related information to make the history of the Bavarian Brewery more complete. In particular, if you have any family members that once worked at the brewery, please check out the Tribute page. You can let us know if you have additional family members or friends to add to our list of over 200 names, as well as a photo. More detailed write-ups of some of the historical periods have not been completed yet (as noted). However, we hope to add them soon. We also plan to make other changes, improve our content and add other items to our Breweriana section. To improve and update this website, we need your suggestions and help. To do so, please contact let us know. We can be reached here.
The original brewery building established in 1866.
The Bavarian Brewery in mid-1955.
The background photo is of the Bavarian Brewing Co. Workers c. 1890 in Lager Storage Cellars.