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 yeas, as shown by the photos below. Over the following decades, it also endured many more changes, but not strictly 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 as summarized 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. Also, please know that the Brewery Exhibit is expected to have a brewery Timeline Sign, including both national and global events, located on the wall opposite the Barrel Display. (To view this exhibit, please click here.) The years for the periods in the Timeline correspond with those periods mentioned below. The periods are also accompanied by Ancillary sections, starting with an A, to help explain an event or events occurring within one or more time periods.
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 above.) 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) The dynamics of the Bavarian Brewery changed when William Riedlin invested in brewery with John Meyer in 1882. They became proprietors of the Bavarian Brewery and featured a celebrated lager beer, which bared their name. In the beginning of this partnership, there were two significant inventions, which occurred several years earlier, that were being adapted in the brewing industry; pasteurization and ice making for refrigeration. These developments, along with other technological advances, e.g. for mechanical equipment as well as the telephone, allowed brewers to greatly increase beer distribution and production. However, necessary capital investments were needed. To take advantage of these developments, Riedlin provided capital and astute business acumen, adding ice making capabilities and a bottling department to increase the brewery's production and profitability.
Period 3: The Late 1800s (1889 - 1899) Kentucky made it possible to incorporate in 1889, and Meyer and Riedlin formed the Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc. to help increase the capital needed to expand the brewery. 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, 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.
Note: Even though the operating name of the brewery was modified to be the Bavarian Brewing Co. in 1889, the property has been known as the Bavarian Brewery since its very early roots and afterwards. Consequently, the domain for this web site and the brewery exhibit located in the Kenton County Government Center is the Bavarian Brewery.
Period 4: The Early 1900s (1900 - 1918) The decade beginning in about 1903 was the largest expansion period for the brewery when several new fire proof buildings were constructed, replacing some structures built with frame construction 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 sons married in 1903 and 1909, and his 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 216,000 barrels of beer annually by 1914, when it also became the largest brewery in Kentucky. However, in the five years before Prohibition officially began in mid 1919, William Riedlin and his two sons passed away.
4A: Affiliations of Wm. Riedlin (1890s - 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.
4B: The Brewery Tunnels (1910+) In order to connect some of their buildings that were separated by streets, the Bavarian Brewery had a system of three separate brewery tunnels. These provided underground access from the Mill House to the Boiler House and the Stock House to the Bottling Department and Engine Room. One of these tunnels was a former lager cellar, and it still remains.
Period 5: Prohibition & the Roaring 1920's (1919 - 1929) William Riedlin was survived by two daughters who married before his passing. It was mostly his son-in-laws and their 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. In late 1922 this company name was changed again to the Riedlin Company. Wm. C. Schott became President of this entity, and it included the brewery property, and presumably other assets from the Riedlin Realty Co. In early 1925, efforts were made to dissolve this entity. All the brewing equipment was liquidated at that time, and Lucia Riedlin Schott acquired the brewery property and other real estate assets, apparently with the proceeds distributed to Riedlin heirs. Both Lucia, and her husband, Wm. C. Schott, then sold off some of those real estate assets that were not an integrate part of the brewery.
Period 6: 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. Leslie Deglow, a descendant of the original founder of the brewery, incorporated the Bavarian Brewing Co. in Delaware in 1932. Shortly thereafter, he was joined by Murray L. Voorhees, the husband of Riedlin's granddaughter, Rosemary. Bavarian native Fred C. Faller became the brewmaster, and the brewery was reopened in mid-1935 to a crowd of 8,000. The brewery was updated, but management did not obtain as much capital as they had sought in a public offering. As a result, its capacity was only 125,000 barrels, about one-half of the production before Prohibition, and they 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 7: 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, added a new bottling department, increased its number of employees, and began to advertise more. 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 traveled abroad to war and sales slowed.
Period 8: The Schott Family & Post WWII (1946 - 1952) 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, Walter. 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 was one of the first local brewers to sponsor TV programs, such as "Midwestern Hayride." They also promoted their beer at Crosley Field, where the Cincinnati Reds played, and provided signs and advertising memorabilia for cafes and bars. The brewer also began offering their beer in cone top cans around 1948. As sales increased and to meet this demand, the Bavarian Brewing Co. purchased the nearby Heidelberg Brewery in 1949. (A separate section about this brewery is included, as mentioned below.) A year later, in order to establish a better distribution facility in Cincinnati, they initially purchased the Bruckmann Brewery Plant 2, but a year later purchased that brewers Bottle Shop/Garage from their Plant 1, which was a more suitable property. Bavarian's production grew to about 350,000 barrels by around 1950 - 1951.
8A: Plant No. 2: the former Heidelberg Brewery (1949 - 1954) Producing more beer than it could sell, Bavarian Brewing Co. was presented with an opportunity to acquire the nearby Heidelberg Brewery, which had fallen on difficult times. It seemed to be a good opportunity at that time for Bavarian to rather quickly supply enough beer to satisfy the demand for their beer. This brewery was located just several blocks north of the main Bavarian plant at 500-520 Fourth Street. The sale of Heidelberg was approved by their stockholders in February, 1949, accepting Bavarian's offer of $400,000. This included a note for $300,000 and the remainder in cash. The purchase price was for all land, buildings, property and equipment, but Bavarian did not retain any of Heidelberg's beer brands. It provided Bavarian with a second brewery, which they called Bavarian Plant No. 2., which had an annual production capacity of 125,000 barrels per year. The use of this brewery by Bavarian, along with a brief history of Heidelberg, its brands and advertising memorabilia over the 15-years that it existed, is briefly described in this section. This acquisition was successful in immediately supply the beer that Bavarian could sell, and they reached a peak production of about 350,000 barrels in 1950. However, operating two breweries created challenges and additional costs for Bavarian. Plant No. 2 was closed in late 1954, but not sold for nearly another three years.
8B: Early Cincinnati Television & TV/Radio Shows Bavarian's Sponsored (Late 1940s- 1960) Until the late 1940s, radio was the only live medium available in most cities. Television arrived in Cincinnati in 1948, with WLW-T. A year later, the city had two more stations, WKRC-TV and WCPO-TV. The beginnings of these three stations are briefly reviewed. After the stations provided programs to air, Bavarian Brewing Co. sponsored some of the earliest shows. These included Midwestern Hayride on WLW-T and The Paul Dixon Song Shop on WLW-T, which evolved into The Paul Dixon Show on WCPO-TV in 1955. As discussed, the hosts and co-hosts on these shows had interesting careers, often spanning more than two or three decades. Cincinnati was a cradle for numerous TV personalities. Some of the shows were aired nationally for a short time, but a few were broadcasted locally for about three decades, which is also explored. In addition, Bavarian sponsored some syndicated programs, such as the Abbott and Costello Show and Favorite Stories hosted by Amelio Menjou. Further, Bavarian's Old Style Beer continued to sponsor various radio programs provided by several announcers pertaining to news, sports and music in the 1950s. Pictures are provided of the hosts and co-hosts of the shows sponsored by Bavarian.
Period 9: Schott Family Turnaround Efforts (1953 - 1958) The slogan for the beer was changed to "... And Hers Too!" in 1953-54, and then to "Flavor...at its finest." In 1954, Lou Schott became Board Chairman, William R. Schott became President, William C. Schott remained Vice President and his youngest son, Louis L. Schott became Secretary / Treasurer. Acquiring a second brewery for Bavarian, which created a duplication of its work force, created higher costs, resulted in an effort by Bavarian to increase its prices to offset its increased costs. With more competition, and after Bavarian passing on an increase in their price of beer in April 1954, they suffered a marked decline in their sales. As a result, certain restructuring decisions were made, including the closure of Plant No. 2 (the former Heidelberg Brewery) and plans to consolidate and modernize their operations at their main plant. However, their production continued to decline and was reduced to about 211,000 barrels by 1955-1956. In addition, between 1955 and 1958, Bavarian entered litigation with Anheuser-Busch, who was trying to market Busch Bavarian Beer in Bavarian's area. It resulted in a landmark decision for Bavarian that prevented Busch Bavarian from being sold in their Tri-State market area. In 1956 and in the middle of this suit, Bavarian decided to settle litigation with G. Heileman Brewing Co. by agreeing to discontinue their use of "Old Style" in the name of their beer. (See Bavarian's New Look, and the summary below.) In 1957, the Heidelberg property (Plant 2) was sold and a new warehouse was built. That same year, the Marketing Department was transferred from the main plant to the Cincinnati Branch. (A photo of the brewery in 1957 is at the top of this page.) For the 1957 fiscal year, the decisions made by Bavarian increased sales for the first time since 1952 and the brewery made its first profit since 1954. By 1958, the outlook for the brewer was more optimistic.
9A: Bavarian's New Look (1957 & 1958) As noted, after the Bavarian Brewing Co. litigated with G. Heileman Brewing Co. over the use of "Old Style" in Bavarian's Old Style Beer between 1953 and 1956, Bavarian agreed to modify their brand name. According to a settlement agreement in 1956, Bavarian was allowed to continue to use their brand name with certain stipulations for another five years. But in the summer of 1956, Bavarian decided to begin the process of not only changing their name, but creating an entirely new image for their firm. One of the directors, Louis L. Schott, was appointed as Marketing Director to be in charge of obtaining a new name, new logo and entirely new advertising and packaging campaign. He hired Larry Rinck to be on Bavarian's staff as an Advertising Manager. The two decided to hire the renown design firm of Lippincott & Margulies (L & M) and the well regarded advertising firm of Calkins & Holden (C & H), both based in New York City. In May of 1957 Bavarian unveiled a new brand name, Bavarian/s Select Beer and introduced a "New Look" formulated by L & M with redesigned logos, labels, packaging, signs... supported by a reinvented advertising campaign developed by C & H. Later that year, the brewer introduced the Bavarian Girl, Brenda Cotter from Dayton, OH, to serve as an ambassadress. She toured Germany on behalf of Bavarian in early 1958. Despite some concerns by brewers in Bavaria about Brenda's tour, the overall campaign was successful in creating a more contemporary corporate image for the brewer, and appealed to many younger beer drinkers.
9B: Bavarian's Meeting with August Busch, Jr., President, Anheuser-Busch (1958) Previously only known among a few Schott Family members, August Bush, Jr. (or Gussie as he was known), invited the officers of the Bavarian Brewing Co. to meet with him at his "Big House" at Grant's Farm in St. Louis in 1958. Those officers that accepted and attended the meeting were William C. (Will) Schott, his two sons, William R. (Bill) and Louis L., and his brother Lou. After the suit Bavarian filed against Anheuser-Busch in 1955, Gussie testified in the Cincinnati District Court during the trial in 1956. So, Gussie was personally familiar with Bavarian and likely wasn't pleased that the court decision prevented his firm's new beer, Busch Bavarian, from being sold in a tri-state market area. neither he nor Bavarian probably wanted to continue their litigation on appeal. So, the meeting was apparently an opportunity for a mega brewer and a small brewer to resolve their differences. As a result of this meeting, neither firm pursued an appeal, but more significantly, apparently Bavarian had an opportunity to be acquired by Anheuser - Busch. However, Bavarian decided to pursue a transaction with another suitor, instead of A-B.
Period 10: International Breweries Inc. (IBI) Years (1959 - 1966) - Under Construction
The Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc., owned by four Schott Families, merged with IBI in 1959. Lou and William C. Schott resigned. But Will's sons, Louis L. and William R., remained. However, a couple years later, Louis left to join another family business, the Cincinnati Galvanizing Co. while William R. remained as the General Manager and a Board member and Vice President of IBI. In the early 1960s, 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 11: 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 possibly the warehouse; the other primary brewery buildings were left idle. In this same year, former Bavarian Bottling Plant, which had been acquired by the Hannekin Dairy during Prohibition, was sold to Glier's Goetta. The former Bavarian Office Building had also been previously sold and used for a sign company, and then as a paint store. The Bavarian Tap Room in the brewery was converted to a bar in the late 1970s, and 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 12: Brew Works & Jillian's (1995 - 2006) - Under Construction Ken Lewis acquired and renovated the brewery for his business, The Party Source, and opened Brew Works in 1995 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 for a while, but with declining revenues, the property was closed in July, 2006. Most of the other remaining Jillian's were closed around that time.
Period 13: 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 owned hotels and casinos, and speculated that gambling laws in Kentucky would be approved allowing for the development of the property. Shortly thereafter, legislation was approved for 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 local support. City authorities refused to allow the owners to renege on their former agreement, and Columbia Sussex was unable to demolish the main brewery buildings.
Period 14: Kenton County Government Center (2016 - Present) - Under Construction Kenton 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 would be much more functional. It was also considered to 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 and 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.
Images of any Bavarian Brewing Co. items that are displayed on this website to create a type of virtual museum, were obtained from the public domain, provided by the consent of individual collectors are items donated or loaned as a part of the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit. We have provided various acknowledgements above and 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 or modified, please let us know. (See Disclaimers.) We can be reached via the email link shown below.
PLEASE HELP US IMPROVE THE HISTORY OF THE BAVARIAN BREWERY
We are very interested in obtaining additional information, material, photos, items or other related information to better preserve and share the history of the Bavarian Brewery. In particular, if you, or if you have any family members or acquaintances that once worked at the brewery, please view the Tribute page, to see if we have their name, and possibly their photo. If not, please help us add to our list of over 225 names, and include a photo if available, by completing a short form in that section. We expect to complete the write-ups of some of those historical periods not yet completed (as noted above). And, we hope to improve our content in this website, particularly the Breweriana section of this website, and to provide more display items in the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit. However to do so, we need your assistance and help. We hope to hear from you.
The original brewery building established in 1866.
The Bavarian Brewery in mid-1957.
The background photo is of the Bavarian Brewing Co. Workers c. 1890 in Lager Storage Cellars.