BAVARIAN PLANT NO. 2  (Operating 1949-1954; Sold in 1956)
The former Heidelberg Brewery  (1934-1949)

Bavarian Brewing Co. acquired Heidelberg Brewing Co. in 1949 to obtain their brewery and operate it as their Plant No. 2. This acquisition, and the closure of the property in 1954 and the sale of the Property a couple years later, are discussed in the following.  In addition, below this discussion, a brief history of the Heidelberg Brewing Co. and their brands is examined, accompanied by numerous labels and advertising material they used. 

BAVARIAN PLANT NO. 2

After WWII, the Bavarian Brewing Co. was unable to brew enough beer to sell. Their solution to the problem was to acquire the Heidelberg Brewing Co. and use their brewery property located several blocks north of the Bavarian Brewery as a second plant.  It was located in Covington, KY, between Bakewell and Philadelphia streets on the north side of 4th Street. In January of 1949, the Bavarian Directors approved the purchase of the Heidelberg for $400,000.  Terms included a down payment of $100,000 and a note of $300,000 bearing interest at 4.5 percent. This offer was accepted by Heidelberg's shareholders on February 15, 1949.  The purchase included all the land, buildings, plant, fixtures, machinery and equipment, which also secured the loan. However, 15 trucks, all bottles and cooperage were excluded from securing the loan.  (See Schott Family & Post WWII).  

 

Bavarian obtained  occupancy to the former Heidelberg Brewery in March of 1949. Their first order of business was to make it suitable for their own operations. To do so, they needed to make some changes to the brewery, modifying some equipment.  In addition, they needed to  repaint 15 trucks, barrels and other items they acquired, which  referenced Heidelberg or their former brands. Further, it was necessary to determine what to do with beer that was being aged in Heidelberg's oak storage tanks.  In order to avoid paying tax on the beer, Bavarian decided to dispose of this beer, as explained in the text below.

3-24-1949. Foam settles on the floor of the Bavarian Brewing Co. Plant (No. 2) as a workman removes his beer-soaked boots.  70,000 gallons of beer were poured down the drain. It was left over in the vats when Bavarian bought Heidelberg Brewing Co.  Bavarian emptied the vats to make room for brewing its own product. (The title of a newspaper article about this joked that the fish in the Licking and Ohio rivers would be getting drunk.)

After the plant was acquired, at least a couple of months were required to make some modifications before it  was suitable for use by Bavarian.  The plant provided additional production later that same year, included in Bavarian's fiscal year ending September 30th, 1949. In the following fiscal year ending in 1950, Plant No. 2 helped Bavarian achieve their peak annual production of close to 350,000 barrels. It appears this plant was operating close to its capacity of about 125,000 barrels per year, with the remainder produced in the main Plant No. 1. This production held around the same for he following year.

According to a History of Bavarian Brewing Co. manuscript by C.B. Trousdale prepared in 1954,  the equipment in Plant No. 2 consisted of the following items.

Brew House:  A brew kettle with a capacity of 190 barrels, a mash tub with a capacity of 207 barrels, a cooker capable of holding 103 barrels, a lauter tub with a 207 barrel capacity, two malt bins with a capacity of 3,000 bushels each, one hop jack of holding up to 103 bushels, one malt hopper with a capacity of 18,000 pounds and a hopper able to hold up to 10,000 pounds.

Fermenting Cellar:  Six wooden barrels with a 220 barrel capacity for each, seventeen wooden barrels each with a capacity of 160 barrels and three steel bins with capacities of 150 barrels each. (4,490 gal. total.)

Storage Cellar:  Eleven steel bins that could hold 160 barrels each, three steel bins with a capacity of 295 barrels each and 21 wooden bins holding up to 275 barrels each. (8,420 gal. total.)

Government Cellar:  Three tanks with a capacity of 110 barrels each and three tanks that could each hold 76 barrels each. (558 gal. total.)

Other: Two water tanks (hot and cold).

Engine Room: All equipment was electrically driven; no steam engines. There were two water-tubed boilers with stokers and horse power ratings of 100 and 120.

Bottling Dept.: Apparently, the equipment in this department wasn't previously upgraded before Bavarian acquired Heidelberg, and Bavarian didn't replace it when they began Plant No. 2.

Staff: The employees at Bavarian Plant No. 2 consisted of some of those who had been with Heidelberg Brewing Co. In particular, Carl Moeller, who had previously been with Heidelberg in 1942, became the chief brewmaster in charge of both plants in 1951. The Brewmaster for Plant No. 2 was Walter Zanis, who had also briefly been with Heidelberg before it was purchased by Bavarian. Henry Wetzel, Assistanct Brewmaster, had been with Bavarian beginning in 1917 and had also served with the previous Brewmaster of Heidelberg, Joseph Ruh, at Bavarian before Prohibition.  

The success of Plant No. 2 for Bavarian was relatively short lived. Beginning in the 1951-52 fiscal year, sales started to decline and there was a slight decline in profit. Bavarian's management began to address this situation and considered alternatives at the end of the 1952-3 fiscal year. (See Turnaround Efforts.) In the following year, they decided to close Plant No. 2 on November 1, 1954. But in case sales turned around, they decided to keep it in stand-by condition for six months.  An increase in sales didn't occur, and Bavarian decided to sell the plant in 1955. Frederick A. Schmidt Inc. was engaged to sell the property and they advised Bavarian the plant could bring between $250,000 to $300,000.  However, it took over two years to sell the land and building, only bringing $110,000 in December, 1956.  The buyer was initially reported to be the C., Rice Packing Co., which planned to use some of the building's refrigeration for meat storage. Separately, Bavarian also sold the equipment in Plant No. 2. This increased their overall sales price for the property to $187,743.  Although Bavarian acquired the brewery for $400,000, they also installed equipment and had other costs making their total investment in Plant No. 2 $520,740. Consequently, the total loss was $332,997.  However, considering the depreciation of the assets on an accounting basis, the total book loss to Bavarian from the liquidation of Plant No. 2 was considerably less, amounting to $120,431. It is unclear if these amounts included the sale of the Sebastian Building that had been used as the Bottling Department, which was sold by Bavarian to Justin Schneider with Central Sales for $55,000 earlier in February of 1956. (Coincidentally, when Schneider sold this property in 1967, he purchased another property that had been used by Bavarian, their main brewery property. (See The Brewery Closed & Sold.)   

 

In conclusion, Bavarian Plant No. 2 operated for over five years, from the Spring of 1949 until November of 1954. The plant was successful in substantially increasing the sales for Bavarian nearly 50% between 1949 and 1952. Evidently, it contributed significantly to the profitability of the firm in those years, until 1953. Thereafter, Bavarian realized that the acquisition of Plant No. 2 had substantially increased their costs. Their  only way to be profitable with reduced sales, was to reduce those costs.  Hence, Bavarian needed to consolidate their operations by selling their Plant No. 2, the former Heidelberg brewery, and modernize their main Plant No. 1. (Please see Turnaround Efforts.)

What Happened to the Heidelberg Brewery?

The accompanying photo of the former Heidelberg Brewery is as it was being demolished in September of 1986. In comparing this photo to the one when the building was a brewery below, the upper fifth floor of the tower has been removed. All the windows had previously been bricked. The site is now occupied by Gold Start Chili, on the northwest corner of Bakewell and 4th streets, where the tower section of the brewery was located.  Immediately to the west on 4th Street is a Burger King, and a McDonald's is to the north and on the same block as the two other noted restaurants. 

1986. 4th & Bakewell Streets. Source: Kenton Co. Library.

​​HISTORY OF HEIDELBERG BREWING CO.

After Prohibition, there was a pent up demand for beer, particularly in cities like Cincinnati that had a strong beer tradition due to its German heritage.  Even though nearly a dozen breweries reopened in the Cincinnati area were in former breweries, mostly with new ownerships and different brands, a few breweries  opened in new buildings. These included Schoenling and Delatron in Cincinnati, and Heidelberg Brewing Co. in Covington, KY, located just several blocks north of the Bavarian Brewery. 

1940s. Left, the Heidelberg Brewery at 500-520 4th St., Covington, KY

A Connection Between Heidelberg & Bavarian

Heidelberg Brewing Co. had a previous connection to Bavarian Brewing Co., because the brewmaster and a Director of Heidelberg, Joseph (Sep) Ruh, was the former brewmaster for Bavarian.  Before Prohibition, Sep had worked with his father, Anton (Tony), and had actually taken over as brewmaster for the brewery when his father passed away in 1917.  He may have briefly continued with this company when it was renamed the Riedlin Beverage Co. in 1918 in preparation to produce "near beer" and non-alcoholic beverages.  However, by about 1925 this entity closed.

 

Several years later, as Prohibition was being appealed in 1933, there were no experienced family heirs to open the Bavarian Brewery. Not unlike some other local breweries, the men in the Riedlin family that owned and operated Bavarian before Prohibition had passed away.  It's unclear if Sep had an interest to reopen the this brewery, but the men that began efforts to reestablish Bavarian were Leslie Deglow and Murray Voorhees (the husband of Riedlin's granddaughter). Apparently, they had having difficulty raising capital to reopen the brewery. Whether Sep considered rejoining Bavarian is unknown. In any event, possibly without any meaningful relations with these men reopening Bavarian, and/or their uncertainty in doing so, Sep decided to become an owner and brewmaster of a new brewery, the Heidelberg Brewing Co.

The Formation of Heidelberg Brewing Co.

Heidelberg Brewing Co. was chartered on February 21, 1933, and issued $400,000 in capital stock at $1.00 par on June 12th at an offering price of $1.25, as shown on the side.  Heidelberg was established by George H. Meyerrathen, President and Joesph Ruh, Vice President and brewmaster and several local influential business leaders.  The new brewery was constructed at the northwest corner of 4th and Bakewell streets, with an address of 500 – 520 4th Street.  The building was a "compact brewery" five stories in height with an original production capacity of 90,000 barrels annually, which was increased to 125,00 barrels.  Being new, it had certain advantages over older breweries as it was well designed and all electric and gas (no coal and steam).  However, it also had some drawbacks.  There was no rail spur into the brewery and rail access was not exceptionally close.  This created higher transportation costs for beer that it exported outside of the Cincinnati area.  Also, its production capabilities were relatively low making it more costly to operate, and it was not adjacent to excess land to easily allow for an expansion.  Further, its location was only a few blocks from the Ohio river, which was an area susceptible to flooding.   Only three years after the brewery opened, the Great Flood of 1937 occurred, which damaged Heidelberg's aging tanks and ruined much of its stored grains, preventing the brewer from operating for several months. 

June, 1933.  Stock offering notice of Heidelberg Brewing Co. Stock.  

Mid 1930s -1940s. Left to right: the Heidelberg Brewery at 500-520 4th St., Covington, KY; a Student Prince truck in front of More Confectionery and a Student Prince Truck in front of Union Terminal in Cincinnati, OH.

10-2-1940. The stationary depicts the brands for the brewer in the far left margin.

Brands

The main brand for Heidelberg was Student Prince, which was the same name of an operetta that ran on Broadway for several years in the 1920s, which had the popular "Drinking Song" in the performance. It  was adapted from a play entitled Alt (Old) Heidelberg written by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster (a/k/a Samar Gregorow).  So, both this brand and the name of the brewer were in the titles of the operetta and the play.  Student Prince was offered as both a "Black Label" (Lager) and a "White Label" (Pilsener) as well as an ale.  The brewer also had Bay Horse Ale and two other beers; Heidelberg (or Heidelberg's)  and Heirloom of Bäden, also known as Bäden or Heirloom Beer, a Pilsener that won a gold medal in Paris during 1939. Seasonally, in spring, Bock Beer was also offered.  All of these brands were offered as draft in kegs and in pasteurized in bottles; some were also offered as draft in bottles, unpasteurized. Despite being a small brewer, Heidelberg had more varieties of beers and ales than the larger local brewers, and even most national brewers. To dispense its draft beer in cafes, the brewer supplied beer tap markers for each of its brands, as shown below.  They were referred to as beer ball knobs, due to  their resemblance to a ball. (Please see Ball Knobs/Tap Markers.)

Besides its own brands, Heidelberg also brewed beer under private labels for a distributor located in Lexington, KY.  These brands were known as (Lexington) Hi-Time BeerGood Tyme Beer and Bock Beer as well as Lexington Old Town Beer, Ale and Bock Beer.  This distributor, the E. F. Prichard Company, provided its own formulas to produce these brands. Labels for the Heidelberg brands, including one for the noted distributor, are presented below. There were a wide variety of different label designs produced for Heidelberg, beyond what is presented below.  However, the labels displayed represent examples of all of Heidelberg's brands, and most of its varieties. A unique aspect with the Heirloom labels, which is different than nearly any other beer label, is that it acknowledges the brewmaster (Joseph Ruh, a/k/a Sep) along with his signature. This success of Heidelberg may have been largely connected to its brewmaster, as recognized on these labels. And, the skill developed by Sep was at the Bavarian Brewery before Prohibition, from his father who was the brewmaster.  When Ruh departed Heidelberg in 1945, as explained below, it likely negatively influenced this brewer.

 

1934-1949: The Student Prince label on the far left above is a "U-Permit" is one of the earliest Heidelberg labels.  As shown above, Student Prince was offered as an Ale and Bock Beer. Not shown, Student Prince was also offered as a "Black Label" and " White Label."

1934-1949: The labels include Heidelberg's other two major brands, Heirloom of Baden Beer (and Heirloom Beer), Heidelberg Beer and Bay Horse Ale. On the far lower right: Lexington Old Town Ale, brewed for E.F.  Pritchard. A crown is below.

Difficulties Encountered

The severe flood damage Heidelberg suffered was mitigated, but it took several months to do so. This may have have had some lingering impact upon their ability to expand its market and reach its brewing capacity. It may have explained why Heidelberg agreed to produce beer for a distributor, even though it lowered their margins compared to selling their own brands. Still, the main challenges for Heidelberg occurred after WWII. It may simply not have been feasible for a small brewery to be economically successful as larger brewers expanded and modernized. In an effort to make some modest expansions at Heidelberg, apparently there was a disagreement among Board members. As a result, Joseph Ruh and his two sons Carl and Anthony, who also worked at Heidelberg, decided to resign at the end of 1945. Carl became a Kentucky State Senator and Carl operated a brewer's supply house.  Just several months later, Joseph Ruh died in May, 1946, at the age of 67.

1940s:  From left to right: a metal Sutdent Prince sign, an Heirloom of Bäden sign, a tire cover for Student Prince, an Heirloom Beer coaster, a Student Prince coaster.  Note: their actual size is much different from one another.

For the image of a Heidelberg beer barrel, please visit Bottles, Cases & Kegs.

1946-48:  Matchcover.

By 1946, Heidelberg's Board composition changed with Elmer C. Hake replacing Ruh as Vice President, while George Meyerrratken remained as President. The other Board members at that time were: Stanley Christman, Secretary; Jerome G. Wilde, Treasurer; and Thomas  Bahr, at-large. They decided to expand by increasing the firm's capital stock to $600,000 and made 200,000 more shares available for future projects. The funds raised through this offering were used to acquire the adjacent Sebastian Lathe Co. property for $300,000. It was converted to a bottling facility that could fill over 100,000 bottles per shift. A new loading platform allowed 25 delivery trucks to load barrels and crates simultaneously. These improvements allowed an increase net income of $150,000 by 1946. However, in the next year, sales began to decline. At the same time, Heidelberg had a litigation battle against E.F. Pritchard, which had been ongoing for several years. The distributor alleged that Heidelberg failed to deliver beers for its private labels in the time specified, according to the formulas specified and previously agreed upon pricing. This ultimately resulted in a $80,000 judgement against the brewer, plus legal fees over the litigation period. Another challenge was that Heidelberg's Board no longer had any brewery experience, after Ruh left.  The President of Heidelberg, Meyerratken, had formerly been in the woodworking machinery and advertising business.  Further, it must have been costly and somewhat ineffective for such a small brewer to market several different brands and varieties of beer.  However, it did result in some interesting designs and advertising memorabilia.

Left:  A billboard for Student Prince Beer at Crosley Field in 1939, during a World Series game between the Reds and NY Yankees. Right:  A Billboard for Heirloom Beer at Crosley Field, Cincinnati, OH.

By the end of 1948, the future of Heidelberg looked doubtful. The brewer's stock price, offered at $1.25 nearly fifteen years earlier, was at 40 cents. At the same time, Bavarian Brewing Co., located just several blocks south, was having difficulty producing as much beer as they could sell.  Bavarian became aware of Heidelberg’s situation and initiated conversations to purchase Heidelberg in late 1948, and made it attractive to their stockholders by making an offer at 60 cents a share; a 50% premium. After taking over control of the Heidelberg Brewery in March, 1949, Bavarian also acquired the billboard at Crosley Field from Heidelberg shown in the photos above, located on the roof of The Superior (Towel and) Linen Co. It had been used for different Heidelberg brands from around 1935 until 1948, and then used  Bavarian's Old Style Beer and Bavarian's Select Beer from 1949 until about 1965. None of the Heidelberg's brands were acquired by Bavarian, but the Heirloom Beer brand was obtained and brewed by the South Bethlehem Brewing Co. in Bethlehem, PA.

1940s:  On the far sides are two images of a gas pump globe for Student Prince; the one on the far left is a video that shows the globe in operation. The middle items are a large 5-foot wide Student Prince metal sign and a lighted Heirloom Beer  sign. 

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HEIDELBERG DISTRIBUTING CO. (1938 - Present)

Even though Heidelberg Brewing Co. went out of business in 1949 and only operated for 15 years, it provided a business opportunity for an immigrant who arrived in Cincinnati in 1907 at the age of 22. That German native, Albert W. Vontz, started a company that has now operated for over 80 years, employs more than 1,600  and has nine warehouses in Ohio and Kentucky. It has become one of the largest beverage distributorships in the country, and known as Heidelberg Distributing Co. It was named after the Heidelberg Brewing Co., where Albert began delivering Student Prince beer for the Heidelberg Brewing Co.

Before starting this firm, Albert was trained as a brewer and became an owner of two taverns in Cincinnati before Prohibition. When beer production resumed after Prohibition, he was involved with the Vienna Brewery in Cincinnati for a while.  However, he decided to work for himself, buying a truck and delivering beer for Heidelberg Brewing Co. around 1938.  He made deliveries of Student Prince beer products to grocery stores and restaurants in the Dayton area, driving daily from Covington, KY.  After the brewery was sold to the Bavarian Brewing Co., Albert found other beer and wine products to distribute. When Albert's son, Albert Vontz, Jr., returned after WWII, he attended the University of Cincinnati, studied economics and was looking for a way to help his father's company. After increasing the business mostly with wine products in the 1950s, the firm purchased the Anheuser-Busch branch in Cincinnati in 1959 and then the Dayton Budweiser distributorship in 1961. Acquiring these distributorships was opportunistic, and may have been shortly after the Bavarian Brewing Co. may have had an opportunity to do so a year earlier, upon ending its lawsuit again Anheuser Bush. (See AGussie Busch & Bavarian Meeting.)  Even though Albert Vontz Jr. passed away in 2002, Heidelberg has continued to expand and the Vontz family has remained involved.  Albert Vontz III has retained family control, and his son Albert Vontz IV, the fourth generation of the family, is also with the firm. 

 

SOURCES:

Newspapers.com and Cincinnati Enquirer

Holian, Timothy J., Over The Barrel Volume Two

Robert A. Musson, M.D., Bavarian Brewing and the rest of Northern Kentucky, Volume IX, pgs. 53 - 63.

Riedlin and Schott family items and information.

Trousdale, C.B., A History of the Bavarian Brewery, 1954

March, 1949. The background is a photo of the beer soaked boots of a Bavarian Brewing Co. employee emptying 70,000 gallons of Heidelberg beer allowing Bavarian to legally avoid beer tax and to make room for Bavarian's Beer in the former Heidelberg Brewery, which became the Bavarian Plant No. 2.

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