1A. A HISTORY OF NORTHERN KENTUCKY BREWERIES Before Prohibition (1837 -1880s)
The Northern Kentucky Area
Northern Kentucky (NKY) is located immediately to the south and across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It consists primarily of the cities of Covington and Newport, as well as the counties of Kenton, Campbell and Boone. From the 1860s until the impact of Pro-hibition began in 1918, Cincinnati had about three dozen breweries operating at the same time and had a total of over 80 breweries during this period. With about one-sixth of the population of Cincinnati, NKY had at most eight breweries operating in NKY at the same time in the late 1800s and a total of nearly 20 breweries over this time span. However, the largest breweries in Cincinnati during this period were much larger than those in NKY.
Numerous publications have been provided about the brewing industry in Cincinnati, but relatively little detailed information has been provided about the early breweries in NKY. This is partly because Cincinnati has a population several times larger than NKY, which has created more interest in the older Cincinnati breweries. In addition, there are numerous historical brewery buildings and lager cellars in the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati that have become an attraction, which has also helped generate interest in this subject. Yet, being in a different state with southern influences, NKY breweries exhibited some unique characteristics. For instance, they were not essentially in one concentrated area, but in a few different areas. More single family housing, rather than tenement housing, was available close to most NKY breweries, there was much less congestion and some considered it a better place to raise a family. Further, the NKY breweries in the later 1800s were able to have more success in Kentucky and some southern markets than the Cincinnati area brewers, yet they could still have some success in the Cincinnati market. Despite the much larger brewing industry in Cincinnati, there were still some brewers in NKY that became more prominent than in many larger cities. Further, there were some important connections and relationiships among those in the brewing industry in NKY and Cincinnati, which are often not recognized. Because of these factors, the Pre-Prohibition breweries in NKY deserve some distinction and further examination.
Overall, there were a total of some 15 brewery locations in Covington, plus three in Newport and one in Alexandria. However, due to different proprietors, there were some 50 different brewery names for these locations in Northern Kentucky between 1837 and the beginning of Prohibition in 1918. Yet, at any one time, only about six breweries operated in Covington and no more than two were in Newport. In comparison to the city on the other side of the Ohio River, Cincinnati had over 80 breweries during a similar period, but beginning a couple decades earlier, with usually no more than about three dozen operating in any given year. Truly successful brewers who obtained wealth and status didn't occur until the 1850s in the Cincinnati area. This attracted many others who had dreams of the same achievements. However, this was a challenging business. Most brewery startups found success elusive, as they did not have the proper brewing acumen, sufficient equipment, an adequate property or sufficient startup capital. So, similar as in Cincinnati, about one-half the breweries in Covington, especially in the Licking Iron Works Area, only lasted a year or two. Additionally, for the breweries that operated for a longer period, it was not uncommon for their ownerships to change rather frequently, especially a decade or two before and after the Civil War, as discussed in the following.
After Peter (Piere) Jonte established the first brewery in the center of Covington in 1837, which became the Geisbauer / Covington Brewery a few years later, most of the other breweries that opened in the city were located either southwest or southeast of the city. Those breweries southwest of downtown Covington were in the Lewisburgh area close to Willow Run Creek. Those on the southeast side were on the west side of the Licking River and around 11th/12th Streets - close to the Licking Iron Works. A map that locates most of the breweries mentioned below (in bold), and even their future names after the 1880s ( in lower case), below. They are identified by the numbers next to the names of the breweries below. Please note that this map also shows the earliest brick homes in the area that were owned by the men, and/or their descendants, who owned the land where the Bavarian Brewery became located. It also identifies Seminary Square - the Western Baptist Theological Institute. Both these homes and the Institute were discussed in the previous Background History section.
Breweries in Convington, KY:
1) The Phillip Jointe, 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)
6) Licking Iron Works (tan) -around it:
6i) F. Hone, H. Wichman (Weakman).
6ii) Licking Brewery, Skiff-Hall, Nordloah, Lottermann(Lottman)
(iii) L. Weber.
Earliest Brick Houses: 1) The Carneal House, 2) Elmwood Hall and 3) The Sandford House.
Seminary Square - the Western Baptist Theological College.
Before the Civil War, the breweries in Covington included:
The Phillip Jonte Brewery (1). Located at Sixth and Scott Streets, this operation began in 1837 by Peter Jonte from Alsace, France. A couple years earlier he established a brewery in Cincinnati. Within a few years after it was founded, the brewery was acquired by Charles (Karl) Geisbauer. However, Jonte continuted the brewery he started on the other side of the river for about 20 years.
Duhme & Co. / Lexington Brewery (2). This brewery opened in
Licking Brewery (6ii)
Conrad Windish & Co. Brewery (4)
Frank Hone & Co. / Wichmean ( Weakman) Brewery (6i)
Out of these breweries, the latter three did not reopen. Of the three that reopened, just one of these was under the same ownership, as discussed in the following.
Covington Brewery (1). This brewery under Geisbauer was the only brewery in Covington after the Civil War that remained under the same ownership.
A couple existing breweries that were operated under new ownerships were:
H.H. Kurre & Co Brewery (2). Formerly the Lexington Brewery and Duhme & Co., this company was operated by H.H. Kurre and Felix Fritz in 1866 and located in Lewisburg. However, by 1868 the principal proprietor was John H. Herzog, even though Fritz remained, a former Cincinnati brewer, Phillip Ammann, became a principal. It became known as the John H. Herzog & Co. Brewery.
Nordloh & Co. Brewery (Area 6), formerly the Licking Brewery, was reopened in 1866.
B. Lotterman & Co. (The above noted Norloh & Co. was acquired by B. Lotterman 1867 and only operated for a couple years thereafter.
In Newport Kentucky, the two breweries operating immediately after the Civil War (Area N) 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).
Seemingly to make up for the closure of some breweries in Covington directly after the Civil War, a few new ones emerged. A couple small breweries that only existed for a year or two, not shown on the above map, were:
Henry Meyers & Co. This brewery was located a the northwest corner of Eleventh and Bush Streets 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, just a block or two from the Deglow Brewery.
Two breweries that ultimately became more established were:
Lewisburg Brewery, aka Charles Lang & Co. (3) 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. (5) This brewery began in 1866 in a structure located at 369 Lexington Pike, adjacent to Lewisburg. It was the predecessor to what became known as the Bavarian Brewery a few years later in 1870, and the principal subject of this writing. 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 period 1. Brewery Beginnings.
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 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. Herzog sold this brewery 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.
In Newport, there were 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, had financial difficulties in 1874. They sold their brewery at auction to John A. Deppe in 1876. It operated until 1879.
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 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.
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.
It was common for the ownership in a brewery to change, sometimes frequently, as it did during the first decade or two of 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, which extended through three generations.
In summary. The brewing business in Northern Kentucky (NKY) 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 has been known, had over six times the population as Covington and Newport, and about three dozen breweries throughout the 1870s. In contrast, the noted NKY cities had about one-half dozen breweries at any one time throughout this period. Even though this resulted in a larger number of breweries per capita in Northern Kentucky than in Cincinnati, the size of the breweries in NKY were smaller. 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 obtain 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 a sixteen year period period beginning after ending of the Civil War. 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. This occurred 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.
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 of Steinriede & Wehming Brewers in 1877.
An explanation of the photo is contained in the text above.