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8B. BAVARIAN PLANT NO. 2  (1949-1954; Sold in 1956)
& The former Heidelberg Brewery  (1934-1949)

Bavarian Brewing Co. acquired Heidelberg Brewing Co. in 1949, obtaining their brewery and operating it as their Plant No. 2. This acquisition, along with the closing of this plant in 1954 and the sale of the property a few years later, are discussed below. Following this discussion, a brief history of the Heidelberg Brewing Co. and their brands is examined, accompanied by numerous labels and advertising materials that 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. Heidelberg 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 period 8. Post WWII and The Schott Family.)

 

Bavarian obtained occupancy rights to the former Heidelberg Brewery in March of 1949. Their first order of business was to make the plant suitable for their own operations. To do so, they needed to make changes to the brewery building and modify some of its equipment. In addition, they needed to repaint 15 trucks, barrels and other items they acquired, which referenced the Heidelberg name and its brands. Finally, it was necessary to determine what to do with the beer that was being aged in Heidelberg's oak storage tanks. In order to avoid paying hefty taxes on this beer, Bavarian decided to dispose of it, 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, emptying the vats left over when Bavarian bought Heidelberg Brewing Co. Bavarian drained the beer to make room for their own product. (The title of a newspaper article about this event 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 modifications before it was suitable for Bavarian’s use. The plant provided additional production later that same year, included in Bavarian's fiscal year for 1949, ending September 30th. In the following 1950 fiscal year, 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 level of production held around the same for the following year.

Even though this structure no longer remains, the layout of this plant about a year after Bavarian Brewing Co. acquired it is shown in the blue print images below. The original images were obtained courtesy of Tim Holian. Photos of the brewery are showed further below.

 

According to a History of Bavarian Brewing Co. manuscript that historian 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 capable of holding up to 103 bushels

  • one malt hopper with a capacity of 18,000 pounds

  • 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

  • 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

  • 21 wooden bins holding up to 275 barrels each (8,420 gal. total.)

Government Cellar: 

  • three tanks with a capacity of 110 barrels each

  • 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.: The equipment in this department wasn't upgraded before Bavarian acquired Heidelberg, and Bavarian didn't replace it when they began Plant No. 2.

Staff: Some of those who had worked with Heidelberg Brewing Co. stayed on as Bavarian staff members in Plant No. 2. For one notable example, Carl Moeller, who had previously worked at 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 worked at Heidelberg before it was purchased by Bavarian. Henry Wetzel, Assistant Brewmaster, began working for Bavarian in 1917 and had also served with the previous Brewmaster of Heidelberg, Joseph Ruh, at Bavarian shortly before Prohibition.  

The success of Plant No. 2 for Bavarian was relatively short-lived. Beginning in the 1951fiscal year, sales started to decline and the brewery faced a slight decline in profit. Bavarian's management began to address this situation and considered alternatives at the end of the 1953 fiscal year. (See period 9. Turnaround Efforts.)

In the following year, they decided to close Plant No. 2 on November 1, 1954, keeping it in stand-by condition for another six months in case sales turned around. When this didn't occur, and Bavarian made the final decision to sell the plant in 1955.

 

Frederick A. Schmidt Inc. was engaged to sell the property; this firm advised Bavarian the plant could bring between $250,000 to $300,000. However, it took over two years to sell the land and buildings, 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. Bavarian also sold the equipment in Plant No. 2 in a separate deal, which  increased their overall sales price for the property to $187,743. Although Bavarian had acquired the brewery for $400,000, they had also installed new equipment and added improvements that made 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 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 period  11. 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. With declining sales, their  only way to be profitable 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. 

What Happened to the Heidelberg Brewery?

The accompanying photo shows the former Heidelberg Brewery as it was being demolished in September of 1986. In comparing this photo to one taken when the building was a brewery, shown below, the upper fifth floor of the tower has been removed. All the windows had also 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 situated 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 across the nation, and especially in cities like Cincinnati, with a strong beer tradition stemming from its German heritage. Nearly a dozen former breweries reopened in the Cincinnati area - mostly in former breweries with new ownerships and different brands.  However, a few breweries opened in new buildings, including; Schoenling and Delatron in Cincinnati, and Heidelberg Brewing Co. in Covington, KY. The new brewery in Kentucky was located just several blocks south 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 assumed the position of brewmaster when his father passed away in 1917. He continued to be involved with this company when it was renamed the Riedlin Beverage Co. in 1918, in preparation to produce "near beer" and non-alcoholic beverages. In 1922 he became one of three Directors of the Riedlin Co. When this firm dissolved in 1925, he acquired the former ice house property along with another family member (Ferdinand) and M. L. Galvin. (See period 5. The Riedlin Co.'s.)

 

Several years later, as Prohibition was being appealed in 1933, there were no experienced family heirs available to reopen the Bavarian Brewery. Not unlike other local breweries, the men in the Riedlin family who had owned and operated Bavarian before Prohibition had passed away. It's unclear whether Sep had a personal interest in reopening this brewery, but the men who began efforts to reestablish Bavarian were Leslie Deglow and Murray Voorhees (the husband of Riedlin's granddaughter). See period 6. The Reopening of the Brewery. Apparently, they had been having difficulty raising the capital necessary to reopen the brewery; whether Sep considered rejoining Bavarian with them is unknown. In any event - and possibly without any meaningful relations to the men who reopened Bavarian - Sep decided to become an owner and brewmaster of a new brewery, the Heidelberg Brewing Co.

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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, along with 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. Their building was a "compact brewery - five stories in height, with an original production capacity of 90,000 barrels annually (later increased to 125,00 barrels). Being new, it had certain advantages over older breweries, including a more modern and streamlined design and electric and gas power  instead of coal and steam. However, it also had some drawbacks. There was no rail spur into the brewery and rail access was not exceptionally close, creating higher transportation costs for beer exported outside of the Cincinnati area. Also, its production capabilities were relatively low for the time, making it more costly to operate, and there was no adjacent, excess land that could be used for an expansion. Further, its location was only a few blocks from the Ohio River, which was susceptible to overflowing and flooding the nearby area. In fact, only three years after the brewery opened, the Great Flood of 1937 damaged Heidelberg's aging tanks and ruined much of its stored grains, preventing the brewery from operating for several months.