8A. 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.
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.
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
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.)
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.)
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Heidelberg’s flagship brand was Student Prince, named after an operetta that ran on Broadway for several years in the 1920s and featured the popular "Drinking Song" theme in its performances. The musical had been 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 brewed Bay Horse Ale and two other beers; a lager known as Heidelberg (or Heidelberg's) and a Pilsner called Heirloom of Bäden (also known as Bäden or Heirloom Beer), which won a gold medal in Paris during 1939. Bock Beer was also offered seasonally, in springtime. All of these brands were offered as draft in kegs and 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 spherical shapes. (Please see Ball Knobs/Tap Markers.)
In addition to 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 Beer, Good 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 E.F. Prichard, are presented below. There were also a wide variety of different label designs produced for Heidelberg, extending beyond those reproduced below. However, the labels displayed represent examples of all of Heidelberg's brands, and most of its varieties. A unique aspect of 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. Indeed, Heidelberg’s success may have been largely connected to its brewmaster, making his name a sign of high quality and an advertising asset. Sep’s noteworthy brewing skills had been developed at the Bavarian Brewery before Prohibition, from his father, the brewmaster. When Ruh departed Heidelberg in 1945, as explained below, his decision likely left a negative impact on 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. Student Prince was also offered as a "Black Label" and " White Label” (not shown).
1934-1949: Besides Student Prince, other labels for Heidelberg's major brands are: Heirloom of Baden Beer (and Heirloom Beer), Heidelberg Beer and Bay Horse Ale. On the far lower right is Lexington Old Town Ale, brewed for E.F. Pritchard. A crown is below.
The severe flood damage that Heidelberg suffered in 1937 was eventually mitigated, but it took several months before brewing processes could return to normal. This may have had some lingering impact upon their ability to expand their markets and reach their brewing capacity. It may also have explained why Heidelberg agreed to produce beer for a distributor, even though this would lower their margins in comparison to selling their own brands.
Flood damage aside, the main challenges for Heidelberg occurred after WWII. It may have simply not been feasible for a small brewery to be economically successful as other, larger breweries expanded and modernized. Efforts to make modest expansions at Heidelberg apparently sparked 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 would later become a Kentucky State Senator and he would also operate a brewer's supply house. Just several months later, however—in May 1946—their father Joseph Ruh died 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.
By 1946, Heidelberg's Board composition had changed. Elmer C. Hake replaced 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. With Joseph and Carl Ruh no longer present to object, the Board decided to expand by increasing the firm's capital stock to $600,000 and making 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 was engaged with a litigation battle against E.F. Pritchard, which had been ongoing for several years. The distributor alleged that Heidelberg had failed to deliver beers for its private labels in the time specified by contract, 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, after Ruh left, Heidelberg's Board no longer had any brewery experience. The President of Heidelberg, George Meyerratken, had formerly worked in the woodworking machinery and advertising business. Further, it must have been costly and somewhat ineffective for such a small brewery to market many different brands and varieties of beer, though 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, had declined to 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. They made the possibility attractive to their stockholders by making an offer at 60 cents a share, a 50% premium. In March, 1949, Bavarian acquired the Heidelberg Brewing Co. Included in this purchase were rights for Bavarian to obtain the Heidelberg billboard at Crosley Field, shown in the photos above. This sign was located on the roof of The Superior Towel and Linen Co The board had been used to advertise different Heidelberg brands from around 1935 until 1948. After Bavarian acquired Heidelberg, this sign displayed ads for Bavarian's Old Style Beer and Bavarian's Select Beer from 1949 until about 1965. Although none Heidelberg's brands were acquired by Bavarian, 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
HEIDELBERG DISTRIBUTING CO. (1938 - Present)
Even though Heidelberg Brewing Co. went out of business in 1949, after only fifteen years of operation, it provided a unique business opportunity for an immigrant who had arrived in Cincinnati in 1907 at the age of 22: German native Albert W. Vontz. He started a company that has now operated for over 80 years, employs more than 1,600 workers, and encompasses nine warehouses in Ohio and Kentucky. Vontz’s company, Heidelberg Distributing Co., has become one of the largest beverage distributorships in the country. It was named after the Heidelberg Brewing Co., where Albert got his start delivering Student Prince beer.
Before starting this firm, Vontz was trained as a brewer and became an owner of two taverns in Cincinnati in the pre-Prohibition era. When beer production resumed after Prohibition, he worked temporarily at the Vienna Brewery in Cincinnati. However, he ultimately decided to work for himself, buying a truck and delivering beer for Heidelberg Brewing Co. around 1938. Vontz 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 searched for ways to help his father's company. After expanding their business 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. These opportunistic acquisitions occurred shortly after the Bavarian Brewing Co. was ending its lawsuit against Anheuser Busch in 1958 and before its merger with IBI in 1959. As explained in 9B. A Gussie Busch & Bavarian Meeting, Bavarian may have had the opportunity to have made these distributorship purchases instead. Even though Albert Vontz Jr. passed away in 2002, Heidelberg has expanded becoming one of the largest distributors in the country. At the time of this writing, the Vontz family remained involved with the firm; Albert Vontz III retained family control, and his son, Albert Vontz IV, joined the management team.
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.