1. THE BEGINNINGS
- Of The Bavarian Brewery (1866 - 1881)
AFTER THE CIVIL WAR
Some important transformations were taking place in the aftermath of The Civil War, as the nation entered into the Reconstruction Era. Economically the Cincinnati area was poised to benefit and grow as the "gateway to the south." However, this was stymied by the obvious need to have a bridge across the Ohio River to connect the cities of Covington and Cincinnati. The river was congested with steamboat traffic making it difficult for barges and ferries to travel across the river. Work had begun on what was first known as the "Covington-Cincinnati Bridge," (and vice versa), in 1856. However, the bridge was only partly built before the Civil War began in 1861.
THE SUSPENSION BRIDGE c. 1870's
Formerly Cincinnati-Covington Suspension Bridge
& the Ohio Bridge.
Renamed the John A. Roebling Bridge.
The site where the Bavarian Brewery was established was originally owned by General Thomas Sandford from Virginia who, for his honors in the Revolutionary war, was granted a land tract in 1792. This tract encompassed what is now the entire City of Covington. When General Sandford died in 1808, his estate passed to his children. One of his heirs sold 28.75 acres of the tract to the Western Baptist Theological Institute in 1835. However, the land was not formally conveyed to the Trustees of the Institute until May, 1840. This occurred just after Kenton County was created a couple months earlier. A theology school and ancillary buildings were constructed. However, trustees had philosophical differences and the property was sold in 1855. One of the buildings was used as a hospital during the Civil War and another building was sold to what became St. Elizabeth Hospital for many years. Some of the land was also used for the Linden Grove Cemetery and other parts of it were created into subdivisions and divided into lots. The site for the Bavarian Brewery was located on land that was subdivided and known as the Western Baptist's Theological Institute 3rd Subdivision.
The population of Cincinnati increased dramatically in the early 1800s and was the sixth largest city in the U.S. by 1840. Like several other U.S. cities, it received a boost in its population while the revolutions of 1848 were sweeping across Europe. In the German states, the forty-eighters favored unification of the German people, a more democratic government, and guarantees of human rights. Many were respected and politically active, wealthy, and well-educated. After this revolution failed, and in fear of their lives, many of those Germans that participated in the revolution fled to other countries. Approximately 30,000 of these forty-eighters from various German states settled in the Cincinnati area. In doing so, they established a German community that attracted many tens of thousands of other Germans to the Cincinnati area in the coming decades. The completion of the Baltimore and Ohio line to Cincinnati in the mid 1850s helped facilitate the arrival of Germans and other immigrants. The expansion of U.S. railroads provided a relatively easy way for immigrants landing at ports on the East Coast to settle in places further west, and allowed places like Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky to experience rapid growth. During the Civil War, and due to their strong conviction for human equality, some 200,000 naturally born Germans fought for the Union Army, comprising about 10% of the entire army.
The war delayed the completion of the bridge, but it was finished in December, 1866. At the time, it was the largest "Suspension Bridge" in the world spanning 1,057 feet. It was designed by John A. Roebling, who also engineered the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge now carries his name. There was much anticipation that the completion of the bridge would help spur economic growth in Covington...and it did. The beginnings of what became the Bavarian Brewery, founded by Julius Deglow in 1866, around the same time as the completion of the Suspension Bridge, may not have been coincidence. It may have been at least in part due to the anticipation over the future benefits of this new bridge. Also in 1866, the Cincinnati Red Stockings baseball team was organized. It became the first professional baseball team in 1869. Later the team became the Redlegs and is now simply known as the Cincinnati Reds.
EARLY BREWERY OWNERSHIP
Deglow Brewery (1866-1868)
J.H. Deglow & Co. Brewery (1868-1869)
Bavarian Brewery (1870-1874)
Proprietors: Deglow, Best & Renner
Bavarian Brewery (1874-1877)
Proprietor: Charles L. Best
Knorr, Ruh & Schaub Brewery
Bavarian Brewery (1880-81)
Proprietors: Charles Ruh & John Meyer
Bavarian Brewery (1881-1882)
Proprietor: John Meyer
c. 1900. Above is a photo of what may be original Bavarian Brewery. What is curious, however, is the notation on the building that indicates the years 1848 and 1910. These dates were either painted on the building or annotated onto the photo. If the later, the dates may indicate when the structure was built and demolished. However, there may be some other explanations, as mentioned in the *Note below. Photo is courtesy of Kenton Co. Library System; restored by L.R.S.
1866. In this year Julius H. Deglow established the Deglow Brewery in the 300 block of Pike Street in Covington, KY. It was the beginning of what was renamed as the Bavarian Brewery a few years later.
1868. It appears the name of the brewery was slightly modified to the J. H. Deglow Brewery, to reflect the initials of the proprietor.
Early 1870. Around 1869 it seems J. H. Deglow had a hand injury, losing a finger. Consequently, it appears he may have needed some assistance in operating the brewery and took on partners Charles L. Best and George J. Renner. The name of the brewery became registered for the first time as the Bavarian Brewery in 1870, but it was also referred to as the Deglow, Best and Renner Brewery, to reflect the names of the proprietors. The new partners acquired the brewery subject to a lien J. H. Deglow placed against the property. Shortly afterwards, it seems Deglow then left the brewery business and became a tanner in a building just west of the brewery.
1872. Charles L. Best took control of the brewery in this year. To do so, Best paid G. J. Renner $2,000 and owed Deglow $34,800 to own the brewery property. The firm name remained as the Bavarian Brewery Co. with C. L. Best as the Proprietor. Renner then went on to be involved other breweries in Wooster, Akron and Mansfield. His son G. J. Renner, Jr. worked with his father, until he acquired a brewery in 1889 located in Youngstown, OH, which became the Renner Brewing Co.
1877. In January, 1877, the Bavarian Brewery Co., with C. L. Best as proprietor, filed for bankruptcy. The assets were reported at $48,000. They consisted of property of 50 feet fronting on Pike street and extending to 12th St., fixtures and ten to twelve thousand dollars in accounts. The brewery was appraised for $20,000 and one-half of the accounts were non-collectible resulting in actual assets of about $27,000. The creditors were J. H. Deglow, with a lien against the brewery property and fixtures of $35,000, and unsecured debts to A. W. Schleutker for $5,500 and Nicholas Best for $2,200.
1878. It appears George Knorr, Charles Ruh & F. Schaub purchased the brewery out of bankruptcy, subject to the Deglow lien. The new owners renamed the brewery in their names. In March of 1878, Knorr Ruh & Schaub was the fifth largest brewer in Northern Kentucky selling 300 barrels of beer in the month. This compared to 800 for Butcher & Wiedeman, 610 for C. Lang & Co., 580 for C. Geisbaure, 460 for Steinreide & Wehming, 210 for Deppe & Co. and 60 for A. Meister. However, it appears that the bankruptcy had affected beer sales for the brewery. It had been reported several years earlier that the brewery was producing about 600 barrels monthly, or over 7,000 barrels annually. Evidently, the partnership name of the brewery after bankruptcy was relatively brief, because it seems the name of the brewery may have still been referred to as the Bavarian Brewery, or returned to that name within a year or two.
1880. John Meyer apparently acquired an interest in the brewery, with only Charles Ruh, the brew-master, remaining as a prior owner. The two became proprietors of the Bavarian Brewery.
1881. Shortly after Meyer and Ruh acquired the Bavarian Brewery, Charles Ruh suffered fatal injuries in a carriage accident. John Meyer acquired an interest in the brewery from Charles's wife, Elizabeth Ruh. However, a one-half ownership interest was still retained by J. H. Deglow. Anton Ruh, the brother of Charles, became the new brew-master of the brewery, and John Meyer became the remaining sole proprietor. Apparently, Meyer needed additional capital and a partner to provide assistance in purchasing the remaining one-half interest from a Deglow family member. This provided an opportunity for Wm. Riedlin to acquire an interest in the brewery in 1882 from Meyer. After Riedlin sold Tivoli Hall, which he operated for about five-years and located at 1311 Vine Street in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) area of Cincinnati, he embarked on a new endeavor as a brewer. (See the William Riedlin Years.)
*Note: With regards to the photo above, there are some concerns whether or not the dates of 1848 and 1910 on the original Bavarian Brewery structure photo (shown above and on the background of this page) reflect the dates it was constructed and the building demolished. Some preliminary findings indicate the brewery land formerly belonged to the Western Baptist Theological Institute until 1855. Most of this land was vacant until after 1855, when it was subdivided into lots and sold. So, if the building was constructed in 1848 it appears it would have been an Institute property and not constructed around the mid 1860s when the brewery began, as was thought. If the date of 1848 on the photo is not the date the building was erected, it possibly could signify an earlier date for when a Bavarian Brewery began in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) area of Cincinnati, as discussed below. Regardless, this structure was razed for the Bavarian Brewing Co. office building around 1910.
Earlier Origins. Apparently there was a Bavarian Brewery that had operated in the OTR area beginning around 1848, or even as early as 1836, but that had closed in 1865. It was located at the southwest corner of 12th and Main St. in Cincinnati, OH, and owned by Franz Fortman, and also possibly a Francis Fortman. After Fortman closed the Bavarian Brewery apparently some of the workers from this brewery started working at what began as the Deglow and/or Deglow, Best & Renner Brewery in Covington, KY. Apparently, these workers may have influenced the naming of their new workplace to become the Bavarian Brewery around 1870. This premise for the name of the brewery was according to research published in a 1954 document by a historian from Newport, KY, C. B. Trousdale. Using a previously established brewery name may have helped this brewer sell its beer in Cincinnati where the name of the beer was familiar. Additionally, as the proprietors of the brewery were frequently changing over the first decade, it may have been helpful to keep the primary name of the brewery the same. It should be noted that on the site of the Fortman / Bavarian Brewery in Cincinnati, there may have been an even earlier Bavarian Brewery, established in 1836, owned by Agniel & Flashman. Therefore, even though the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, was established in 1866, it seems the roots of the Bavarian Brewery in Greater Cincinnati go back to around 1848, or even to 1836. And, the date on the above photo of 1848, if not indicative of the date this building was constructed, may have been a reference to the origins of a Bavarian Brewery in Cincinnati.
In summary. It is apparent that the beginnings of the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, were very challenging. In slightly over a decade after it was established the brewery had several different ownerships and endured a bankruptcy. The brewery first established as the Deglow Brewery in 1866 became the Bavarian Brewery beginning around 1870. The naming of the brewery may have been connected to some of its workers who worked for a Bavarian Brewery in Cincinnati that closed in 1865, but began in 1848, if not earlier. From 1870 until 1889, this brewery in Covington was occasionally known by the names of its owner(s), but mostly known as the Bavarian Brewery - along with the name(s) of its proprietors. After Wm. Riedlin acquired an interest in the brewery beginning in 1882, the growth and viability of this brewery dramatically improved. (See The Meyer - Riedlin Years.)
Period 2 - The Meyer Riedlin Years (1882-1889)
Holian, Timothy J., Over the Barrel, Volume I (1800-1919), Sudhaus Press, 2000.
Ibid, page 192.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, OH. Various daily editions including: Dec., 12, 1979, pg. 5 (Sale from Ruh to Meyer), Aug. 24, 1884 (Sale of Bavarian by J.H. Deglow to Meyers & Riedlin.)
Trousdale, C. B., History of Bavarian Brewing Co., 1954 (Manuscript, unpublished.)
Musson, Robert A., M.D., Volume IX: Bavarian Brewing and the rest of Northern Kentucky, 2019.
T I M E L I N E
To place the events described above in perspective, following are some major events that occurred in the Bavarian Brewery Time Period 1: 1866 - 1881
John A. Roebling (Covington-Cincinnati) Bridge Opens (1866)
Ice making, refrigeration & machinery innovations (1870s)
Pasteurization of beer (1873)
Telephone invented (1876)
Light bulb invented (1879)
Phonograph invented ( 1879)
After the year invented, it could take a decade or two for commercialization and adaption. For a summary of all the periods in the history of the Bavarian Brewery, please see the entire Timeline.
The background photo is of the original Bavarian Brewery. It was razed and replaced with an office building for the Bavarin Brewing Co. in 1910. An explanation of the photo is contained in the text above.