THE MEYER - RIEDLIN YEARS
Of Bavarian Brewery Co. (1882 - 1889)
CATALYSTS THAT BEGAN TO CHANGE THE BREWING INDUSTRY
The industrial revolution was transforming America in the early and late 1800s. Steamboats escalated Cincinnati's growth beginning around the 1820s, the telegraph was used by the 1840s, railroads from the east coast were serving the Ohio region by the mid 1850's, and the telephone began to be used in the 1870s and 1880s. The Cincinnati area was booming a couple decades before and after the Civil War. Between 1840 and 1880 the population of Cincinnati ranked between the sixth and eighth largest cities in the U.S. This growth in the Cincinnati was in no small part due to German immigrants. They liked beer and the number of breweries in the area swelled.
Beginning in the mid-1800s, an alternative way to brew a different type of beer, called a lager, became much more popular. It was a lighter style of beer that became very popular and Germany, and in America. Compared to ales, it had a somewhat lower alcoholic content, more easily digested and was able to be consumed in greater quantities. However, unlike ale that could be made in a couple of days with top-fermenting yeast, the difficulty in brewing lager is that it required bottom-fermentation with cooler temperatures and a longer fermentation period, which could require weeks. This required lager to be fermented in cool underground stone cellars. It also required lager to be mostly made in the cooler winter and early spring months and stored with ice cut from lakes and ponds so that there would be enough beer to last through the year. Consequently, the size of breweries producing lager beer before and just after the Civil War were all relatively small, each usually making just a few hundred to several hundred barrels monthly. This process that most brewers used to brew lager beer until the 1870s typically restricted the distribution and sale of their beverages, usually in kegs, and within a local area.
However, two inventions in the 1870s caused revolutionary changes to the brewing industry; pasteurization and ice making. Louis Pasteur invented a process to pasteurize in 1873, which prevented beer from spoiling and made the bottling of beer more practical. This made it easier for individuals to consume beer at home or in places other than those that served beer out of kegs. In addition, ice making equipment in the 1870s not only allowed the making of lager beer to be made more easily year round, but it allowed beer to be shipped longer distances. Of particular importance, ice making made it more practical for homes to use ice boxes year round to help preserve food - and beer. These two important technologies, pasteurization and ice making, allowed brewers to more easily brew lager beer year round. This also made it possible for brewers to expand their regional areas. For brewers willing to make the necessary capital commitments to "export" their beer in refrigerated railroad cars to areas outside of their local area, they could eventually become national in scope. However, with the national per capita consumption for beer in the Greater Cincinnati area, which was two or three time the national average due to its German heritage, the larger local brewers could be profitable without having to focus on "exporting" their beer. Further, before Prohibition, most of the local Cincinnati area brewers did not have locations where railroad spurs could be brought into into their breweries to easily transport their beer by rail. Consequently, it made it more difficult for most Cincinnati brewers to transport beer via rail outside of the their region.
The changes in technologies impacting the brewing industry occurred as many immigrants were arriving in the United States and beginning to establish new lives in America in the 1870s. One such German-American was William Riedlin.
WILLIAM RIEDLIN'S EARLY YEARS
William Riedlin emigrated from Baden, Germany, to America in 1870 at the age of 20. He arrived in Cincinnati with only $1.15 and first lived with his mother, who had previously emigrated and settled in an area of the city known as the Over The Rhine (OTR) Area. She had six brothers who had emigrated to America mostly before her, and some of her brothers may have arrived around 1848 and possibly were part of the aforesaid "Forty Eighters." Her brothers fought for the Union Army in the Civil War, with only three surviving. William's father died when he was only eight, but William learned the same trade as his father and had become a blacksmith in Germany. When he arrived in America, William worked at first in this occupation. However, after a couple of years he began to work for the McNeale & Urban Safe Company. By the time he married Emma Hoffman in 1877, he was operating a grocery store at 12th and Main streets. A year later, he became the proprietor of Tivoli Hall, a beer hall and saloon located in OTR at 469 Vine Street (changed to 1313 Vine Street today.) According to the 1880 Census, the Riedlin residence was next door to Tivoli Hall, at what was 467 Vine Street, (and now 1311 Vine Street). These structures remain and a relatively recent photo of them is on the right.
Former Riedlin Residence & Tivoli Hall, now 1311 & 1313 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH. Apparently, there was a former brewery on the site of Tivoli Hall and a lager cellar still remains below it.
WILLIAM RIEDLIN ACQUIRES AN INTEREST
IN THE BAVARIAN BREWERY CO.
As discussed under The Beginnings, the ownership of the Bavarian Brewery had changed several times after it was first established in 1866 and it suffered a bankruptcy in 1877. John Meyer acquired an interest in the brewery about a year or two after it was emerging from bankruptcy. By 1880, he became a proprietor along with the brewmaster, Charles Ruh. However, only about a year after the two were partners, Charles Ruh suffered fatal injuries in a carriage accident. Charles was succeeded as the brewmaster by his brother Anton, and Meyer acquired the ownership interest that had belonged to Charles from his widow. Even though Meyer expanded his ownership interest in the brewery, a substantial lien against the brewery remained with the Deglow family that originally founded the brewery. It amounted to what was a one-half interest in the brewery. Either unable or unwilling to obtain complete ownership of the brewery, John Meyer was interested in obtaining an investor and partner. In 1882, William Riedlin sold his interest in Tivoli Hall to purchase an interest in the Bavarian Brewery from John Meyer. Apparently, by late 1882, William had moved his family to Covington, KY, with three year daughter Emma, and one year old son William Jr., to begin working at the brewery. In February, 1883, the family had a third child, Marry Anna Marie (or Mayme), born in Covington.
The Rieldin & Ruh Families
Exactly how William may have heard about an investment opportunity in what was the small Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, is unknown. He may have found out about by word of mouth in his Cincinnati saloon. However, he may have had previous acquaintances with the Ruh family who had worked at the Bavarian Brewery as brewmasters that may have informed him about this opportunity. Evidently, William was very good friends with Ferdinand (Ferd) Ruh. He was with Ferd in some Bavarian Brewery photos and received the stein from Ferd shown below. Like William, Ferd was also from Baden, Germany. So, there may have been a possibility that William and his family may have known the Ruh Family before they emigrated to America, and/or shared some common acquaintances. Ferd's son Charles had been the brewmaster of Bavarian Brewery in the 1870s, and then was succeeded by his son Anton (Tony) around 1880. Incidentally, the middle names of both of William's sons, William Jr. and Walter, were Ferdinand. William may have had other family members with the name Ferdinand, however, possibly William may have used Ferdinand for the middle name of his sons because of his close relationship with Ferd. In addition, the year the Riedlin's son Walter was born in 1887, with a given middle name of Ferdinand, it was the same year the stein shown on the right was gifted from Ferd to William and his wife. It could be coincidence, but it appears there could have been a previous relationship between the Ruh and Riedlin families before they began working together at the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY.
Note: Besides Ferd Ruh who was about a generation older than William, Ferd had a younger relative that had the same first name.
Above are portraits of Wm. Riedlin & Anton Ruh, and an 1887 Stein - given to the Wm. Riedlin family by the the father of Anton Ruh, Ferdinand Ruh. Anton Ruh was the Bavarian Brewmaster from 1880 until 1917.
MEYER & RIEDLIN OBTAIN COMPLETE CONTROL OF THE BREWERY
On August 23, 1884, (according to a small notice in the Cincinnati Enquirer a day later), John Meyer and William Riedlin purchased the outstanding half-interest in the Bavarian Brewery that remained from a descendant of the original founder of the brewery, J. H. Deglow. The ownership and management of the brewery was now controlled by these two men. Since Deglow also had a tannery next to the brewery, he had decided to concentrate on that business instead of operating a brewery. An early photo of the brewery workers and signs promoting their Celebrated Meyer & Riedlin's Lager in 1884 is shown below. Various individuals are identified below and also in the text that accompanies the photo when this picture is clicked.
Meyer-Riedlin 1884 Photo. Beginning second from the left are J.H. Kruse (who became Secretary/Treas.), William Riedlin Sr. (co-owner who became Pres.) & his son William, Jr., Anton Ruh (who was brew master & became V.P), Joseph Ruh, Ferdinand Ruh and John Meyer (co-owner). The plaques in the photo are for the Meyer & Riedlin's Celebrated Lager Beer. The Meyer and Riedlin partnership was the beginning of successful relationship between William and many others who worked at the this brewery. One such relationship, especially between the Ruh and Riedlin families. Please click on the photo for the other names.
THE BAVARIAN BREWERY AROUND 1884
The Bavarian Brewery was established on a 50 foot wide lot in the middle of a block between W. Pike/11th Street on the north and W. 12th Streets on the south, between Main and Bullock streets on the east and west, respectively. (Please see the map below from 1886, which was probably compiled a year or two earlier.) The brewery was in the middle of a block containing both residential and industrial uses, and the immediate surrounding area was mostly residential. Before the advent of motorized vehicles, which didn't begin to appear until around 1900, it was common for places of work to be located next to residential areas. This allowed residents to simply walk to work. The proprietors often desired to live close to their business as well. John Meyer lived next to the brewery at 244 W. Twelfth Street and William Riedlin lived across the street at 241 W. Twelfth Street.
1886 Sanborn Insurance Map. The structures identified as Ice Ho's (Houses) above had some lager cellars under them.
As shown by the map, the brewery was situated between two ice ponds, with water that was supplied from Willow Run Creek. (Please click the map, or any of the images, for an enlargement.) On either side of the creek off Pike Street was what was known as the Deglow Tannery. The Malt and Brew houses were brick structures on Pike Street, shown in the photo in The Beginnings. But by the mid-1880's there were other brewery structures extending south to 12th Street, and they were all of frame construction. Behind the Wash House there were some Ice Houses. Underneath them were some lager cellars. The ponds were used in winter to cut out blocks of ice that were then stored in the Ice Houses and cellars to maintain a cool temperature in order to ferment and store the lager beer. The dotted lines extending from the ponds seem to represent conduits that provided drainage from the melting ice in these cellars into the ponds.
A Bavarian Brewery Lager Cellar. Brewers built lager cellars from around 1850 until the 1880s. In the Cincinnati area, they were typically made of river or creek stone and were about 15 feet wide and high with an arched ceiling. Bavarian had several lager cellars located under frame ice houses and buildings situated north of 12th Street. The one cellar from the Bavarian Brewery still remaining, shown on the left, is typical of other cellars that existed at this brewery, as well as those located at breweries in the OTR area of Cincinnati. This remaing cellar extends north - south for about 100 feet just west of the former Brew/Mill Houses. After it was no longer used for storing and fermenting lager beer, this lager cellar was used as a tunnel to access the Bavarian Brewery Boiler House. (See the Brewery Tunnels.)
THE BREWERY EXPANDS
Within a couple years after Meyer - Riedlin acquired the outstanding interest in their brewery from the Deglow family, expansion began to occur. Both proprietors must have been keenly aware of the newly developed inventions involving pasteurization and ice making, mentioned above. In order to stay competitive, it was necessary for them make plans to integrate these technologies into their brewery. In doing so, it was necessary for them to build more functional structures and facilities to accommodate these new technologies, as mentioned below.
A. The Original Brewery Building, converted to a Malt House. The brick brewery structure shown in the previous section and below was located directly on Pike Street. After a new Brew House was built, the original brewery apparently became a Malt House. Besides producing beer, Meyer & Riedlin were Malsters and Dealers of Hops, as mentioned in the ad above. The original brewery building was evidently converted for that purpose.
B. Malt Mill. This brick three-story structure was built around 1886. It seems that the brew kettle may have been in this building, if only for a short time.
C. Brew House. The original brewery building, even with the new addition, was insufficient for brewing purposes. Around 1888, a four-story building with a copula designed for brewing was added to the Malt Mill. It appears some ice making equipment was added for brewing purposes in this brewing structure. By doing so it eliminated the need for any of the ice ponds, and also made the lager cellars less useful.
The original brewery plant, and portions of the two adjoining and additional buildings mentioned above, are shown below. They extended south from Pike Street. They were the heart of the brewery with other supporting structures located behind and around these core buildings.
Some ancillary brewery buildings, such as sheds, ice houses and building for the boiler and refrigeration were becoming outdated. The expansion of the brewery and technological advances rendered these buildings obsolete. They were demolished and often replaced with brick buildings that were more fire resistant and functional by the early 1900s.
Boiler House. It was built around 1888 and made of brick construction.
Engine Room. This brick structure was built about a year after the Boiler House was completed.
As the brewery expanded, it needed structures to house the equipment to power the ice machines and brewery equipment. Both the Boiler House and Engine Room were believed to be located slightly south and west of the main brewery structures.
Ice Houses, Lager Cellars and Sheds. Some ice houses and lager cellars were added south of Pike Street to 12th Street before the Meyer & Riedlin partnership began, as depicted on the 1886 Sanborn Map above. However, some of these structures may have also been added after 1884. In particular, it seems some sheds for wagons and other purposes were added off of Pike Street around or shortly after 1886, by draining or filling a former ice pond as the brewery expanded to the east (and on the right of the above noted map).
The main structures (A - C), as well as the structures for the boiler and engines, were all masonry to be less susceptible to fire. They are shown as such on the other Sanborn Maps by being shaded in pink, whereas, the frame buildings are shown in yellow. Electricity had only recently become available and was probably installed in these newer buildings. It replaced gas lighting and oil lamps, which of course, were much more apt to cause fires. The main reason for these Sanborn maps was for insurance purposes, and they undoubtedly provided those buildings that were masonry with lower insurance rates.
In summary, beginning in 1884 and in just the following three, some important buildings were added to the brewery. The annual production of the brewery was about 6,000 barrels in 1884 and it nearly doubled by 1889. The noted changes made the Ice Ponds and some of the Ice Houses obsolete, and some were demolished while the brewery was being transformed, as shown by the 1894 Sanborn Map in the next section, The Bavarian Brewing Co. Early Years.
Holian, Timothy J., Over the Barrel, Volume I (1800-1919), Sudhaus Press, 2000.
Wimberg, Robert J., Cincinnati Breweries, Ohio Book Store, Cincinnati, OH
Kenton County Library, Photographs
The Schott Collection (Photographs), Behringer-Crawford Museum
Bavarian Brewery History, by C. B. Trousdale, 1954.
Sanborn Insurance Maps
Riedlin and Schott family items and information.
The background photo is of the Bavarian Brewery Co. under the proprietorship of Meyer & Riedlin.
An explanation of the photo is contained in the text above.