2. THE MEYER - RIEDLIN YEARS
Of Bavarian Brewery Co.  (1882 - 1889)
CATALYSTS CHANGING THE BREWING INDUSTRY

Throughout the 19th century, the industrial revolution transformed the world, including the American landscape. Beginning around the 1820s, the rise of steamboats escalated Cincinnati's growth. The telegraph was in use by the 1840s, railroads from the east coast were serving the Ohio region by the mid-1850s, and the telephone gained popularity in the 1870s and 1880s. These changes, particularly the advent of the steamboat, created a westward population movement, and caused the Cincinnati area to boom. In the three decades both before and after the Civil War, between 1830 and 1860, the population of Cincinnati increased in ranking from the ninth to the sixth largest city in the U.S. This growth was due in no small part to German immigrants. They liked beer, too, and the number of breweries in the area swelled.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, an alternative way to brew a previously unusual type of beer - called a lager - became much more popular. It was a lighter style of beer that had become very popular in Germany, and subsequently in America. Compared to the ales that dominated the market at the time, lager had a somewhat lower alcoholic content and was more easily digestible, so it could be consumed in greater quantities. However, unlike ale - which could be made in a couple of days with top-fermenting yeast - brewing lager was a difficult process, requiring bottom-fermentation with cooler temperatures and a longer fermentation period of up to multiple weeks. This required lager to be fermented in cool, underground stone cellars. Lager also needed to be 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 as long as possible 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 from a few hundred to several hundred barrels monthly. Since lager beer was rather seasonal, most breweries also made ales and occasionally porters. Until the 1870s and before more industrialization, this complicated brewing process typically restricted the distribution and sale of lager beverages, usually in kegs and distributed only within a local area. 

 

However, two particular inventions in the 1870s brought revolutionary changes to the brewing industry: pasteurization and ice making. Louis Pasteur invented a process to pasteurize substances in 1873, which prevented beer from spoiling and made the bottling of beer more practical. This made it easier to "export" beer to other states, and for individuals to consume beer at home or in public places beyond those that served beer out of kegs. In addition, ice-making equipment in the 1870s not only allowed lager beer to be made more easily throughout the entire year, but it also enabled breweries to ship their beer over longer distances. Of particular importance, ice making made it more practical for homes to use iceboxes year-round to help preserve food - and beer. These two important technologies, pasteurization and ice making, allowed brewers to more easily brew and distribute their lager beer at any time in the year. At the same time, there were improvements in manufacturing that also enabled breweries to increase beer productions.

As a result of the above, brewers were able to expand their regional market reach. Brewers willing to make the necessary capital commitments could "export" or ship their beer in refrigerated railroad cars to areas outside of their local town into a region, or even become national in scope. However, given the high national per capita consumption for beer in the Greater Cincinnati area - two or three time the national average due to its German heritage - the larger local brewers could make attractive profits without having to invest more capital to "export" their beer. Further, before Prohibition, most of the local Cincinnati area brewers were not located in places that made it easy were to bring railroad spurs into their breweries. This made it more difficult for Cincinnati brewers to transport beer outside of the their region via rail than brewers in other cities.

The technological changes affecting the brewing industry occurred in the 1870s just as many immigrants were arriving in the United States and beginning to establish new lives in America. One such German-American was William Riedlin.

WILLIAM RIEDLIN'S EARLY YEARS

William Riedlin emigrated from Bäden, 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 seven brothers, all of whom had emigrated to America before her. Some of her brothers may have arrived around 1848 and formed part of the “Forty-Eighters” group discussed previously. Her brothers fought for the Union Army in the Civil War, with only three surviving. Although William's father died in 1858 when he was only eight, he had followed in his father's trade and had been a blacksmith. He began in this line of work when he first arrived in Cincinnati. 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 had been operating a grocery store at Elm and Green Streets for about a year.  In 1878, he became the proprietor of Tivoli Hall, a beer hall and saloon located in the OTR at 469 Vine Street (1313 Vine Street today.) According to the 1880 Census, the Riedlins were one of three families living next door to Tivoli Hall, at what was 467 Vine Street, (and now 1311 Vine Street). See the photo 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 1. The Beginnings, the ownership of the Bavarian Brewery had changed several times since it was first established in 1866 and 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 had become a proprietor along with the brewmaster, Charles Ruh. However, only about a year after the two formed their partnership, Charles Ruh suffered fatal injuries in a carriage accident. Charles was succeeded as 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 had 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 Meyer. By late 1882, William had moved his family to Covington, KY, with his three-year-old daughter Emma and one-year-old son William Jr., to begin working at the brewery. Shortly after they arrived in Kentucky, if not initally, they established residency at 244 W. !2th Street in Covington. This frame home was on a double lot located across from the brewery. In February, 1883, the family had a third child, Mary Anna Marie (or Mayme).

The Rieldin & Ruh Families

It is unknown exactly how William heard about an investment opportunity at the small Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY. It may have been through word-of-mouth conversation at his Cincinnati saloon. However, a more likely possibility is that he learned about the opportunity through his previous acquaintances with the Ruh family. William was evidently very good friends with members of the Ruh Family. William, Ferd and Tony are all shown in some Bavarian Brewery photos, and William received the stein from Ferd shown below. These men created friendships working together at Bavarian, but their relationship may have begun earlier. Both families were  from Bäden (now part of the German state of Baden-Würtenburg) in the southwest corner of Germany. They lived in villages south of Freiburg im Breisgau, which were only about 12 miles apart. William was from Vögisheim next to Müllheim and the Ruh's were from Ehrenstetten. Consequently, there is the possibility that William and his family may have known the Ruh Family before they immigrated to America. The area where they lived in the Upper Rhine Valley, next to the Black Forest, has the warmest climate in Germany and is known for its vineyards and wine. Even thought the Ruh family had reportedly been involved in brewing for two or three centuries, wine may have been more popular than beer in this region, and the oldest brewery in nearby Freiburg was about a century old when the Ruh's departed for America. So, perhaps Ruh ancestors may have migrated from another part of Germany where beer and brewing was more common before they settled near Freiburg.

 

William's mother arrived in Cincinnati in 1868. However, she had six brothers who arrived in America before the Civil War, possibly arriving a couple decades earlier, and who may have been Forty-Eighters. (See Time Period 1.) William joined his mother a couple years after his mother arrived, in 1870. Charles Ruh came to Cincinnati in 1871, and evidently his other family members arrived around this same time. Both the Riedlin's and the Ruh's lived in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine during this period. So, another way these men may have met is in the OTR. Ferd's son Charles was a principal in the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, in 1877. Presumably he worked there at least a couple years earlier. In 1879, after Charles had a fatal carriage accident, his son Anton (Tony) succeeded him as the brewmaster.  Incidentally, the middle names of both of William's sons, William Jr. and Walter, were Ferdinand. So, perhaps Ferdinand was chosen for the middle name of William's sons because of his close relationship with Ferd. In addition, Riedlin's son Walter Ferdinand was born in 1887 - the same year that Ferd gifted the stein (shown below) to William and his wife. This suggests that there was a strong bond between the Ruh and Riedlin families, which may have begun before these families began working together at the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY - either when they both lived in the OTR, or in their homeland.

Note: Besides Ferd Ruh, who was about a generation older than William, Ferd also had a younger relative that shared 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 FULL CONTROL OF THE BREWERY

The August 23, 1884 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a notice about a local business transaction: John Meyer and William Riedlin had purchased the outstanding half-interest in the Bavarian Brewery that remained from a descendant of J.H. Deglow, the original founder of the brewery. The ownership and management of the brewery was now controlled by these two men.

 

Since the Deglow family also owned a tannery next to the brewery, they decided to concentrate solely on that business. 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 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 advertise the Meyer & Riedlin's Celebrated Lager Beer. The Meyer and Riedlin partnership was the beginning of a long and successful relationship between William and many other employees who worked at this brewery. Please click on the photo for additional names.

THE BAVARIAN BREWERY AROUND 1884

The Bavarian Brewery was established on a 50-foot lot in the middle of a block between W. Pike / 11th Street on the north and W. 12th Streets on the south, and between Main and Bullock streets on the east and west. (Please see the map below from 1886, which was probably compiled a year or two earlier.) The block where the brewery was located contained 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; horse drawn trollies were also occasionally available. Such a  trolley was located on W. Pike Street in front of the Bavarian Brewery. The proprietors often desired to live close to their business as well. The owners of the brewery were no exception: John Meyer lived next to the brewery at 244 W. Twelfth Street and William Riedlin lived across the street at 241 W. Twelfth Street. (Both of these residences were demolished.)

1886 Sanborn Insurance Map. The structures identified as Ice Ho's (Houses) above had some lager cellars under them. 

As shown on the map, the brewery was situated between two ice ponds, with water 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 the business known as the Deglow Tannery. The Malt and Brew houses were brick structures on Pike Street, shown in the photo in 1.The Beginnings. But by the mid-1880's there were other brewery structures extending south to 12th Street, all of frame construction. Behind the Wash House there were some Ice Houses with lager cellars beneath. The ponds were used in winter to cut out blocks of ice, which were then used in the Ice Houses and cellars to maintain a cool temperature for fermenting and storing lager beer. The dotted lines extending from the ponds seem to represent conduits that provided drainage from the melting ice in cellars into the ponds.

A Bavarian Brewery Lager Cellar. American 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 with an arched ceiling of about 15 feet high. 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 remaining cellar extends north to 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 4A. Brewery Tunnels.)

THE BREWERY EXPANDS

Within a couple years after Meyer - Riedlin acquired the outstanding interest in their brewery from the Deglow family, expansion steadily occurred. Both proprietors must have been keenly aware of the newly developed inventions involving pasteurization and ice making, discussed above. In order to stay competitive, it was necessary for them to integrate these technologies into their brewery. This required changes to create more functional structures and facilities, as follows:

A. The Original Brewery Building was located at 369 W. Pike Street (now 533 W. Pike St.) and was used as a brewery beginning around 1866. However, shown on this building in the photo below are the dates 1848 and 1910. This earlier date may have indicated the date this structure was built - nearly a couple decades before the brewery began. After a new Mill House and Brew House were built (see below), the original brewery was evidently converted this structure to a Malt House. Besides being used to store grains for brewing lager beer, this structure was also used for dealing in the trading of hops, because Meyer & Riedlin were also maltsters.

 

B. Mill House.  This brick three-story structure was built around 1886. The original brewery plant, and portions of the two adjoining and additional buildings mentioned above, are shown below. They extended south from Pike Street. It seems that the brew kettle may have been situated in this building, if only for a short time.

C. Brew House.  Even with a Mill House addition, the brewery needed a more efficient and dedicated building for brewing purposes. Around 1888, a four-story building with a copula designed for brewing was added next to the Mill House. It appears some ice-making equipment was added for brewing purposes in this structure. Doing so eliminated the need for any of the ice ponds, and also made the lager cellars less useful.

In the photo below, the Original Brewery (A) is shown. To the left is the Mill House (B) and the top of the Brew House (C).  They extended south from Pike Street. These buildings formed the heart of the brewery, with other supporting  structures located behind and around these core buildings.

Previous and New Structures

Ice Houses, Lager Cellars and Sheds. Some ice houses, lager cellars and sheds were built south of Pike Street to 12th Street before the Meyer & Riedlin partnership began, as depicted on the 1886 Sanborn Map above. 

 

The expansion of the brewery and technological advances required the building of various ancillary buildings, mentioned below.

 

Boiler House. Built around 1888, the new boiler house was constructed from brick.

Engine Room. This masonry structure was built about a year after the Boiler House was completed.

As the brewery expanded, it needed structures to house the equipment that powered 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.

Additional sheds for wagons, as well as structures for stables and ice houses with lager cellars, were added behind the main brewery on Pike Street around or shortly after 1886. When ice making and refrigeration was added in the late 1880s, the former ice ponds were no longer needed and they were either filled in or drained. This also allowed the brewery to expand by building sheds and stables to the east, on one of the former ponds. 

The main structures mentioned above (A - C), as well as the structures for the boiler and engines, were all made of masonry in order to be less susceptible to fire.  They are designated in pink on all Sanborn Maps; the frame buildings are depicted in yellow. Electricity had only recently become available in the late 1800s and was probably installed in these newer buildings. It replaced gas lighting and oil lamps, which of course, were much more likely 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 years, some buildings were added to the  brewery that would be important for years to come. The annual production of the brewery—about 6,000 barrels in 1884—nearly doubled by 1889.  New technology and structural changes made the Ice Ponds and some of the Ice Houses obsolete; some were demolished during the brewery’s transformation. These changes and more are shown in the 1894 Sanborn Map printed in the next section, The Bavarian Brewing Co. Early Years.

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 2: 1882 - 1889

  • Brooklyn Bridge, also designed by Roebling, opens (1883)

  • Statue of Liberty Dedicated (1886)

  • Benjamin Harrison from North Bend, OH, is President (1889-93)

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.

 

SOURCES:

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.

C.B. Truesdell, (The History of) The Bavarian Brewery, 1954. (Unpublished manuscript.)

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.    

 
The Historic and Former
 
 
Bavarian Brewery

 
In Covington, Kentucky