This is the third in a three-part series on the rise and fall of Cincinnati's prominent beer-driven culture and economy. The series is part of WCPO's beer month celebrating the Queen City's beer heritage and bright future as a booming brewery town
CINCINNATI -- As the beer boom marked a new era of growth for the Queen City, it gave rise to giants of industry, huge and statuesque breweries that became city landmarks and popular brands like Christian Moerlein, John Hauck, Lion and Hudepohl in Cincinnati, Wiedemann in Newport and Bavarian in Covington.
One beer baron, John Hauck, who started a brewery in his name in the West End in 1863, saved the zoo and paid off its debts when its founder died. Hauck was president of the Red Stockings in 1866 and president of the German National Bank for many years. It wasn’t unusual to find Hauck in a saloon sharing nickel beers and free wienerwurst with his workers.
After temperance, Prohibition and anti-German hysteria almost wiped out the brewing industry in the early 20th century, the strong foundation established here (and Cincinnati’s hordes of enthusiastic beer drinkers) spurred a local comeback in the 1930s with new breweries like Burger, Schoenling (with its popular Little Kings Cream Ale) and Red Top. Together with Hudepohl, Wiedemann and Bavarian, this handful of local breweries satisfied local tastes for decades and extended their reach to other parts of the country.
Not to be overlooked, Cincinnati brewing history also became part of the city’s legend and pop culture. Local brewing history is sprinkled with familiar names:
> Broadcaster Waite Hoyt made Burger synonymous with Reds baseball over 23 years as the team’s radio announcer (1942-65). A great Yankees pitcher, teammate of Babe Ruth and Hall of Famer, he was as entertaining with his stories as Joe Nuxhall and just as beloved. Calling a home run, Hoyt said the ball was “heading for Burgerville.”
> Ted Gregory, the Ribs King who founded Montgomery Inn, is credited with creating one of the city’s iconic beer containers, the 7-ounce bottle for Little Kings.
> George Remus, known as “King of the Bootleggers”, built a $25 million per year operation out of Cincinnati.
> Carl Wiedemann, heir to the Wiedemann brewing fortune, became the fall guy after the feds busted the brewery for brewing and distributing beer during Prohibition.
> George "Boss" Cox, a Cincinnati saloonkeeper, ran for city council to get the power to stop police from busting up his bar. Cox became Cincinnati's most notorious politician, ruling City Hall and the wards and operating his corrupt machine from one of the city’s high-end saloons, Wielert’s.
> It’s said the Cincinnati Symphony got its start at Wielert’s, which had a famous concert hall and beer garden.
> Famed architect Samuel Hannaford, who designed Music Hall, Cincinnati City Hall, Cincinnati Observatory and the Elsinore Arch, also designed the Wiedemann brewery and the Wiedemann mansion in Newport.
> Dick Schilling, owner of the Beverly Hills Supper Club, was negotiating to buy the Burger brewery in 1977 and turn it into a shopping center when the tragic fire that killed 165 ended his plans.
> Artist Frank Duveneck’s nude painting “Siesta” hung over the bar at Foucar’s Café until it created such a distraction that it was donated to the Cincinnati Art Museum.
> Arte Johnson, a star of TV’s Laugh-In, promoted Hudepohl on TV, billboards and print ads in the 1970s-80s.
And if you’re old enough, you have to remember familiar slogans like:
> “Vas You Efer in Zinzinnati? (Burger)
> “It’s Too Good To Be Beer” (Little Kings Cream Ale)
> “Simply A Better Beer” (Christian Moerlein)
> “All the Way with 14K” (Hudepohl)
> “It’s registered pure” (Wiedemann)
> “Bound to Be Better” (Schoenling)
>“A Man’s Beer” (Bavarian)
> “It’s Happy Hudy Time” (Hudepohl)
> “You Never Had It So Smooth” (Burger)
> “It’s Mel-O-Dry to Satisfy” (Bavarian)
> “Do Yourself A Flavor. Have A Hudy.” (Hudepohl)
> “Let Us Lighten Up Your Life” (Hudy Delight)
> “Give the Hi Sign” (Wiedemann)
> “Artesian Spring Water Makes The Difference” (Burger)
> “Brewed the Old World Way (Bavarian)
All the while, the big local breweries established a rich, proud heritage – only to meet their demise in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Photos courtesy of Timothy J. Holian, author of Over The Barrel: The Brewing History and Beer Culture of Cincinnati; Cincinnati Museum Center, Kevin Grace of the University of Cincinnati, the Hamilton County Public Library and the Kenton County Public Library.
This is the third in a three-part series on the rise and fall of Cincinnati's prominent beer-driven culture and economy. The series is part of WCPO's beer month celebrating the Queen City's beer heritage and bright future as a booming brewery town. Visit wcpo.com/beer for more.