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Christian Moerlein Brewing Company's new leaders want to put Little Kings back on top

Team poising Little Kings for U.S. distribution
Group with Little Kings.jpg
Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 11:16:10-05

CINCINNATI — The owner of the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company is shaking things up by appointing a new leadership team that promises to restore Little Kings Cream Ale, one of Moerlein’s most iconic brands, to national prominence.

"The goal is that we can return the king to its rightful place,” said Jay Woffington, former executive director of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

Greg Hardman, Christian Moerlein’s owner, named Woffington Moerlein's new chief executive officer on Friday. Hardman also named Jay Woffington's wife, Jodi Woffington, as chief marketing officer and Michael Graham as chief financial officer to Moerlein's new leadership team.

“In order to capitalize on new and emerging trends in the beverage industry and catapult our brands to an unprecedented, next level, I’m excited to announce the collaboration with three exceptional individuals, forming a new and impressive management team at Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.,” Hardman said in a press release announcing the new management team.

The Woffingtons and Graham previously worked together at POSSIBLE Worldwide, a Cincinnati-based marketing and advertising agency. While at POSSIBLE, the trio grew the marketing and advertising agency from $5 million in business to more than $100 million.

Jay Woffington left POSSIBLE in 2011 and was named the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's executive director the following year. During his tenure with the Shakespeare Company, Woffington led the design, funding and execution of the $17.5 million construction of the new Otto M. Budig Theater in Over-the-Rhine. The Company also tripled under Woffington's leadership.

Woffington is leaving his position at the theater in January to devote all of his time to his new position at Moerlein.

“Jay has been a huge catalyst for growth and stability at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Fortunately, he has institutionalized his business acumen throughout the organization. We look forward to seeing him have the same impact at another Cincinnati institution,” said Tayfun Tuzun, CFO of Fifth Third Bank and Board Chair of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

In his new role at Moerlein, Woffington is taking the helm of a business originally established in Over-the-Rhine in the 1800s that grew into one of the country's largest breweries before Prohibition forced its closing in 1919.

Hardman obtained the historic Moerlein name in 2004 before returning production of many of the brewery's beers back to Cincinnati. He also acquired another iconic Queen City beer brand, the Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co., around the same time.

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Hudepohl-Schoenling brewed its most popular beer, Little Kings Cream Ale, in what is now the Boston Beer Co. production facility at 1625 Central Pkwy. until the family-owned company was sold to Cleveland-based Crooked River Brewing Co. in 1999. Hardman brought Little Kings back to the Queen City in 2016 when Christian Moerlein began brewing the cream ale at its headquarters located at 1621 Moore St. in Over-the-Rhine.

"Greg and I have known each other for many years," Jay Woffington said. "He threw this idea of Little Kings to me several times over the past seven years or so. This time, he was serious about looking for a team to surround himself with. Greg has the beer experience and was the single individual that resurrected the brewing tradition in Cincinnati. This team is really to help augment his skills and experience by giving him managerial, financial and marketing help to let him focus on making and selling beer."

Woffington and his new team's first task will be to introduce two new Little Kings varieties, Little Kings Agave Lime and Little Kings Blood Orange, in the spring as part of a re-staging effort to expand the cream ale’s distribution nationwide.

“I’ve always known the power of the Little Kings brand,” Hardman said. "In the early '90s it was sold in 48 states. We still get requests for the beer from all over the US. We want to bring Little Kings to a new generation of consumers.”

Jodi Woffington said focusing on Little Kings as a first step was an obvious choice.

“People are looking for lighter, sessionable beers with natural ingredients and lower calories. Little Kings meets all these needs,” Jodi Woffington said. “The iconic seven-ounce bottle is a bonus.”

The new leadership team has made an equity investment in the Moerlein to begin the Little Kings expansion. Hardman will stay on as founder and operate as Moerlein's chief market development officer focused on expanding brand distribution.

“We have some amazing brands and, with the addition of this team, we are now poised to capitalize on their untapped potential,” Hardman said.