Founded in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio in 1885, the Hudepohl Brewing Company brewed golden lager, dark lager, seasonal bock beer and several regional styles of lager that were popular in Germany. The company later relocated to a brewery in Queensgate that was formerly home to Herman Leckman Brewing Company. Hudepohl vacated the factory in 1987 when it merged with the Schoenling Brewing Company.
Koehler Brewing Company
Born on July 20, 1842 to Ludwig and Agnes Hudepohl, German immigrants who came to Cincinnati in 1838, Ludwig Hudepohl II was trained by two doctors at an early age to be a skilled artisan in medical instruments.14 Hudepohl, however, had other interests and was allowed to join his father and George Kotte in the founding of a grocery store on Abigail Street in 1866.1 6 14 Kotte was another German immigrant who also owned a wine and liquor shop near Main and 9th street.
In 1881, Ludwig passed away and Ludwig II assumed the responsibilities of his father which gave him new ideas to expand the business.14 Four years later, Hudepohl and Kotte partially purchased the Koehler Brewery,15 formerly known as the Buckeye Brewery on Buckeye Street (today’s East Clifton Avenue) in Over-the-Rhine, and exited the grocery business. The founding came at a time when there were more than 40 breweries in Cincinnati.3
By 1886, the brewery was producing 25,000 barrels of beer per year, although this soon rose to more than 40,000 barrels of beer.14 By 1890, Koehler was manufacturing Buckeye, Munchener, Dortmunder and Hudepohl, and Koehler beers and employed over 100.16 Production had increased to 100,000 barrels per year by 1893 and the growth necessitated the need for expansion. The new building was designed by architect Frederick Wolf.
Kotte died in 1893 and his widow, Mary, became partner in the Koehler brewery despite her lack of business or brewing knowledge.14 When she passed six years later, Hudepohl purchased the Koehler Brewery on February 20, 1900, which was renamed the Hudepohl Brewing Company with a working capital of $150,000.
Hudepohl Brewing Company
By 1895, Cincinnati had become known as the beer capital of the world and residents at the time drank more beer per capita than residents of any other city in the United States at an average of 40 gallons a year.7 Nearly 95% of that beer was brewed in Cincinnati. By 1900, there were 26 breweries that produced 1.4 millions of beer annually.
On April 27, 1902, Ludwig Hudepohl died and control of the brewery was passed to his wife, Maria, with assistance by William A. Pohl, a son-in-law.14 17
Beginning in 1920, when Prohibition was enacted, Hudepohl survived by marketing soft drinks and non-alcoholic “near beers.”3 The repeal of Prohibition in 1933 was none too soon, as Hudepohl rushed to reopen its facility. A 490-barrel wooden cask, used to age beer, was installed. Constructed in 1900 by the Hauser, Brenner & Faith Cooperage Company, the cask was delivered by a parade of horses atop a large cart, which wandered through the city streets.18 Other improvements, totaling $130,000, included a new bottling machine that allowed the company to package 200 barrels of beer per shift, a soaker and pasteurizer, filling and labeling machines and a new condenser and water cooler.
The Lackman Brewing Company nearby had extensive plans for its production facilities post-Prohibition.18 Their facilities, at 6th and Stone Street, dated to 1860 and were in need of replacement.9 By October 1932, the Lackman had an option on four acres of land in the Riverside area of Cincinnati west of downtown and east of Mill Creek for a 50,000 barrel-per-year brewery to be constructed at a cost of $250,000. The brewery president, H. Albert Lackman, stated that many changes in the brewing industry post-Prohibition necessitated the construction of a modern facility capable of producing 100,000 barrels per year.
To carry out the new facility, Lackman employed Carl J. Kiefer, a local industrial engineer with experience in factory architecture. Kiefer and his associate, H. N. Hermann, came up with a modern design that was based on models from Canada, and featured a factory that could double the production ability without the purchase of more land.18 Lackman was encouraged by the results, and was readying the new plan to be put into operation as soon as Prohibition ended.
The Lackman Brewing Company unfortunately failed to secure a federal permit to brew alcohol and the plant never resumed operations.18
In 1934, Hudepohl purchased the Lackman brewery structures and designated the plant as a secondary production facility.18 By 1947, Hudepohl constructed four major additions to the 6th Street factory, the last one being the completion of a seven-level aging plant designed by Felsberg & Gillepsie Architects.19 The addition contained 40 glass-lined tanks that held 30,000 gallons each, along with fermenting tanks, at a cost of $700,000.20 A 220 bottle-per-minute pasteurizer, weighing 64,000 pounds and measuring 11-feet wide, 55-feet long and six-feet high, was also installed. On August 10, 1947, streetcars were rerouted and overhead electrical wires were temporarily removed to allow the delivery of a new pasteurizer on the second floor of the new structure, which required a large hole be cut in the side of the brewery. The new buildings opened in 1948.
By the 1950’s, it became clear that maintaining two breweries, one on West 6th Street, the other on East Clifton Avenue, was not economical. Besides the costs of operating two plants, the East Clifton Avenue site was far older and outdated, as well as being landlocked. The notion of owning two breweries – like others in Cincinnati, came about through acquisitions over the years. It was also done to rapidly expand operations, especially post-Prohibition and post-World War II, to compete with the larger breweries of the United States even though their marketing efforts was much smaller.
Hudepohl maintained offices in the Over-the-Rhine location but moved all brewing operations to the West 6th facility in 1958.22 In 1963, after remaining idle for several years, much of the original brewery was demolished.21
More expansions were on tap for the West 6th site. On October 28, 1959, plans were revealed to spend over $1 million over five years to build a new brewhouse to modernize its facility and to stay competitive with the brewing titans from St. Louis and Milwaukee.22 An automated brewhouse opened with all strainless-steel equipment, a 30,000-pound capacity malt hopper, an 8,500-gallon cereal cooker, a 17,500-gallon mash mixer, a 15,000-gallon lauter tub and a 700-barrel brew kettle at a cost of $5 million.
On June 29, 1964, ground was broken for yet another expansion: a new packaging warehouse and service facility with the capacity of 200,000 cases of beer with an estimated cost of $4 million.22 The new building would contain nine docks and a 7,000-square-foot maintenance area. Work was finished in May 1967 on a new administration building, and with that, all operations in the former Hudepohl complex on East Clifton Avenue ceased.
The years after were tough for the brewery as sales declined amid its ailing flagship brand, Hudy 14-K. Looking towards the success of Miller’s Lite, in 1978 Hudepohl introduced Hudy Delight, a lighter beer that was heavily marketed.22 The notion of a lighter beer, one with fewer calories, had been around since pre-Prohibition but was hardly displayed or promoted. By late 1980, Hudy Delight amounted to 25% of all sales at Hudepohl and the brewery saw a 8.6% increase in sales.
Acquisition of the Burger Brewing Company
A nearby rival, Burger Brewing Company, was facing steep slides in its sales.22 In the fall of 1972, the company began secret negotiations with other breweries, but could find no buyers for its Cincinnati plant or its brands. The company soon entered into negotiations with Hudepohl for a takeover of selected assets. On March 16, 1973, Burger closed its Central Parkway brewing plant, and announced that it was exiting the brewing business. At the same time, Burger and Hudepohl finalized an agreement in which Hudepohl would buy most of Burger’s assets, including trademarks, labels, advertising rights and formulas, for $650,000.
At the same time, Hudepohl saw the need for a premium beer that could compete with those from Europe. The company instructed master brewer Gerhard Erftenbeck to formulate a new brew, exclusively for Cincinnati, which would pass the 400-year-old Reinheitsgebot Beer Purity Laws in Germany.22 The result was a dark amber lager that was aged for 6 weeks – the Christian Moerlein Cincinnati Select, a reference to the local brewer Christian Moerlein and a disguised push to get the Hudepohl brand name out into a larger market. Marketing plans for the Select was unprecedented, saturating the local television stations with advertisements and going rouge with subliminal messages. The effort worked.
In 1982, Hudepohl purchased the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, then one of the nation’s largest. Hudepohl merged with the Schoenling Brewing Company to form Hudepohl-Schoenling in 1986.3 7
Schoenling Brewing had opened on Central Avenue in 1933.4 The brewery at 1625 Central Parkway was constructed by the Schoenling and Lichtendahl families for their respective breweries. In 1987, Hudepohl-Schoenling closed Hudepohl’s brewery at West Sixth Street in favor of expanding the Central Parkway location.9 11
On December 19, 1996, the Boston Beer Company announced that it was purchasing the Hudepohl-Schoenling brewery on Central Parkway.1 The Hudepohl-Schoenling had produced several of Boston Beer’s brands, including Samuel Adams, for the past year. Heading the purchase was Boston Beer President Jim Koch, a Cincinnati native whose father in 1946 was a brewing apprentice for Hudepohl, and whose recipe for Samuel Adams Boston Lager came from Cincinnati.2
The recipe for the Boston Lager belonged originally to Koch’s great-great-grandfather, who produced it in a brewery in St. Louis and called it Louis Koch Lager.2 It was discovered in 1983 in an attic at the Indian Hill residence of Koch’s father when the younger Koch came home for Christmas.
Under the agreement, Boston Beer would continue to produce Hudepohl and Schoenling brand beers at the Central Parkway facility and begin producing Boston Beer brands through an expansion of the plant.1
Hudepohl-Schoenling announced that it was selling its beer division to a group of investors led by a former executive of a major brewer on January 6, 1999.4 The purchaser, Royal Brewing LLC, a new Cincinnati-based company headed by Randy Hull, a former executive at G. Heileman Brewing Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, stated that it would brew and package Hudepohl’s beer brands and that it would keep up its relationship with the Boston Beer Company, which took over production of Hudepohl’s trademark brands in 1997.
Hudepohl-Schoenling would stay in operation as the Tradewinds Beverage Company, which would focus on increasing sales of non-alcoholic drinks such as iced tea and juices.4 The rationale for the sale stemmed from little growth in the beer division, which by the 1990’s.5
By June, however, the investors were having difficulty in securing financing for the purchase of the beer division.6 Cleveland-based Snyder International Brewing Group, headed by David Synder and Chris Livingston, purchased the brewing operations. Snyder and Livingston had earlier turned around Cleveland’s Crooked River Brewing Company.
On July 19, 2001, a contract dispute forced the Hudepohl-Schoenling Company to stop brewing beers in Cincinnati.7 The move severed Cincinnati’s last link to the city’s past as a major brewing center. The agreement with Boston Beer Company was also suspended. At the core of the dispute was packaging, as both Hudepohl-Schoenling and Boston Beer were producing beers in differently sized bottles and cans and that upgrading the facility to accommodate future growth would be prohibitively expensive.
In 2002, Hudepohl’s West 6th Street factory was sold at a sheriff’s sale to Pete Bigelow, part of a group of investors known as the Keene Group.8 They began looking for a developer for the six buildings on the site for possible conversion into offices and loft apartments. After not being able to get financing for the project, the property was sold in October 2004 to Hudepohl Square for $172,000.9 11
Hudepohl Square announced intentions to restore the Hudepohl brewery into a mixed-use office, light industrial and residential complex. Selective demolition began on the property soon after.11 Up to 300,000-square-feet would be preserved under the plan, and that the fermenting and storage tanks, some with copper tops, would be incorporated into the new development.
To generate buzz for the project, Hudepohl Square listed the building’s 17-story smokestack up for auction on eBay for$1.5 million, but it drew no offers.11
A three-year legal fight against Demetrius Ball, the contractor handling the work, left Safi without financial support or money to go ahead with the redevelopment.13 The legal tangle ended in Safi’s favor but left the project without funding. In addition, Safi stated that the plans had been put on hold by the proposed rerouting of Interstate 75 in conjunction with the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge.9 One of the alternatives called for the construction of a new highway bridge west of the present span, and that would cross through the Hudepohl property.
In January 2007, the deteriorated condition of the Hudepohl brewery drew the ire of the City of Cincinnati Buildings and Inspections Department, who condemned the complex, stating that it was in “a partial state of demolition and excessive deterioration.”9 In April, Hudepohl Square presented fresh renderings and development plans for the redevelopment project at a pre-prosecution hearing.10 Afterwards, Hudepohl Square applied for a Vacant Building Maintenance License until building permits could be managed.10
Safi and his brother, Saeed, were found guilty on three misdemeanor counts for fire code violations in December 2009.13 They submitted to a compliance program on the condition they offer a timeline for work to complete immediate improvements to the property to bring it up to general compliance. The city ordered the property secured.
In January 2010, the city considered an ordinance that would allow the city to apply for a $300,000 Clean Ohio grant through the Ohio Department of Development, for environmental assessments.13
Ii 2004, the rights to Christian Moerlein was purchased by Gregory Hardman of Cincinnati.23 Hardman also purchased the rights to Hudepohl on May 1, 2006.24 Hudy Delight was reintroduced in November 2008 with 30th Anniversary cans and bottles and Hudy 14-K was reintroduced in September 2009. Additionally, the Christian Moerlein brand was revitalized as a standalone brewery, producing not only Hudy and Berger beer brands, but craft beer under the Christian Moerlein title.[stag_toggle style=”normal” title=”Further Reading” state=”closed”]