Cincinnati’s Bockfest is upon us. For those of you who are not native to the city, Bockfest is a tradition that celebrates the heritage and history of Cincinnati, as one of the largest brewing cities in the nation. Cincinnatian’s drank more beer per capita than any other city in the United States at 40 gallons, and the city ranked fourth in terms of total volume production, per barrel. The term bock came from a tradition developed amongst the breweries, who would release all of their bock beer on the same day. Bock beer is a robust and rich lager that marks the end of winter and the welcoming of spring.
Cincinnati’s brewing history is well regarded but much of it remains unknown or forgotten. By 1888, 18 of 36 breweries in the region were located in Over-the-Rhine, concentrating along McMicken Avenue and the Miami and Erie Canal. Beer gardens, resorts and bars sprung up in the ethnic German neighborhood, which is where important matters of the city were discussed and conceived.
Regarded as an early German village, the name Over-the-Rhine is derived from its early builders and residents, German immigrants. At the time of the neighborhood’s conception, the Miami and Erie Canal separated the area from downtown, following along what is today Central Parkway. In regard to their native country, the immigrants coined the neighborhood “Over-the-Rhine,” because crossing the canal reminded them of crossing the Rhine River in Germany.
Steve Hampton, executive director of the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, shared that many postcards of that era proclaimed,
“Here’s to Cincinnati, the Queen of the West,
A dirty old city, but nobly blest.
For it’s here that fine arts with the frivolous twine,
A veritable Deutschland just Over the Rhine…
The kindliest greetings from all, whom we meet,
A good draught of beer every ten or twelve feet.”
Unfortunately, Prohibition, enacted in 1919, doomed many of the breweries. Raids, shoot-outs and a massive loss of business forced many to quit in disgust. It wasn’t until 1933 that it was repealed, but by then, the damage was done.
Since 2005, the Brewery District has hosted the annual Prohibition Resistance Tour. The tour showcases how Cincinnati’s brewing industry left an undeniable impact on the city, and how it influenced “the social, economic and cultural welfare of the city.” I was given a sneak peak at the Prohibition Resistance Tour, shared below.
Clyffside Brewing Company
Clyffside Brewing Company, located on the site of Hamilton Brewery, was founded in 1845. Over the years, it was known as the Sohn Brewing Company, Mohawk Brewery, and Clyffside. Sans Prohibition, beer was brewed on the site for 111 years, the longest of any brewery in Cincinnati.
Kauffman Brewing Company
The John Kauffman Brewing Company was known for its “Gilt Edge,” “Columbia,” and “Old Lager” beers and at its peak, produced 70,000 barrels of beer per year. The brewery closed in 1919 when Prohibition was enacted and never reopened after it was repealed in 1933.
Schmidt Brothers Brewery
Schmidt Brothers Brewery brewed what referred to as the “common ale” of Cincinnati. Like most other breweries, Schmidt Brothers folded during Prohibition.
Find more photographs and historical background of the three breweries highlighted on this year’s Prohibition Resistance Tour by clicking through to the Clyffside Brewing Company, John Kauffman Brewing Company and Schmidt Brothers Brewery. Enjoy this update and enjoy the bock beer at Bockfest!