Clyffside Brewing Company

Industrial / Ohio

Clyffside Brewing Company is a former brewery on West McMicken Avenue in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio. It began in 1933 when Paul Esselborn, who was educated at the Royal Bavarian School of Brewing in Germany, organized the company in former Mohawk Brewery buildings. The company’s signature selections included Felsenbrau beer and Old Hickory Ale that was “aged in the hills.” Sans Prohibition, beer was brewed on the site for 111 years, the longest of any brewery in the city.


Sohn Brewing Company

Hamilton Brewery was founded in 1845 along McMicken Street in Over-the-Rhine by Johann Sohn and George Klotter, 2 4 which became known as Klotter, Sohn & Company in 1853. In 1866, Sohn bought out Klotter; Klotter went on to establish his own brewery. 4 Sohn renamed the brewery the J.G. Sohn & Company Brewery, which grew into the tenth largest brewhouse in the city. It reorganized  as the William S. Sohn Brewing Company in November 1900 when Sohn sold out his interest to his brother. 5

Sohn was purchased by Mohawk Brewery in 1907. 4 During Prohibition, Mohawk attempted to ride out the law by producing near-beer and true alcoholic beverages.

On August 3, 1925, federal agents waited from midnight until 6 a.m. the next morning for brewery employees to begin their shift. When the first truck was leaving the facility for delivery, the agents conducted a raid, shooting at the truck driver and arresting numerous brewery employees. Sixty barrels and 35 half-barrels of beer were confiscated. 4 No other beer was produced by Mohawk and it closed before the end of Prohibition. 6

Clyffside Brewery

Clyffside Brewery began in 1933 1 4 when Paul Esselborn, at the Royal Bavarian School of Brewing in Germany, organized the company in the former Mohawk Brewery complex. The company’s signature selections included Felsenbrau beer and Old Hickory Ale that was “aged in the hills.” 1 Felsenbrau loosely translated to beer “brewed in the rocks.”

In 1937, the former Sohn homestead was demolished and a brick addition was constructed along McMicken, with another structure built shortly after. 1 3 Underneath were lagering cellars 35-feet wide and 200-feet long, with walls that were 3-feet thick that allowed the cellar to stay at a constant 53º Fahrenheit. 4

C. Howard Knapp became president of the company in 1940, assisted by Ivan Fischer and George Koenig. 1 A bottling plant and fermentation tanks were constructed in 1946, and refrigeration units were installed in the below-ground tunnels to keep the air temperatures cooler. 1 7

Red Top Brewery

Clyffside was sold to the Red Top Brewing Company in 1945, but the company was dragged down with maintenance costs at both Clyffside and its original facility along Dayton Street (the former John Hauck Brewery). 1 2 The company was sold to a group of Cincinnati and Chicago investors for $1.5 million on August 9, 1955. 7 Less than two months later, Red Top began to combine its production facilities into Clyffside, hoping to generate some needed cash by auctioning outdated equipment from its Dayton Street site. 8 But most of the Dayton Street equipment, valued at $8.5 million, did not sell.

Red Top sold a warehouse on York Street to a wholesale grocer in January 1956, followed by another to investors in January 1957. 8 The Dayton Street brewery was demolished later in the year.

Nearly 150 Red Top employees went on strike on May 9, 1957. 8 In August, the company announced that it was merging with Muskegon Motor Specialties Company of Jackson, Michigan in a bid to bolster its own financial assets. Instead, Muskegon sold all of Red Top’s assets to the Terre Haute Brewing Company of Indiana. On September 27, 1957, the last batch of beer was produced from Clyffside.


  • 1846-1867: George Klotter and Company 4
  • 1867-1870: Sohn, Kistner and Company
  • 1870-1900: J.G. Sohn and Company
  • 1900-1907: William G. Sohn Brewing Company
  • 1907-1925: Mohawk Brewing Company
  • 1933-1945: The Clyffside Brewing Company
  • 1945-1958: Red Top Brewing Company


A $3 million redevelopment project for Clyffside, entailing the renovation of the buildings into 19 residential units, broke ground on April 11, 2008. 2 The project was never finished.



  1. Wimberg, Robert J. “Clyffside Brewing Company.” Cincinnati Breweries. 2nd ed. 1989. Cincinnati: Ohio Book Store, 1997. 35. Print.
  2. Lemaster, Kevin. “The Clyffside hits the market, breaks ground in April.” Building Cincinnati 27 March 2008. 3 March 2010 Article.
    2a. Related: Lemaster, Kevin. “The Clyffside to break ground on $3M condo renovation Friday.” Soapbox 8 April 2008. 3 March 2010 Article.
  3. Lemaster, Kevin. “Brewery District signage installed.” Building Cincinnati 3 Aug. 2008. 3 March 2010 Article.
  4. Hampton, Steve. Prohibition Resistance Text. Cincinnati: n.p., 2010. N. pag. Print.
  5. Holian, Timothy J. “The Phoenix.” Over the Barrel. St. Joseph: Sudhaus Press, 2001. 222. Print. Vol. 2 of 1920-2001. 2 vols.
  6. “Suds Ready to Flow!” Cincinnati Enquirer 14 Mar. 1933: 2. Print.
  7. Holian, Timothy J. “Expansion and Consolidation.” Over the Barrel. St. Joseph: Sudhaus Press, 2001. 119-149. Print. Vol. 2 of 1920-2001. 2 vols.
  8. Holian, Timothy J. “A Death in the Family.” Over the Barrel. St. Joseph: Sudhaus Press, 2001. 202-208. Print. Vol. 2 of 1920-2001. 2 vols.