Hudepohl Brewing Company

Founded in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio in 1885, the Hudepohl Brewing Company relocated to its Queensgate location that was formerly home to Herman Leckman Brewing Company. Hudepohl vacated its Queensgate facility in 1987 and merged with the Schoenling Brewing Company who then relocated its manufacturing line to a location along Central Parkway. Vacant for more than 20 years, the ailing Queensgate location has drawn the ire of the city for its extensive deterioration.

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 craftsman 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 Ninth street.

In 1881, Ludwig passed away and Ludwig II assumed the responsibilities of his father, and gave him new ideas in which 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, whose presence was noted all over the city.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 Brands expanded by 1890, and included Buckeye, Munchener, Dortmunder and Hudepohl, and Koehler employed over 100.16 By 1893, production had increased to 100,000 barrels per year, and the growth necessitated the need for expansion. An expansion was designed by architect Frederick Wolf.

Kotte died in 1893 at a relatively young age, 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 completed the purchase of the Koehler Brewery, with the acquisition finalized on February 20, 1900. The company was renamed the Hudepohl Brewing Company and had 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 U.S. city, an average of 40 gallons a year.7 Nearly 95% of that beer was brewed in Cincinnati. By 1900, there were 26 breweries, producing 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 the assistance of William A. Pohl, a son-in-law.14 17

Beginning in 1920, when Prohibition was enacted as a law, 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 historic 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.

Nearby, the Lackman Brewing Company had extensive plans for its production facilities post-Prohibition.18 By October 1932, the Lackman reorganized and had an option on four acres of land in the Riverside area of Cincinnati, west of downtown and east of Mill Creek, on the east side of Southside Street and the west side of Galion Street near the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Preliminary plans called for a 50,000 barrel-per-year factory 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 implement 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 capability without the purchase of additional land.18 Lackman was encouraged by the results, and was readying the new plan to be put into operation as soon as Prohibition ended.

Unfortunately, Lackman failed to obtain a federal permit to brew alcohol and the plant never resumed operations.18

Growth

In 1934, Hudepohl purchased the Lackman brewery structures at 6th and Stone streets, and designated the plant as a secondary production facility.18 The Lackman Brewing Company’s presence, along 6th and Stone Streets in Cincinnati, dated to 1860.9

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 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. The 64,000-pound machine, which measured 11 feet wide, 55 feet long and 6 feet high, required a large hole be cut in the side of the brewery. In September, windows were removed when a new automatic bottle washer, weighing 67,000-pounds that measured 39 feet in length and 11 feet in height, was capable of handling 220 bottles per minute The new buildings were inaugurated in 1948.

By the 1950s, it became apparent that maintaining two breweries – one on West 6th Street, the other on East Clifton Avenue in Over-the-Rhine, was not economical. Besides the costs of operating two plants, the East Clifton Avenue location was far older and outdated, in addition to 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, in order 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 6th Street location. On October 28, 1959, plans were revealed to spend over $1 million to construct a new brewhouse in an effort to modernize its facility and to remain competitive with the brewing titans from St. Louis and Milwaukee.22 Details revealed later noted that the expansion program would last five years and cost $5 million. 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.

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 is 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 purchase for $650,000, most Burger assets, including trademarks, labels, advertising rights and formulas.

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 the market. Marketing plans for the Select was unprecedented, saturating the local television stations with advertisements, going rogue with subliminal messages, and the result was spectacular. Profits rose

In 1982, Hudepohl purchased the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, one of the nation’s largest. Four years later, Hudepohl merged with the Schoenling Brewing Company to form Hudepohl-Schoenling.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 Sixth Street in favor of expanding the Central Parkway location.9 11 The iconic plant, located in the Queensgate district, featured a 170-foot smokestack bearing Hudepohl’s name.

Modern Operations

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 made it in a brewery in St. Louis and called it Louis Koch Lager.2 The recipe 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

On January 6, 1999, Hudepohl-Schoenling announced that it was selling its beer division to a group of investors led by a former executive of a major brewer.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 maintain its relationship with the Boston Beer Company, which took over production of Hudepohl’s trademark brands in 1997.

Hudepohl-Schoenling would remain 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 sales growth in the beer division, which by the 1990s, had become bargain sellers in order to drive sales.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 division, who had earlier turned around Cleveland’s Crooked River Brewing Company.

On July 19, 2001, a contract dispute forced the Hudepohl-Schoenling Company to cease 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 suspended as a result. 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, the original home of Hudepohl along 5th Street, 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 obtain financing for the project, the property was sold in October 2004 to Hudepohl Square for $172,000.9 11

Hudepohl Square

Hudepohl Square announced intentions to restore the site into a mixed-use office, light industrial and residential complex, and 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, and sought $1.5 million, but it drew no offers.11 They did, however, receive a flurry of e-mails chastising the company for not preserving the landmark brewer.

Partial demolition of the Hudepohl complex began in 2004, but a three-year legal fight against Demetrius Ball, the contractor handling the work, left Safi without financial support or money to proceed with the redevelopment.13 The legal tangle ended in Safi’s favor.

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 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 renderings and development plans for the project at a pre-prosecution hearing.10

In the meantime, Hudepohl Square applied for a Vacant Building Maintenance License until building permits can be managed and the lawsuit settled.10

In December 2009, Safi and his brother, Saeed, were found guilty on three misdemeanor counts for fire code violations.13 They submitted to a compliance program on the condition they provide a timeline for work to complete immediate improvements to the property to bring it up to general compliance. The city ordered the property fenced in, and all openings within ten feet of the ground sealed. The timeline was submitted before Christmas.

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

Reintroduction

Ii 2004, the rights to Christian Moerlein was purchased by Cincinnati resident Gregory Hardman.23 On May 1, 2006, Hardman purchased the rights to Hudepohl.24 Hudy Delight was reintroduced in November 2008 with 30th Anniversary cans and bottles, and Hudy 14-K was reintroduced in September 2009. With the two reintroductions, Hudy returned to prominence in Cincinnati’s long and storied brewing history.

Digest

Further Reading

  1. Hudepohl Square at 5chw4r7z.
  2. The Ruins of Hudepohl Brewing Company at Queen City Discovery
  3. Hudepohl Brewing Company by Zach Fein

Sources

  1. Miller, Nick. “Hudepohl selling brewery.” Cincinnati Post 19 Dec. 1996. 12 Jan. 2009.
  2. Miller, Nick. “End of an era for brewery here.” Cincinnati Post 20 Dec. 1996. 12 Jan. 2009: 6B.
  3. Miller, Nick. “City’s big-brewery history fades.” Cincinnati Post 11 Jan. 1999. 12 Jan. 2009: 6B.
  4. McKinney, Jeff. “Hudepohl beer brands being sold.” Cincinnati Enquirer 7 Jan. 1999. 12 Jan. 2009: 12B.
  5. Miller, Nick. “Hudepohl to sell its beer business.” Cincinnati Post 6 Jan. 1999. 12 Jan. 2009: 1A.
  6. Stammen, Ken. “A new life for Hudepohl.” Cincinnati Post 6 March 2000. 12 Jan. 2009: 7B.
  7. Stammen, Ken. “Hudy leaving hometown.” Cincinnati Post 20 July 2001. 12 Jan. 2009: 1A.
  8. Hofmeister, Dave. “What will be done about old brewery?” Cincinnati Enquirer 13 March 2004. 12 Jan. 2009: 2B.
  9. Newberry, Jon. “Old Hudepohl brewery ailing.” Cincinnati Enquirer 20 March 2007. 12 Jan. 2009: 7A.
  10. LeMaster, Kevin. “Hudepohl property may still be developed.” Building Cincinnati 15 June 2007. 12 Jan. 2009 Article.
  11. Mink, Dan. “Web auction doesn’t stack up for Hudy project.” Business Courier of Cincinnati 14 Jan. 2005. 12 Jan. 2009 Article.
  12. Stamp above entrance to door.
  13. LeMaster, Kevin. “Hudepohl redevelopment still in play.” Building Cincinnati 11 Jan. 2010. 11 Jan. 2010 Article.
  14. Holian, Timothy J. “A Consolidation of Power, and the Rewards of Success.” Over the Barrel. St. Joseph: Sudhaus Press, 2000. 193-195. Print. Vol. 1 of 1800-1919. 2 vols.
  15. “Brewery Is To Close Its Doors.” Enquirer [Cincinnati] 28 Mar. 1919: 10. Print.
  16. “Operations Suspended at Brewery.” Enquirer [Cincinnati] 2 June 1919: 10. Print.
  17. “Very Important.” Brewery Workers’ Journal 32.38 (22 Sept. 1917): 1. Print.
  18. Holian, Timothy J. “The Phoenix.” Over the Barrel. St. Joseph: Sudhaus Press, 2001. 65-68. Print. Vol. 2 of 1920-2001. 2 vols.
  19. Architect stamp over front entrance.
  20. Holian, Timothy J. “Expansion and Consolidation.” Over the Barrel. St. Joseph: Sudhaus Press, 2001. 120-121. Print. Vol. 2 of 1920-2001. 2 vols.
  21. Holian, Timothy J. “A Death in the Family.” Over the Barrel. St. Joseph: Sudhaus Press, 2001. 191. Print. Vol. 2 of 1920-2001. 2 vols.
  22. Holian, Timothy J. “Cincinnati Looks Elsewhere: The National Brewers Take Over.” Over the Barrel. St. Joseph: Sudhaus Press, 2001. 257-278. Print. Vol. 2 of 1920-2001. 2 vols.
  23. “Christian Moerlein.” Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company. N.p., 2009. Web. 29 Dec. 2010. Article.
  24. “Hudy Delight.” Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company. N.p., 2009. Web. 29 Dec. 2010. Article.