Bavarian Brewing Company
|Headquarters||Covington, Kentucky, United States|
|William Riedlen; Lucia Riedlin Schott, William C. Schott, George Schott, Louis Schott, William R. Schott and Louis L. Schott|
|Products||Beers, ales, malt liquors, soft drinks and ice.|
Bavarian Brewing Company
|Location||522 W. 12th St. Covington, Kentucky|
|NRHP Reference #||96000281|
|Added to NRHP||March 21, 1996|
Bavarian Brewing Company was a brewery established in Covington, Kentucky, in 1866 by Julius Deglow, but became known as the Bavarian Brewery in the 1870s. The brewery was originally located on Pike Street and the business expanded to include the 12th street property by 1877. The company also operated as the John Meyer Brewery and the Meyer-Riedlin Brewery before becoming incorporated at Bavarian Brewery Co. in 1889 by William Riedlin. The company was family owned until it was acquired by International Breweries, Inc.(IBI) in 1959. However, it operated as the Bavarian Division of IBI and continued to produce its flagship beer, Bavarian's, until the facility closed in 1966. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 and rehabilitated shortly thereafter.
After the brewery was established as DeGlow & Co., new ownership interests within just a couple of years resulted in several change to its name beginning in 1868, including DeGlow, Best & Renner. However, in 1873, it was established as the Bavarian Brewery Co. Over the next several years the brewery operated under this name, but ownership interests varied. John Meyer obtained controlling interest and the brewery operated under his name for a short time, starting in 1879. Then in 1882, a German immigrant named William Riedlin, who established a saloon and beer hall called Tivoli Hall in the Over The Rhine area of Cincinnati, entered into partnership with John Meyer. It operated as the Meyer-Riedlin Brewery before Riedlin purchased controlling interest in the brewery from Meyer, incorporated the business under its former name and became president in 1889. A number of changes were made to the facility during Riedlin's tenure including the brewery's first bottling plant built in 1892. Key bottling innovations including the crown bottle cap and pasteurization increased the shelf life of beer, enabling it to be distributed to a much wider area. Besides Bavarian Beer, the company also offered Riedlin Select Beer. By 1914 the annual beer production was 216,000 barrels, increasing from only 7,341 barrels in 1870, and it became the largest brewery in the state.
Operations expanded from the original location on Pike street to include several structures on the property between Pike Street and 12th Street. The main structure, which essentially remains today, was a four story 175 by 125 foot edifice that opened in January, 1906, serving as both the stock and wash houses. An ice house that manufactured 200,000 pounds of ice daily, and that included a couple of ponds, was adjacent to the brewery. The total land area comprised six and one-half-acres. Ice was used in the lager fermentation process before refrigeration became available and it was also sold to the public.
Beer production was abruptly halted shortly before the introduction of Prohibition in 1918. To prevent a complete closure of the brewery, arrangements were made to bottle non-alcoholic beverages under the name The William Riedlin Beverage Company. However, William Riedlin died in early 1919, several months before Prohibition was officially passed by Congress. His son, William Riedlin, Jr., died within a couple months after his father aged 37. He had previously been a Vice President of the brewery and briefly in charge of the Beverage Company. Shortly after the deaths of the father and son the brewery property was closed - for some fifteen years.
Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but it wasn't until 1935 that the Bavarian Brewing Co. reopened under M. L. Vorhees who had married Riedlin's granddaughter, Rosemary. The company struggled financially and went into receivership in 1937. The brewery and its assets were purchased U.S. District Court in January, 1938, by William C. Schott, the husband of Riedlin's daughter Lucia, and his three brothers, George, Louis and Chris Schott. These brothers were successful businessmen who owned and operated the Cincinnati Galvanizing Company and had previously been involved with J. M. Schott & Sons Co., a cooperage business founded by their father.
In 1939, George was the company's President, Wm. C. became Vice President, Chris resigned as Secretary and was replaced by Louis. In 1945, George resigned, Louis Schott became President and William R. Schott, the eldest son of Lucia Riedlin and William C. Schott, became Secretary /Treasurer. Key brand beer names bottled at the brewery included: Bavarian's Old Style, Bavarian Master Brand and Bavarian Bock. Other offerings included Schott's Ale and, at a somewhat earlier period for only a short time, Cincinnati's Pride Brand Beer to commemorate the Cincinnati Union Terminal. The brewing company thrived between 1947 and 1952 when it operated around the clock to meet demand. During those prosperous years the company acquired the Bruckmann Brewery Plant on Spring Grove in Cincinnati in 1948 and the Heidelberg Brewery of Covington in 1949. In 1950, the Bruckmann plant was converted as a warehouse and new warehouse was built at Fricke Road and Beekman Street also in Cincinnati, both to be used as distribution centers for their Bavarian's two breweries.
In 1955, the former President, Louis Schott, became Board Chairman, the son of Wm. R. Schott became President and his former position as Secretary/Treasurer was replaced by his brother, Louis L. Schott. However, it was during this period Bavarian realized that despite its expansion, their dated facilities and the operation of two bottling plants were creating higher operating expenses resulting in higher beer prices than its local competitors. As a result, by the end of 1955 Bavarian decided to sell the smaller Heidelberg plant and modernized its primary plant to increase production expecting that this would allow them to be more competitive. However, around this time the company also began losing market share to larger breweries with a national advertising presence and lower costs.
In particular, Anheuser-Bush introduced Bush Bavarian Beer in 1954 and a year later it was clear that this brand would soon be expanded nationally, including the Cincinnati area. To defend their rights to their name, Bavarian brought suit against the St. Louis based brewery for trademark infringement and unfair competitive practices, in Bavarian Brewing Company v. Anheuser-Bush. The trial began in October 1956 and was pitted as a David and Goliath battle. In March, 1957, a final verdict was rendered that prohibited Anheuser-Bush from marketing the Bush beer in the tri-state region where Bavarian sold its beer. But Bavarian was denied exclusive use of the name and reimbursement for unfair competitive practice was also rejected by the court. Still, economies of scale made it difficult for smaller brewers like Bavarian to compete with the national breweries.
In hopes of associating with a larger enterprise that could strengthen Bavarian, the company was sold to International Breweries Inc. (IBI) in 1959. The patriarchs for the Schott family, William C. and Louis, were no longer active with the brewery, but William R. remained in charge of the Bavarian plant and became an Executive Vice President of IBI. His brother, Louis L., remained for just a few more years, primarily involved in marketing. IBI added a new state of the art, $500,000 bottling to the Bavarian plant in 1960. A couple years later Bavarian's Beer received a first-prize award at a European beer festival. Yet, despite some success, operations were just short of breaking even in 1962 and by 1964 there was a loss of $500,000. To make up for the shortfall in sales, IBI bottled their other brands in the Covington plant including, Franken Muth Beer/Ale, Silver Bar Beer/Ale, Tropical Beer and Phoenix Beer/Ale, IBI Malt Liquor and Malta Huey. They also tried to enlarge the marketing area of Bavarian Beer by producing it in IBI plants located in Tampa, FL, Buffalo, NY, Findlay, OH. This strategy proved unsuccessful. Wm. R. Schott left IBI in 1965, thus ending the involvement of the Riedlin and Schott families at the Bavarian property that spanned approximately 85 years. IBI closed the Covington, KY brewery in 1966, one hundred years after the origins of the brewery began.
Past uses of the property and its future
The landmark Bavarian Brewery building fell into disrepair over the next three decades. However, its accessibility and visibility from Interstate 75, just a couple exits from downtown Cincinnati, as well as its unique Romanesque and "castle like" architecture, made it an attractive economic development project for the City of Covington. In 1996 the property became listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was rehabilitated. It operated as the Party Source and the Brew Works for a short time, then for eight years Jillian's operated it as a restaurant and nightclub, until it closed in 2006. The property was purchased 2008 by Columbia Sussex, a casino and hotel company, with hopes that Kentucky would pass gambling laws, allowing the property to be converted as a casino. When that failed, the owner tried to tear down the main brewery structure, even though they had agreed to preserve it when they removed the former bottling plant and other ancillary buildings a few years earlier. This resulted in a "Save the Bavarian" movement to retain the brewery structure. After two years of litigation, this movement has apparently been a success. An agreement was made in July, 2016, whereby Kenton County will purchase the property to develop a new Kenton County Administration Building, retaining the iconic portion of the building. It is expected that the existing structure presently used for country services on Court Street in downtown Covington, which is 50-years old and only 40% utilized, will be converted to another use.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-11-27.
- "The Bavarian Brewing Company" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. National Park Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
- "Bavarian Brewing survived Prohibition". Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky. Kentucky Enquirer. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
- "Northern Kentucky Post-Prohibition Breweries". Over The Barrel. Sudhaus Press. Archived from the original on December 12, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
- "Building's owners propose demolition of Covington's Bavarian Brewery". WLWT-TV. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
- "Kenton County Buys Bavarian Brewery Building, Will Move Government To Historic Site".