The German Stone Mason Who Built Cincinnati’s Lager Beer Cellars


If you’ve taken one of American Legacy’s Underground tours or the Brewery District tours, you have probably been amazed at the size and workmanship of the lager cellars below ground in Over-the-Rhine.    You can’t imagine the amount of sweat and brawn required by a team of men to first dig out a cellar and then lay the arched stonework that is still standing over 150 years later.    These craftsman knew well what they were doing and were worth their weight in gold to the brewers of Cincinnati Lager beer.   This was especially true in the 1850s when Cincinnati was going through an evolution of taste from English style ales and porters to German style lagers and pilsners.      The new German immigrants wanted lighter, crisper lagers and pilsners they loved from their homeland, not the dark, heavy ales of their Anglican neighbors.

Although many of the men on these teams remain anonymous, we are lucky to know the name of the man who is responsible for designing and building the majority of these lager cellars.   His name is Andrew Behm and he was a Germanic immigrant from Lower Franconia, near Bavaria.   He travelled with fellow countryman Andrew Noll to Philadelphia, in 1840, arriving in Cincinnati with him in 1848.     Noll built his brewery on Vine Street (on the site that would later become Suder’s Art Store, next to the People’s Theatre) in December of 1849, credited with being the first lager brewery in Cincinnati, (at least by his son, but there are other contendors of being the first lager brewer in Cincy).

Behm built the lager cellars for Noll’s brewery as a journeyman mason.    Unfortunately the brewery only lasted a few years, but Behm saved money and incorporated himself, and continued to build the lager cellars for most of the major lager breweries in Cincinnati, namely Moerlein and Kauffman, until his death in 1876.    He also got contracts for the above ground portions of the breweries.      Behm employed scores of other Germanic immigrant stone masons and made it possible for them to create a good life for their families.   The value of Behm’s estate at his death was $40,000, a pretty sizable sum for a stone mason in 1876.

Noll went to Louisville after the demise of his Over-the-Rhine brewery and started the City Brewery.  His son Charles moved to Lancaster, Ohio, in 1877 to operate the Becker Brewery.  Charles’ son, Herbert took over the operation of Becker after Charles’ death, but sold out right before Prohibition, moving to Alabama, and then New York, where in 1933 he gathered investors to open the New Amsterdam Brewery in Queens.

A lager cellar, prior to ammonia refrigeration, had to be able to be big enough to hold a large quantity of ice and keep a  consistent dry  temperature of 32-48 degrees F to allow the bottom fermenting lager yeast to make alcohol.     Consistent brews were a product advantage in an increasingly competitive Cincinnati lager market.     The cellars also had to have venting to take the carbon dioxide out of the cellars to street level to not asphyxiate the brewery workers.   It’s these street level metal vents in the old building of Over-the-Rhine area that have allowed new owners to recognize the existence of hidden lager cellars.   It’s a testament to Behm’s engineering and building prowess that we can still safely marvel at these cellars on tours a century and a half later.

Andrew didn’t stop at laying stone.   He was a very active Democrat, serving in the 1860s as councilman for Ward 12 – the West End by his York Street home.    He was nominated to be an Ohio state representative for the Hamilton County District, served as County Commissioner, and served on boards related to the Cincinnati Public Works, arbitrating on contracts for building of the city’s stone water towers and reservoirs, like Eden Park’s.

His legacy of building passed on to his son and grandsons.   In 1880 his son’s company Behm and Durm,  got the contract to build a stone wall outside the Franklin Brewery on Lebanon Road.     And Andrew’s three grandsons, Andrew, Walter and Harry were general contractors for the building of Crosley Field in 1912.

What Do Victorian Cyclists and Punjabi Muslims Have in Common?


What do English Victorian-era cyclists and Punjabi Muslims have in common?  I know it sounds like a “….walks into a bar” joke.     No, it’s not colorful, skin tight spandex.    It’s not super-long handlebar-y moustaches or facial hair.     It’s actually a drink used for hydration that both seemingly unconnected groups have been drinking since the 1870s – milk and soda water.   Or they’ve been drinking variations on that theme, milk and mineral water, or sweet cream and tonic, Vichy, or sodas.

I know what you’re thinking, “That sounds nasty – who would ever think of mixing milk and soda water.”   But if you think of the properties of milk – soothing to the stomach and protein rich; and soda water, healthy, clean and refreshing.    Also consider this drink the grandfather to the American phosphate soda, the ice cream soda, the brown cow (and other cows), and finally the ice cream sundae.

In Pakistan and Punjabi regions of India, Muslims observe an all day fast during the month of Ramandan.   Man, Catholics think they have it bad to observe meatless Fridays during Lent.    But imagine not being able to even drink water during the day!    Talk about been Hangry and even Thangry (angry thirsty).    So observant Muslims have devised a drink they call doodh soda, which mixes either 7 up or Sprite with milk in about a 50/50 ratio that they drink at sundown to quench their thirst from the day’s fast.   Sprite and 7 up are considered digestive aids in Pakistan and India.    Some mix  the cream or milk with a regional bright green, super sweet citrusy-vanilla cola called Pakola.    Think of the Pakola doodh as a Green Cow.   Aside from quenching the Ramandan thirst, these drinks are served to help cool the spiciness of Punjab cuisine outside of the holy month.    And Indians and Pakistanis alike consider doodh soda healthier than just plain soda.

It was thought that the lassi, probably the world’s first smoothie,  was the grandfather to this Pakistani tradition, which was developed centuries ago in Punjabi regions.     It’s a creamy drink made of yogurt, spices like coriander and ginger, fruit juices or fruit pulps, and sometimes water.      It can be savory or sweet, but either is delicious.   Mango lassi is popular in Indian restaurants in the U.S.   My neighborhood Indian cafe, –  Baba in Oakley – whose cooks are Punjab, serves up mango lassis.

There’s another Indian drink related to the lassi, called chaas (and other names regionally) which uses a thinner yogurt – dahi – without the butterfat, and adds water to dilute with spices.   This is probably more similar to the doosh soda of Pakistan than the lassi.

But Pakistani food writers like Majid Sheikh,  have connected the doodh soda’s heritage to their English colonial oppressors and their love of cycling.    Aha – another food of oppressors like the Franzbrotchen of northern Germany.   (see

After a grueling race, Victorian era cyclists would cool off with a beer, but found the result a feeling of heaviness.   So doctors recommended they drink carbonated water.   Some were put off by the taste of soda water so they added milk or sweet cream and found a drink that became wildly popular.      When they brought it to India during the colonial period, the Indians already were familiar with their creamy lassis and chaas, and loved the carbonation.      As modern sodas were created regionally and brought from the West in the late 1940s in India and Pakistan, the doodh soda became more like what we might call a “Cow” in the U.S., although without ice cream.

All the origin stories of the birth of the ice cream soda in the U.S. start with a milk or cream based drink and phosphate soda.    After the Civil War soda fountains started popping up all over the U.S., and doctors touted the benefits of phosphate and soda waters.    Soda jerks mixed phosphate or soda water with fruit pulps and syrups to create refreshing drinks.   I always loved a raspberry phosphate at Graeters – where the acidic phosphate literally burning your tonsils with its ph of 2, created a refreshing sensation.

The man credited with inventing the ice cream soda at an exhibition in Philadelphia in 1874, Robert Mccay Green, was said to have run out of sweet cream at his soda fountain, but had access to ice cream, and started serving customers what became the ice cream soda.

Then march in  the Temperance folks.   When pharmacists like Dr. John S. Pemberton were formulating new American soft drinks like Coca-Cola (with cocaine originally), they touted them as tonics to cure headaches, fatigue and other ailments.   The Temperance movement thought that those consuming large amounts of soda water or soft drinks were at a moral failing, using them as ‘medicine’.     So, soda jerks would not sell sodas on Sunday, the Lord’s day.   But they didn’t want to lose sales of ice cream, so they created a dish without the fizz, but will all the syrups and toppings – something even more decadent – and called it the ice cream sunday – later spelled sundae.

And then, when soft drinks became the mainstream soda jerks and ice cream parlors started mixing them with ice cream to form the family of colored ice cream “cows” or soda floats we all love- the brown cow (ice cream plus root beer),  pink cow (red cream soda),  black cow (coke), purple cow (grape soda), orange cow (Orange Crush), the Boston cooler (Vernor’s Ginger Ale), the green cow (Mountain Dow or other green cola) and even our local Nectar soda (ice cream plus nectar syrup, or nectar soda, in New Orleans).

So the next time you enjoy a float, a sundae, a phosphate, or a lassi, you can thank a sweaty dehydrated English cyclist with a curly handlebar moustache.

The Cincinnati Beer of One of the Haymarket Anarchists at the Bellevue House “Eight Hour Picnic”


Lithograph of the Chicago Haymarket Riot, May 4, 1886.

Today, May 4, marks the anniversary of the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886.   This riot is considered the foremost event in world labor rights history, as well as the first act of U.S. domestic terrorism.     The year 1886 was a tumultuous one for the working class, who in solidarity with brothers and sisters across the U.S. were marching and striking on May 1 to gain an 8 hour day with fair pay.    Their meeting places in cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis, New York City, and Chicago were the German neighborhood beer halls and saloons, where most of the U.S. urban working classes lived, cramped in tenement houses.  Most workers in America at the time worked grueling 12 and 14 hour days in terrible working conditions for low pay.   It was this year that the concept of “the weekend” was created with these strikes and protests.

That year workers unions had gathered near Haymarket Square in Chicago’s West Loop on May 4 at 8:30 PM to protest a police interaction at a labor protest the day before at the McCormick Reaper Plant, that had ended in the death of six workers.

Anarchist and editor of the Chicago Workingman’s paper The Alarm,  Albert Parsons invited everyone at the end of the speeches to meet at Zeph’s hall, a block north for a beer, probably a Schoenhofen, brewed in Chicago by that time on large scale, by Prussian immigrant Peter Schoenhofen.     Parsons and his wife, Lucy and two children left the rally early and were enjoying a beer at Zeph’s when they heard the explosion of the bomb at the Haymarket that killed eight Chicago policeman and an undetermined number of civilians.    Although he couldn’t have thrown the bomb, Albert Parsons was convicted of murder, along with seven others involved in the planning of the Haymarket affair, and he was hanged in 1887.   He and his comrades were immortalized by Diego Rivera in his murals at the Palace of Justice in Mexico City, which I had the pleasure of seeing last year.


Albert Parsons, executed for murder in the Haymarket Riot.

Albert had just returned the morning of the Haymarket Riot from Cincinnati, where he addressed a crowd of 8000 workers at the Bellevue House.   In his memoirs written before his execution he writes,

“The Labor organizations of Cincinnati Ohio decided to make a grand Eight-Hour demonstration & street parade & picnic on Sunday May 2nd (at the Bellevue House at the top of the Bellevue incline, now Bellevue Park in Clifton) in commemoration of the 8-hour work-day. On their invitation I went there to address them & left Chicago on Saturday, May 1st for that purpose. Returning on Monday night I reached Chicago on the morning of Tuesday May 4th, the day of the Haymarket meeting.”

Cincinnati workers unions had already staged a May 1 parade in solidarity with their working brothers and sisters around the country.    Another noted socialist Oscar Ameringer wrote about his involvement in the first Cincinnati workingmen’s parade that year:

“The organization I had joined was a branch of the Deutsche Holz Arbeiter Verein—German wood-workers‘ union—affiliated with the Knights of Labor. The wood-workers’ union was an industrial, or vertical, union. It embraced all wood-workers with the exception of basket weavers and wooden-shoe makers. The membership was almost exclusively German and seasoned with a good sprinkling of anarchists. Prior to the first of May, 1886, when the eight-hour-day strike was to be launched, there had been groups of older or more militant members manufacturing bombs out of gas pipes. All of us expected violence, I suppose.

Too young to be admitted to the inner circle, I had converted a wood rasp into a dagger, in anticipation of the revolution just around the corner. The prelude to the revolution was the May Day parade in which I marched, bloody upheaval in heart and dagger beneath my coat tail.  Only red flags were carried in that first May Day parade, and the only song we sang was the “Arbeiters Marseillaise,” the battle cry of the rising proletariat. Even the May Day edition of the Arbeiter Zeitung was printed on red paper. Testifying further to the revolutionary intent of the occasion, a workers’ battalion of four hundred Springfield rifles headed the procession. It was the Lehr und Wehr Verein, the educational and protective society of embattled toil.

Unfortunately for the pending revolution, the forces of law and order in the city made no attempt to interfere. ….And so we just marched and marched and sang and sang, until with burning feet and parched throats we distributed our forces among the saloons along the line of march where we celebrated the first victory of the eight-hour movement with beer, free lunch, and pinochle.”

The free lunch of these workingman socialists was probably a Cincinnati wienerwurst and a pickle, as the now famous image of Vine Street saloons documents.   And the beer they drank was a function of what saloon along Vine they stopped.

The parade on May 3 in Cincinnati was a huge one made up of three units that joined in along the parade route.       Workers marched from the Central Turnhall on Walnut Street near 13th Street to Court Street, west to Central, south to 7th, east to Main Street, North to 12th, west to Vine Street, north to McMicken and the foot of the Bellevue Incline.

The first unit was made up of the Carpenters’, the Fresco Painters’, the Cigar Makers’, Plumbers’, Journeymen Bakers’ and Harness Makers’ Unions.    They were met at Court Street by the Typographers, Moulders, and Upholsterers.  And finally, the third phalanx, made up of Beer Brewers, Tailors and the Rhinephalz Men’s Choir joined at Elm Street.    The West End Turners decided not to march because they didn’t want to be so closely associated with anarchists and any violence that might ensue.     But all the May Day activities in Cincinnati were well controlled and no rioting or violence broke out.


Cincinnati Union Member’s parade ribbons like those worn in the original Cincinnati May Day parades.

Each union wore their union ribbons and held signs in English and German touting the need for 8 hour work days.     The workers of the tenement houses along the parade route also decorated their windows in red ribbons of the socialist workers movement.


Banners in German and English, from the parade that were shown in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

W. B. Ogden a member of the local typographer’s union spoke to the Bellevue House crowd saying,  “The capitalist in Cincinnati lives in his fine house on the hill.   The laborer lives in a hovel where the darkness can be handled and the stench cut with a knife.”

When Albert Parsons got up to speak, he stood atop a beer table.    He said, “The twelve hour man gets up at 5:30 AM, with broken slumber, dirty, ignorant, and stinking, drinks some steeped over coffee and with a dinner bucket with a few scraps of bread, goes to work. .. The eight hour man is emancipated, the twelve hour man is in slavery…. The working man is at last asking for these rights, and by the gods, we intend to have them!”


Even though it was Sunday and Cincinnati’s blue laws prevented Sunday drinking, Parsons shared none other than a Moerlein lager with his audience at the Bellevue House beer garden that day, the exclusive beer served at the hilltop resort.


Zeph’s Hall left in the Haymarket day, and right today.

The only remaining building of the Haymarket era in Chicago is the former Zeph’s Hall, which is now owned by the Grand Stage Lighting Company.    The third floor hall where the Haymarket eight and hundreds of other union members and socialists met is in tact and there were plans for it to be made into a Labor Museum.

Moerlein doesn’t have a beer named after Parsons, but the Haymarket Brewery in Chicago, near where the riot occurred,  has one named after Parsons’ wife, Lucy, called Lucy’s Belgian Style Abbey Triple.   They also have a Belgian Ale named after Oscar Neebe, called Oscar’s Pardon.   Neebe was a Chicago Northside Turner and founder of the Beer Brewers and Maltsters Union # 1 of Chicago, and one of the Haymarket eight who was pardoned.

Cincinnati Candy and the First Red’s Baseball Uniform


The original uniform with short pants and red stockings of the Red’s first professional season of 1869.

This year the Red’s celebrate 150 years of Reds and professional baseball with the formation of the first team in 1869 right here in Cincinnati.    All throughout the season the team will be playing in historic uniforms.      There is a very sweet story behind the first uniforms of the team, which, in their day made quite a rogue fashion statement.


In 1867, the man who would design these crazy uniforms, an Irish immigrant named George Brabazon Ellard (1829-1916), decided to change careers.    At the time, he was partner of Elkanah Myers at the E. Myers & Co, a wholesale manufacturers of plain and fancy candy, and importers of foreign fruit, at 50 Main Street.    Elkanah had taken over the business from his father, Johann Myers, a German immigrant, who had come to Cincinnati in 1817 and is credited for being Cincinnati’s first candy maker or “sucherbacker” as the Germans called them.

Johann Myers immigrated with his family  in 1804 with a group of German Pietists, who were being persecuted in Germany by the Lutherans.    His father and a sibling died on the ship over, and someone stole all their money, so Johann had to indenture himself to a baker for 8 years to pay for the passage of his family.    He worked at a candy shop in Baltimore, after serving the War of 1812, fell in love with the owner’s daughter and stole her away to Cincinnati in 1817 where they married and had ten kids surviving to adulthood.


Johann got the dessert table gig at the hotel where Cincinnati hosted the Marquis de Lafayette on his return tour of the United States in 1825.   Myers made an elaborate 7 foot tall sugar pyramid with marzipan figures depicting scenes of Lafayette in the Revolutionary War.  Everyone gushed and Myers became known as the “Confectioner of the West.”


Johann Myers, Cincinnati’s first candy maker, and his confectionery.

It just so happens that the famous photographer James Presley Ball had his daguerreotype shop on Main Street at the time and recorded an image of the Myers Candy Company.     That daguerotype was recently found in California and auctioned for $60,000.

Ellard had actually played third base for the Cincinnati team in the 1867 season and saw the rising popularity of baseball, the new American sport which would replace the old British cricket.    Many cricket players were switching over to this game, which was played bare handed at the time.     Ellard opened his Baseball Emporium, a sporting goods store that supplied bats, uniforms and balls to new players.   He stitched his own balls that became known as Ellard balls.

And, in 1869 Harry Wright, a former professional cricket bowler, and friend of Ellard’s approached him about organizing a group of nine rock star players who they’d pay on guaranteed contract for the season, the first time this was done for an entire team.    They recruited Wright’s brother George, from the New York Unions, the best shortstop in America, a position that had just recently been invented in the game.     George topped the charts as the highest paid player on the team at $1400, more than what was paid to the team captain.


A meeting about the uniforms occurred at the offices of Aaron B. Chapman at 75 West Third street.   Wright wanted a uniform that would stand out against the other teams.  The uniform style was discussed and several designs submitted, but the design sketched out by Ellard and agreed upon by the team was pullover flannel shirt with a red English “C” stiched on the chest and knee length flannel pants with bright red stockings.   Thus the name Redlegs became their moniker.


Bertha Bertram, tailoress of the first Redlegs baseball uniforms.

George Ellard contracted a young Bohemiam immigrant tailoress, Bertha Wenzlick Bertram to make the uniforms for the nine.     She operated out of her home on Elm Street near Elder and Findlay Market.   She had just lost an infant girl, Lena in 1865, and her husband Carl Bertram, a Prussian immigrant, had returned from fighting for the Union in the 29th Ohio Volunteers Infantry and became a U.S. citizen.    Bertha would make the uniforms for the team from 1867-1870, and this was a great gig for her.   The red stockings were virtually unknown at the time, and were made to order, so were quite expensive.  The notoriety would get her other gigs with local semi professional baseball teams that popped up in Greater Cincinnati in the 1870s and 1880s like the Shamrocks, Ravens, Stars, Riversides, and the Cumminsville Mutuals, among others.

The players had to take the streetcar or walk a mile and half from their boarding house to the stadium in uniform, because there was no clubhouse with locker rooms at the ballpark for them to change.  When the players entered the field for the first time in their new risqué uniforms the women gasped and the men mumbled in disapproval.    At the time baseball players donned long pants like the cricket players.   And showing hosiery was not considered appropriate for men or women at the time.    Fans ridiculed them at first from the stands saying, “Harry (the manager) , you’ve got whiskers like a man, and pants like a boy.”   But, when the Reds went undefeated that season, the rogue uniforms were accepted and the style was became their signature.

Elkanah closed his family’s candy business about 1882 and moved with his son John Harvey Myer to Milwaukee, where they operated a very successful real estate and fire insurance business.