As we all know the fun didn’t really just stop when the country went dry for Prohibition with the passing of the 18th Amendment in 1919. Bootleggers like George Remus ran liquor across the country for private parties and speakeasies. Companies supplied home brewers and home fermenters barley, hops, grape and yeast to make their own wine and beer at home. My own Great Grandfather John Muchorowski brewed his own beer in Newport’s Knob Hill during Prohibition that he and his family probably carried to the various bars where their bands played and perhaps even in the undercroft of Corpus Christi Church in Newport after the Men’s Altar Society meetings and the large scale musicals they produced throughout the year.
Despite much lobbying by the German American community and the Brewers Unions, on Jan. 16, 1919, Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the proposed 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors. It would go into effect in January of 1920.
But for those few breweries who decided to take the legal way to survive Prohibition, there were desperate attempts at making ‘medicinal’ malt tonics or near beer and soft drinks to utilize their equipment and make money. The breweries that made legal products during Prohibition were – Bruckmann Brewery in Cumminsville, Hudepohl and Crown in Over-the-Rhine, and Wiedemann in Newport, Kentucky. Others like Foss Schneider, Schaller, Christian Moerlein, Windisch-Mulhauser, and John Hauck shut their doors.
In 1900 the Buckeye Brewery was renamed the Hudepohl Brewing Company. Ludwig “Lewis” Hudepohl, the founder, died in 1902 at the age of 59. He left the company to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Weyer Hudepohl, who was assisted in its operation by her son-in-law, William A. Pohl. At this time Hudepohl produced the brands Buckeye, Muenchener, Dortmunder, Hudepohl, and Golden Jubilee. When Prohibition came in 1919, the brewery shifted to the production of Buckeye brand near-beer (1/2 of 1% alcohol), Vichy water, and soft drinks. An interesting drink called “Dutch Cocktail” was formulated and sold, but sales were discouraging. The cocktail included a small amount of beer, and ginger ale. Production stopped in 1928 because many Cincinnatians made their own beer at home by this time, which was higher in the good stuff than near beer.
Across the river, Wiedemann in Newport, Kentucky, produced a beverage calle Quizz, which enabled the business to stay open. In 1933 when Prohibition ended, the company was again producing beer. By 1938 they were producing 150,000 barrels and by the end of 1955 over 850,000 barrels.
In 1870 brothers Friedrich and Heinrich Schmidt sold their grocery store and bought Peter Herancourt’s ‘Box’ Brewery at Central Avenue and Kindel Street. The Schmidts brewed ‘common beer’ and ale. Heinrich left the partnership in 1875, but rejoined his brother a year later as an equal partner. The company was called Schmidt and Brother.
Heinrich Schmidt died in 1891. Friedrich Schmidt then formed a stock company on April 1, 1891 under the name Schmidt Brothers Brewing Company. Then, when Friedrich died in 1898, his widow took over the leadership of the company. When she died in 1905, Gerhardt Schmidt and George Lampe bought the brewery. They called it the Crown Brewery. in 1906 Meyer Silverglade left the Ohio Brewery and became the vice-president and controlling stock holder of the Crown Brewery. George Lampe was president.
By 1915 the brewery produced ‘Happy Days’ beer. When Prohibition came along they produced two near beers and a root beer. One of the near beers was called Crown Select, non-intoxicating beverage, and the other, Tang, advertised with “you’ll appreciate the “different” flavor when Tang passes your lips” With those brimming ad endorsements its no surprise that both products failed to gain traction, forcing Crown to close in 1925. Like I have done, on Brewery District tours you can walk the narrow beer tunnel that connects the two Crown brewery buildings across McMicken from each other. This wonky underground arrangement was due to an Ohio law that taxed breweries higher that bottled in the same building as they brewed their beer.
During Prohibition, Bruckmann in Cumminsville on the canal, brewed a near beer called Aristocrat Cereal Beverage and Malt Tonic, a beverage for invalids, as well as a root beer. The Malt Tonic was prescribed by doctors and local hospitals were a major purchaser. It’s bottle even had a cute smiling nurse logo on its label. Bruckmann’s near beers seem to be the only ones that gained any market during Prohibition. The Aristocrat, with a label of a smart looking Jazz Age couple riding their horses, was said to taste just like the Brucks pre Prohibition beers, and I suspect, may have snuck in a bit more than the 1/2 % alcohol. Because of the volume of these products, Bruckmann added capacity to their brewery complex during Prohibition, and because they were continually operating, they were the only brewery in Cincinnati, ready to change over almost overnight to producing regular beer. When regular beer returned on April 8, 1933, crowds lined up outside the brewery demanding beer. And Bruckmann were the first to supply the local bars, the first being the Wheel Café in downtown Cincinnati. The Bruckmann brewery closed in 1946, but their brewery site, with the original 1856 home built by founder John Caspar Bruckmann, is the only completely intact pre Prohibition brewery site in Greater Cincinnati.