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Monday, March 01, 2010

Preservationists Race to Save Cincinnati's Brewery District

I happened across a fascinating article in the Cincinnati Enquirer anyone interested about beer should spend a few minutes reading:

More than a century ago Over-the-Rhine's streets were lined with hundreds of saloons, teeming with lager-drinking Germans who were immersed in a beer brewing culture.

Vine Street alone was home to more than 135 saloons where beer barons like Christian Moerlein mingled with laborers. Today, that deep-rooted brewing heritage has been nearly erased from the city's landscape - the breweries demolished or left to decay.

Now preservationists are racing to save the remaining crumbling relics - considered the largest collection of their kind nationally.

Last week I rattled on about losing Henry's here in Portland--well, Cincinnati had dozens of breweries in the good old days before prohibition. At the end of the post I'll include a cool video that shows the underground lagering caverns those old breweries dug in the days before refrigeration. Cincy was a seriously beery city--a "beervana" of a past era.
In 1872, according to an annual report of Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, 32 operating breweries in Cincinnati produced more than 436,000 barrels of beer and contributed to a labor payroll of $1.2 million.

"Some of these breweries would employ well over 100 people," Tolzmann says. "They were a vital part of the economic fiber of this community."

Here's that video, but do yourself a favor and go read the article, too:



  1. The article was very interesting in many ways. I think there was a hint of the subject of one of your more provocative posts: the tempering affect of pubs. The line about rich and poor, manager and laborer rubbing elbows in saloons is another version of the really valuable social aspects of pubs. They may have been saloons in that day, but the environment was no different, though the beer certainly was. It is that social interaction with real live people that makes a difference. Inherent in that interaction is a culture the defines the boundaries. That's not to say that those early residents didn't overindulge.
    When I read this stuff, I begin to think I was born 100 years too late.
    One nit, though. I'm all for Jim Koch running a brewery there. I'm not sure that's the answer. I wonder what other, smaller breweries will be popping up. And, not just revitalized "brands."

  2. This is a very timely post as I am going to Cincinnati this weekend to celebrate Bockfest. I got to my first Bockfest last year and took a tour of many of the old breweries around the brewing district. None of them of course operational but there were efforts to save them at the time. Most were being transformed into loft style living areas.

    Cincy definitely has some cool things going for it in terms of beer. Christian Moerlein makes some great beers and are easily accessible around town. Not to mention this Bockfest, which will feature a free trolley going to many area bars and such that will be serving bock beers. Should be a good time!