Brewers in Cincinnati made a lot of beer and the majority of what was brewed here was also consumed here.
Cincinnati’s Beer History
Cincinnati has a long history of brewing beer. One of the first brewers in Cincinnati was a man named James Dover. He had a bakery on Sycamore Street near the market on the river where he also brewed and sold porters and ales. In 1806, he advertised in the Liberty Hall newspaper that he was looking to purchase 500 lbs of hops, 1000 bushels of barley, and 500 gallons of honey. He started a brewery that lasted until about 1811.
Another early brewer was David Embree. He built his brewery on the banks of the Ohio River between Elm and Race Streets. He also brewed Ale and Porter as that was the popular choice in those days in America. This brewery lasted until about 1838.
Daniel Symmes, who was the 6th Mayor of Cincinnati, had a brewery in 1817. He was partners in that brewery with Joel Williams who had built the first tavern in Cincinnati. Joel was also a distiller in Butler County. Their brewery was located at Pike and Congress near where Lytle park is now.
The Beer Growth of Cincinnati
Cincinnati grew steadily in the early 1800’s, and by the 1840’s the population boomed when many German immigrants started to move here bringing with them their customs and love for lager beer. Lager beer was much lighter and crisper than the English ales and porters.
Making lager required a different process than just brewing ales or common beer. The yeast for lager beer ferments at the bottom and required a consistent dry temperature of 32-48 degrees Fahrenheit. So, the German immigrants dug tunnels into the sides of the hills surrounding Cincinnati and also several stories below street level. These cellar’s were large enough to ferment and store the beer and had large ice blocks to control the temperature.
At the height of beer brewing, Cincinnati had around 36 breweries making millions of gallons of lager beer! And making millionaires of the men who founded the breweries!
Exploring Cincinnati’s Beer & Hidden History
There are a lot of ways to explore and learn more about brewing history in Cincinnati! One way is to take tour with American Legacy Tours. They will take you around town to tell the story of Over the Rhine. You even get to explore the old lathering tunnels underneath the buildings.
After your tour, you will make your way to Nothern Row Brewery and Distillery at 111w. McMicken. They are housed in the old Morelein ice house from 1895. It’s such a cool place with historic touch’s everywhere! Including a 61 ft. row boat from the 1936 Olympics hanging on the ceiling, and the massive 1908 Brunswick bar back! The Brunswick company started making saloon fixtures in Cincinnati, so it is a fun touch of history! Make sure you order one of their amazing beers or my favorite, the Cincinnati Gin that I’ve been lucky enough to partner with them on!
Another super cool place to enjoy the historic lager callers is to make a reservation for a table at Ghost baby! Ghost baby is located 4 stories under the 1313 Vine Street Building. The entrance is located in the back on Republic Street between 13th and 14th Streets. It’s such an amazing place with fantastic cocktails and the best live Jazz music! Make sure you make a reservation to get a table before you go, as it is always packed! Cincinnati is just full of magic and what’s better is that you get to explore so much….often with a drink in hand! I can’t wait for the next adventure!
Written by Molly Wellmann
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