You’ve heard about Prohibition – a time of speakeasies and bathtub gin – when alcohol was illegal in America and mobsters like Al Capone rose to power. The word prohibition means the action of forbidding (or prohibiting) something. Prohibition was a time in U.S. history – from 1920 to 1933 - when the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcohol was forbidden. But why did Prohibition begin and how did it end? Here we dive deeper in the history of Prohibition and relate a few stories about Prohibition’s impact in Cincinnati.
Who wanted Prohibition?
With social drinking playing a big role in American culture today, it’s difficult to imagine a time when alcohol was illegal. However, in the early 1900s there was a vocal group of people who felt alcohol was causing too many problems in society like violence and corruption. Led by the Women’s Temperance Christian Union and the Anti-Saloon league, many people lobbied for a ban on alcohol. Although there was resistance to their movement from the brewery industry and many Americans, Congress passed the 18th Amendment and it went into effect January 17, 1920.
What happened in Cincinnati?
Cincinnati was hit hard by Prohibition. It killed the thriving Cincinnati brewery industry and all the jobs that went with it. Large breweries including Christian Moerlein, Windisch-Muhlhauser and John Hauck shut their doors.
As you can imagine, a lot of people didn’t take kindly to being told they could not buy a drink. When the bars, breweries and distilleries closed, it paved the way for underground speakeasies and bootleggers.
The most famous bootlegger from Cincinnati is George Remus. Originally from Chicago, he relocated to Cincinnati and built an empire that earned him the name, “King of the Bootleggers.” Remus and his wife were known for throwing lavish parties at their mansion in Cincinnati’s Price Hill, which was on Hermosa Avenue between West Eighth Street and St. Lawrence Avenue. Remus is also rumored to have inspired the character Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby.”
How did Prohibition end?
Prohibition was unpopular and wasn’t working. Alcohol was still being created and consumed, but because it was happening outside the law – the government couldn’t tax it. Congress passed the 21st Amendment in February 1933, which repealed Prohibition.
How You Can Tour Cincinnati’s Famous Pre-Prohibition Breweries
On a Brewing Heritage Tour, you’ll experience Cincinnati during its Pre-Prohibition heyday. These guided tours include special access to locations that are not typically open to the public, such as subterranean lagering cellars.
Most of our Brewing Heritage Tours start and end at the Christian Moerlein Malthouse Taproom located at 1621 Moore Street in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati’s historic neighborhood. Although the Christian Moerlein brewery closed during Prohibition, the brand was resurrected in the 1980s and then bought by Cincinnati resident Gregory Hardman in 2004. It’s now a thriving craft brewery. Built in the 1860s, the Malthouse Taproom is the perfect spot to wrap up your tour and enjoy award-winning Christian Moerlein brews.
We have many different guided tours typically offered Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. After deciding on the type and date of your tour, you can easily purchase tickets online. We also offer private and group tours, which are perfect for special occasions and corporate gatherings. Be sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn for our latest updates!
The Brewing Heritage Trail is proud to highlight Cincinnati’s rich brewing history through guided tours, and by sharing stories of local brewers. In this post, we’ll share some information about one of Cincinnati’s original beer barons, John Kauffman, and the story of the John Kauffman Brewing Company.
John Kauffman was born in Lorraine, France on February 10, 1830. He immigrated to the United States and came to Cincinnati when he was just 15 years old. He started working for his uncle (also named John Kauffman) who owned the Franklin Brewery in Deer Creek, which opened in 1844. His uncle died in 1856. Kauffmann, then age 26, bought the company and expanded production. He married Marianne Eichenlaub shortly after buying the company.
In 1856, Kauffmann, George F. Eichenlaub and Rudolph Rheinboldt purchased the Franklin Brewery on Lebanon Road near Deer Creek from Kauffman’s aunt and named it Kauffman & Company. In 1859, they bought the F. & J.A. Linck Brewery at Back and McMicken streets and sold it to Christian Boss for the Gambrinus Stock Company Brewery. In 1860, they also bought the Schneider Grist Mill on Walnut Street near McMicken Avenue.
Cincinnati’s brewing industry was primarily located along McMicken Avenue and the Miami & Erie Canal, which is now part of today’s Over-the-Rhine Brewery District. By 1866, Kauffman Brewing Company along with Jackson, J.G. & Sons and Christian Moerlein, John Hauck and Windisch-Mulhauser brewing companies were all located in the area. Between 1875-1900, more than 18 breweries were located in Over-the-Rhine and West End.
By 1861, the company was producing 1,000 barrels annually. By 1871, Kauffman was the fourth largest brewery in Cincinnati with sales of $30,390 and producing 25,000 barrels annually. In 1876, an employee dormitory was built and in 1877, production increased to 50,000 barrels.
Expanding to meet national demand
In 1863, the company was renamed Kauffman Brewery. Eichenlaub retired from the business in 1865 and Rheinboldt retired in 1875. George Weidemann was a master brewer at Kauffman before leaving to start his own company in 1870. Kauffman’s son John studied brewing in Augsburg, Germany and joined the company along with Emil Schmidt, his son-in-law, who became his superintendent of operations in 1877.
By 1882, the company was incorporated as John Kauffman Brewing Company with paid-in capital of $700,000 and a new brewery was built in 1888 at 1622 Vine Street. The company’s main office was also constructed at 1625 Vine Street and the Kauffman family residence at 1627 Vine.
By 1890, production expanded to 55,000 barrels and peaked in 1894 at 70,000. The brewery plant covered five acres of land and its malt house held 150,000 bushels of barley. Kauffman was sold in the Nashville, Montgomery, Atlanta, Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans markets. By 1913, the company produced several beers including “Gilt Edge,” “Columbia” and “Old Lager” beers.
Prohibition forces closure
Kauffman passed away in 1892 and his wife Marianne became president and took over operations. The company closed in 1919 when the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors, was adopted.
To view the artifacts from the brewery district or to hear more about Kauffman and other local beer barons, sign up for a guided Brewing Heritage Trail tour through historic Over-The-Rhine in Cincinnati. Be sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn for our latest updates!
Cincinnati Enquirer June 17, 2019 - The soon-to-be-demolished smokestack of the former Hudepohl brewery in Queensgate has been a visible towering reference point to Cincinnati's brewing legacy. Parts of the brewery have been saved ahead of the planned 7 a.m. Sunday demolition on Father's Day.... MORE