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 Congress passed the 21st Amendment in February 1933, which repealed Prohibition.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 our new Tour Center located at 1939 Race Street in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati’s historic neighborhood or at our satellite location, the Moerlein Lager House House, located next to Great American Ballpark. 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.
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!