There are a lot of roads that lead from an idea, to a brewery that is open and pouring beer for Cincinnati Beer fans. The road for Wiedemann is a unique one, and one that has gone through more twists and turns even before the doors open than are easily kept track of. They broke ground this week on their new brewpub – but to really understand why this is so exciting, you’ve got to understand the long journey that has led not just thre Newberry’s (who own the brewery) – but the journey that brand itself has taken to get here.
The Wiedemann of Then
The Geo. Wiedemann brewing company was first founded in Newport, Kentucky back in 1870. George Wiedemann had been brewing for a few years across the river at Jacob Eichenlaub’s brewery in Walnut Hills, along with at some other breweries outside of Cincinnati before that.
When George Wiedemann joined up with John Butcher to operate the Jefferson Street Brewery – the brewery was pushing out a staggering 15 barrels a day. Fifteen. He quickly expanded the brewery using the knowledge he had been sucking into his brain at his previous ventures and in 1878 bought his partner out. Massive expansions continued – with malt houses, grain elevators, a new brewhouse and a bottling house leading up to 1890 when upon the death of George it had become the largest brewery in the state with a capacity of more than 100,000 bbls of beer.
The second generation took over brewery operations, and George Weidemann Jr didn’t show any signs of slowing up with expansion and modernization of the brewery. He was responsible for the popular W and eagle symbol that we are familiar with today when we think of the brand.
Prohibition hit hard for the brewing industry – but it only slowed Wiedemann up briefly when they were shut down in 1927 – there’s a story there for another time.
The brewery reopened in 1933 after prohibition, and went back to the growth that they were familiar with – with a capacity of almost a million barrels by 1967. Then the country entered into a phase of brewery consolidation that saw Wiedemann being sold to the G. Heilman Brewing Co of LaCrosse Wis. – which saw the down slide of the brand, the selling of the Newport Brewery and eventually in 2006, the company went bankrupt, ceasing all production of the brand. It was a sad end to what was once a proud Northern Kentucky institution.
The Wiedemann of Now
The brand’s disappearance was noticed by local beer enthusiast John Newberry, who’s love for Bohemian lagers made him long for something similar in Cincinnati. In 2011, with the new revival of brewing booming in Cincinnati, the Newberry’s decided to kick a plan into gear to bring Wiedemann back to this city. Purchasing the brand was only the start of what they wanted to do. It was about bringing a style to the people who didn’t know what they were missing, as well as bringing a brand that had a built in core of people who were already fans, back to their fridges.
Since that day, it’s been along and winding road like I mentioned before. The beer was first brought to Listermann Brewing Company who’s then head brewery Kevin Moreland helped develop a new recipe that would sit right in the sweet spot between the Wiedemann of then, and the Wiedemann of now. They contract brewed a few different recipes at Listermann, at Cellar Dweller and at some of the big ‘Out of State’ places that push out tons of contract beer.
The plan continued along though – a brewery in Cincinnati making the beer that George Wiedemann himself could be proud of was always front and center in their minds. They launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2016 with the goal of helping to raise some funding to prove to banks that there were people who wanted this project to happen.
The road kept winding…. the kickstarter was a success, raising more than 31,000 dollars from fans that wanted to see Wiedemann beer flowing once again. The Newberry’s found a perfect location in Newport, the home of Wiedemann. But the financing fell through… and they had to keep looking. A new location met the same fate, and setback after setback started making beer fans across Greater Cincinnati wonder if Widemann would ever get it’s day.
Then came St. Bernard.
The St. Bernard Brewpub
The neighborhood of St Bernard wanted beer. They had a building that would be perfect that they owned and more than happily sold to the Newberry’s so they’d have their location. Owning the building got the bankers to take another look at Wiedemann, and the green light was lit… finally!
With all long and winding roads – they lead somewhere. I’m not sure that anyone could have predicted that the road of a Northern Kentucky brand like Wiedemann would end up in St. Bernard… but it’s a welcome one for everyone involved. The building that will house the taproom is perfect for the atmosphere they are looking to create. It was built in 1921 and when it’s all completed the 4,000 square foot original space will house a taproom that feels like an old pub. There is a new addition going onto the back of the space that will house the brewery, as well as a kitchen that will serve food. A massive outdoor beer garden is on the plans for later down the road completing the picture of what Wiedemann is supposed to be!
The capacity of the current space will be at 5,000 bbls a year, but they have the potential to expand that to 10-12,000 bbls before they’ll need to start looking for production space (did someone mention NKY?)
The best part of all of this is that Wiedemann will finally be back in Cincinnati, and able to have a couple dozen beers in a full range of styles on tap – leaning towards easy drinking, sessionable beers. It’s the vision that’s been there all along – albeit the journey looked a little different than predicted.
Stay tuned – I’ll keep you updated as progress keeps happening!