There has long been a debate about who had the first brewery in Cincinnati – and for the sake of history, it’s important to know, I suppose – but the lack of records before a certain time period makes it really difficult for us to actually nail it down. A lot of folks have stated that Davis Embree was the first (his brewery opened in 1811) – and Michael D Morgan makes a great point in his 2019 book ‘Cincinnati Beer’ that it could have been two folks named Symmes and Williams that hold the title. However, it bears noting that James Dover is certainly in the running as being one of the possible contenders for “first” – and is stated as being first by a lot of people.

Here’s what we know about Dover:

  1. In 1805 the city’s directory listed two people as brewers.  One of those was most likely Dover, but the other is still a mystery.
  2. The only reason we’re assuming that Dover was one of those two brewers is based off an add that he placed in 1806 in the Liberty Hall that he was looking for supplies.  These supplies look suspiciously like those that one would use to make beer.  He was looking for:
    • 500 Pounds of Hops
    • 1,000 Bushels of Barley
    • 1,000 Gallons of Honey

So – was he the first?  We don’t really know. Like I stated before, Michael D Morgan makes a great point in his book for Symmes and Williams… and he also points out that if we want to look towards Northern Kentucky it gets even more complicated with James Smith operating a brewery in 1798.


  • Opened in 1806
  • Closed around 1811