Brewing in Cincinnati can be traced back to 1812 with The Embree Brewery, which was established by Davis Embree along the banks of the Ohio River. With the increased German population in the mid-1800’s, the city saw a rise in brewing and the number of breweries. At its peak, there were around 36 breweries in Cincinnati with production of over one million barrels of beer making Cincinnati the 3rd largest brewing operation in the country. With the start of prohibition in 1919 many of the breweries in Cincinnati closed their doors. Others tried to survive by producing near beer or malt beverages. With the end of prohibition in 1933 few breweries survived and several reopened. By 1973 only two breweries remained in Cincinnati and by 1986 the last major brewery in Cincinnati closed. The brewery landscape of today has changed quite a bit with the arrival of one national brand, the resurrection of one of the most popular breweries and name brands of yesterday, and several microbreweries as well as some handcrafted beers. There is also an active effort to preserve the history of brewing and the former brewery buildings in Over-The-Rhine and Cincinnati.
Leading the effort in preserving the history of Cincinnati brewing is the Over-The-Rhine Brewery District. This is done through events such as Bockfest and the Prohibition Resistance Tours. The mission of the Over-The Rhine Brewery district is to preserve the remaining brewery buildings and lead in redevelopment efforts in the community. The organization has created a master plan for the brewery district and will lead to many great things including the Brewing Heritage Trail. Similar to the Freedom Trail in Boston, the Brewing Heritage Trail will run through the Over-The-Rhine Brewery District past many of the old brewery structures and will tell the history of the brewing industry in the area.
The purpose of this tour is to highlight many of the remaining brewery buildings in the area and to provide an overview of the history surrounding these structures. This by no means is intended to be a detailed view of the brewing history of the area – there are people far more knowledgeable on the subject than me and many books have been written on this subject. This tour is more to give you the general idea of the brewing history in Cincinnati over time. For a more in depth view of the brewing history and to see many of the brewing structures close up I highly recommend taking the Prohibition Resistance Tour offered by the Over-The-Rhine Brewery District and checking out one of many books on the subject.