Growing Companies

At one time - more than 150 years ago - Christian Moerlein was a top Cincinnati brewer, brewing the only local beer that was good enough to be exported to Europe.

The brewery thrived and survived even after its namesake's death in 1897. It wasn't able, however, to survive the death of legal alcohol sales during prohibition, becoming one of the period's many casualties.

But many years later, in 1981, the company came back, on the cutting edge of brewing the small-batch craft beers that have become common over the past three decades, but it never achieved its former successes. Enter the latest company owner, Greg Hardman, who is slowly bringing the company back even closer to its roots, buying the former Husman potato chip factory in Over-the-Rhine and re-introducing brewing to the neighborhood. The new Moerlein site is a beer spit away from the original brewery on Elm Street.

"This is where the heritage is, and this is where our namesake comes from," said Hardman, who bought Christian Moerlein in 2004. "We wanted to bring Christian Moerlein back to the neighborhood where he began his brewing career."

Hardman said the company is already brewing Arnold's 1861 Porter on the site - a tribute not only to Moerlein but to nearby Arnold's Bar and Grill, the oldest tavern in the city. Hardman said he is making plans to expand and update the brewery to allow it to brew more beers and ales - "high-end, boutique beers under the Moerlein name," he said. He also hopes to return to brewing beers and ales of other Cincinnati brands that he now owns - including Hudepohl and Burger Beer.

Other plans include an event center on Moore Street to showcase the area's brewing heritage and its historical significance to the city. Hardman said he wants to move the company's corporate headquarters, now in Middletown, back to the old neighborhood.

All that, he hopes, will help complement the opening of the Moerlein Lager House in the downtown Banks development scheduled to open this fall.

"We're bringing back Cincinnati's grand brewing tradition and rescuing Cincinnati's great heritage brands," he said. "It's a great day in Cincinnati when we can bring the great heritage brands back to their rightful position."

And for those who imbibe perhaps a wee bit too many of the lagers and ales and need to run it off, Hardman is also bringing back another lost Cincinnati tradition - the Hudepohl 14K Brewery Run. The 14 kilometers (8.68 miles) race is a reincarnation of the Hudepohl Brewery Run that has faded from the local race scene. The revived race is scheduled for Sept. 17, which, not coincidentally, is the opening of Oktoberfest in Cincinnati.

The race will begin and end at the Moerlein brewery, and track through Over-the-Rhine and past the riverfront, Great American Ballpark, and through the Banks development. Along the way, runners will pass more than two dozen former breweries that made their mark on Cincinnati at the turn of the century.

By Paul Long
Source: Greg Hardman, owner, Christian Moerlein
Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.
1621 Moore St.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202