The History Of Christian Moerlein
Enjoying craft beer really isn’t a new thing when you think about it. For hundreds of years, people drank locally made, high quality beer – they just didn’t call it craft beer. Then prohibition forced breweries to close and changed everything. After prohibition ended, we experienced decades of bland light lagers. Christian Moerlein is one of those brands that was forced to close.
However, it didn’t close forever and has seen a couple rebirths along the way.
Learn how this brand and other Cincinnati breweries are being cultivated in today’s craft beer world.
It’s time to learn about a legend in the early American beer world and the legacy that is being reclaimed.
Beer was brought to the USA by immigrants; primarily from Europe. That region of the world had been producing beer for centuries and it was an intricate part of their culture.
They brought that culture with them and began brewing beer wherever they landed.
This is exactly how Christian Moerlein began brewing in Cincinnati.
Christian Moerlein was from Truppach, Bavaria. Born there in 1818, he didn’t move to the USA until 1841. Once in the USA, he settled in the Over The Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati.
It was called Over The Rhine because many crossed the Miami and Erie Canal to get into downtown Cincinnati. The canal was nicknamed “the Rhine” in reference to the river Rhine in Germany. In German it was called, uber dem Rhein.
As a 23 year old, he became an apprentice brewer and blacksmith. This would lead him to open Christian Moerlein Brewing Company in 1853.
In the first 10 years of brewing, he went from 1,000 to 26,000 barrels of beer. This made him the prominent brewer in the city of Cincinnati.
Christian Moerlein beer was shipped across the country and even internationally.
By the late 1800’s, there were 17 breweries in the area near Over The Rhine of which Christian Moerlein was a critical part.
In 1897, Christian Moerlein passed away but the brewery continued to operate until 1919 when it closed due to prohibition.
Moerlein was a critical piece in the beer world of his time and making Cincinnati a top producer of beer for the nation.
Following prohibition, Christian Moerlein Brewing Company did not re-open.
It wasn’t until 1981 that the brand was reintroduced by the Hudepohl Brewing Company. Hudepohl was a Cincinnati brewery and they launched the Christian Moerlein Select Lager.
This was the first reintroduction of the Moerlein brand and helped Hudepohl enter the premium beer market.
Christian Moerlein, Hudepohl and many other Cincinnati brewing brands and recipes changed hands many times in the late 1990’s.
This led to the Moerlein brewing being moved outside of Cincinnati.
But this didn’t last long because in 2004, Greg Hardman, a Cincinnati resident, purchased the rights to the Christian Moerlein brand and recipes with the intention of moving it back to Cincinnati. Over the next five years, Hardman acquired the rights to over 65 historical Cincinnati brewing brands including Hudepohl, Little Kings and Burger.
The legacy of Christian Moerlein has returned to the city where it all started and by 2010 all brewing was taking place in Cincinnati once again.
This brand has had quite the journey as it helped make history in Cincinnati and has now returned to help drive the craft beer industry into the future.
Related Article: Why Lagers Are The Next Big Thing In Craft Beer
What Does The Future Hold?
I often wonder what it would have been like to live during the late 1800’s. The beer culture in Cincinnati was the strongest it had ever been.
But we’ve got it pretty good these days too as the area will soon have nearly 50 breweries.
And Christian Moerlein is a part of today’s beer scene just like it was over 100 years ago. It’s role is a little different now. The company now represents so much of Cincinnati’s brewery history that I think they are often looked over as a craft brewery.
But the reality is they are just as much a modern brewery as they are a traditional. Producing great lagers year round, they hold tight onto their past. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying the craft beer movement. They offer IPAs, fruited wheat beers, and have moved to canning most of the beer they produce.
In addition, they operate one of the best places to grab a bite in downtown Cincinnati. The Moerlein Lager House is a brewpub ideally situated in The Banks development with an amazing view of the Ohio River.
They are balancing the past and present in a way that I know will help make them successful in the future. If you haven’t given them a look recently, visit their Malt House in Over The Rhine or The Lager House in The Banks.
What’s Your Favorite Christian Moerlein Beer?