Today is the birthday of Wilhelm Ferdinand Riedlin (November 20, 1850-February 19, 1919). He was born in either Vögisheim or Mulheim, Baden, Germany, and emigrated to the United States in June of 1870. He bought into the Bavarian Brewing Co. of Covington, Kentucky in 1882, and eventually became the sole owner. Riedlin died as prohibition began, but the brewery reopened after repeal, although not until 1935, by one of Riedlin’s son-in-laws and the family retained ownership until 1959, when they sold the business to International Breweries Inc., who finally closed the brewery for good in 1966.
This short account of his life is from Find-a-Grave:
He was a very active resident of Covington, KY.
-In his early career, he was a blacksmith, a trade he brought to the US, having learned from his father.
-In 1877, he opened a grocery store, and shortly after established Tivoli Hall Saloon and Beer Garden
-He was the President and owner of the Bavarian Brewing Company by 1882. During prohibition, the Brewing Company manufactured ice and soft drinks.
-He was an active member of the City Legislature and the Covington Elks.
-The director of the Gernan National Bank and Covington Sawmill
-A member and the President of the German Pioneer Society and the Covington Turner Society
-The treasurer of the Baden Benevolent Society
-The President of the Covington Coal Company
-A major stockholder in the Ludlow Lagoon Amusement Park
In 1877, he married Matilda Emma Hoffman. The two made their home at 917 Main Street, Covington KY. Current day, this is now his historic residence, being occupied by a funeral home, the Covington Chapel.
William and Emma had nine children: Carl, Charles, Emma, William Jr, Anna Maria, Edward, Walter F, Lucia and A.K.
And this history of the brewery is from “The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky,” edited by Paul A. Tenkotte, James C. Claypool:
The Wikipedia page for the Bavarian Brewing Co. mentions Riedlin, of course, and his contributions to the success of the business, eventually becoming sole owner.
After the brewery was established as DeGlow & Co., new ownership interests within just a couple of years resulted in several changes to its name beginning in 1868, including DeGlow, Best & Renner. However, in 1873, it was established as the Bavarian Brewery Co. Over the next several years the brewery operated under this name, but ownership interests varied. John Meyer obtained controlling interest and the brewery operated under his name for a short time, starting in 1879. Then in 1882, a German immigrant named William Riedlin, who established a saloon and beer hall called Tivoli Hall in the Over The Rhine area of Cincinnati, entered into partnership with John Meyer. It operated as the Meyer-Riedlin Brewery before Riedlin purchased a controlling interest in the brewery from Meyer, incorporated the business under its former name and became president in 1889.
A number of changes were made to the facility during Riedlin’s tenure including the brewery’s first bottling plant built in 1892. Key bottling innovations including the crown bottle cap and pasteurization increased the shelf life of beer, enabling it to be distributed to a much wider area. Besides Bavarian Beer, the company also offered Riedlin Select Beer. By 1914 the annual beer production was 216,000 barrels, increasing from only 7,341 barrels in 1870, and it became the largest brewery in the state.
Operations expanded from the original location on Pike street to include several structures on the property between Pike Street and 12th Street. The main structure, which essentially remains today, was a four story 175 by 125 foot edifice that opened in January, 1906, serving as both the stock and wash houses. An ice house that manufactured 200,000 pounds of ice daily, and that included a couple of ponds, was adjacent to the brewery. The total land area comprised six and one-half-acres. Ice was used in the lager fermentation process before refrigeration became available and it was also sold to the public.
Beer production was abruptly halted shortly before the introduction of Prohibition in 1918. To prevent a complete closure of the brewery, arrangements were made to bottle non-alcoholic beverages under the name The William Riedlin Beverage Company. However, William Riedlin died in early 1919, several months before Prohibition was officially passed by Congress. His son, William Riedlin, Jr., died within a couple months after his father aged 37. He had previously been a Vice President of the brewery and briefly in charge of the Beverage Company. Shortly after the deaths of the father and son the brewery property was closed – for some fifteen years.
The Kenton County Public Library also has a history of the Bavarian Brewery, and Riedlin’s involvement is discussed.
Bavarian Brewery can be traced back to the year 1866 when Julius Deglow and Charles L. Best began operating a small brewery on Pike Street in Lewisburg. In 1869, the brewery officially became known as Bavarian. William Riedlin and John Meyer were the next owners of the brewery. They purchased Bavarian in 1882. Seven years later, Riedlin became the sole owner. Anton Ruh was hired as the brew master.
Under William Reidlin’s ownership, Bavarian Brewer expanded rapidly. The first bottling plant at Bavarian was built in 1892 and was replaced in 1903. This two-story structure was modern in every detail and measured 46’ x 188’. At this same time a new stable was constructed to house the many horses needed to pull delivery wagons. A new four-story warehouse followed in 1905. By 1914, Bavarian Brewery was the largest such enterprise in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The brewery occupied a 6 ½ ace site on Pike Street and was producing 216,000 barrels of beer each year.
Bavarian continued to prosper until the era of Prohibition. In 1919 production at the plant shifted from beer to soft drinks. In 1925, the icehouse was sold to Joseph and Ferdinand Ruh who incorporated as the Kenton Ice Company. Bavarian re-opened in 1935. Over three thousand guests attended the grand opening. The officers at this time were: Murray L. Vorhees, Fred C. Faller, and Leslie S. Deglow. Three years later, William Riedlin’s four grandsons purchased the business for $55,000. Sales rose throughout the 1930s.