Until 1985, this building was home to the headquarters of Cincinnati's local Hudepohl Brewing Company.
The former brewery's imposing smokestack can be seen from many different areas of the city, even from club seats at Paul Brown Stadium (80 dollar seats for only 25 dollars thanks to the scalper out front). I didn't venture into the city's industrial Queensgate neighborhood until a cold Wednesday after work to see it up close for myself. 700 WLW had been reporting that it was about 15 degrees outside. Having forgot my coat at work, I walked about the building in a work t-shirt, snapping this photograph while Sherrif's deputies unloaded the few remaining prisoners from the now closed Queensgate Jail just a block down.
If you're from around here, you may have heard of or drank Hudepohl. If you're not from the Cincinnati area, Hudepohl probably isn't as common of a name as brands like Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch or Pabst. The reluctance of the company to stay local and not enter the national market is probably what lead to their demise, but Hudepohl was once one of many local Cincinnati breweries. Founded in 1885, Hudepohl thrived in Cincinnati, a city which at the time was home to a strong beer making tradition. The company survived Prohibition by offering non-alcoholic products and the beer was even selected by the U.S. War Department to be distributed as morale booster for American troops fighting in the Pacific Theatre. In 1946 construction was completed on a new manufacturing facility in the city's Queensgate neighborhood. Throughout the next few decades Hudepohl would compete for dominance over other local breweries in the area. As their local competitors began to close up shop due to the rise of national brands like Budwesier, Hudepohl expanded into the specialty beer market, but not the national market hoping to continue dominance over the Queen City.
Faced by ever increasing market competition from the larger national brands, Hudepohl celebrated it's centennial anniversary in 1985 by looking for a buyer. In 1986 the company was purchased by local competitor Schoenling Brewing Company. Schoenling continued to sell the Hudepohl brand and operate the Queensgate plant. In 1987 all production of Hudepohl and Schoenling brands were moved to Schenling's Central Parkway plant, leaving the Queensgate plant and it's smokestack bearing the Hudepohl name abandoned.
According to Kevin Lemaster of Building Cincinnati, the property eventually came under the ownership of Hudepohl Square LLC, a company planning to redevelop the property, although at this time definite plans remain unclear. A partial demolition of the brewery began in summer of 2007, but was halted and the former brewery fenced off with it's future uncertain.
It was Friday. Possibly the last day of exploring Cincinnati for awhile for me before I went back to school. Sherman and I met up for breakfast at 8 A.M. An early start, intending to make most of the day. Following our visit to the breakfast bar at Big Boy's we drove down Linn St., the smokestack of the abandoned brewery in the distance. Pulling up to the block we passed the now closed Queensgate Jail facility. We parked the car and took a look at the brewery, getting our cameras ready for an exploration. We noticed a man in a nearby truck taking a nap. Not wanting to startle him should he wake and see two photographers taking a tour of an abandoned brewery, we decided to come back later. An hour later he was awake, but just sitting there. Another hour passed, we came back, he was gone. The tour could now begin.
We stumbled over bricks, concrete and debris as we made our way through a field where part of the building once stood. Looking up at the building was like looking back to 1945 Berlin. The place was torn up, like it had been bombed by the liberating forces of the Allies.
The building had been severed in half, leaving two structures remaining as if they were two separate buildings. Through an archway at the bottom of one structure we found some stairs leading to the brewery basement, which featured cathedral like ceilings.
Within the stone confines of the basement, it was much colder than it had been outside. We could clearly see our breath as we had a look around. On the walls and floors were relics from those who used to work down here. Old phones and lanterns, even a time-punch clock that had been manufactured in Cincinnati:
Hallways leading away from the basement workshop gave way to dead ends and more rooms. In one room we came across and old keg and other equipment:
Then there was this door, marked "storage."
I opened the door and found the inside of the next room to be almost pitch black, even with light creeping in from the outside. Using a flashlight I did my best to see. Before I could even take a step forward into the darkness I noticed a large, gaping hole in the metal floor. The room looked like the sunken remains of the Titanic.
It was so dark that it took 30 seconds and a flashlight to even get an exposure on the camera bright enough to see what was inside. We assumed the large metal tank on the left to be a storage or fermenting tank that once held Hudepohl brand beer. We were anxious to see more of the place, but not anxious to die. We closed the door on the dark, vast "storage" room and went on to another section of the facility.
Crossing the field of debris again, we made our way over to the second structure. This was the shipping/receiving area where bright yellow Hudepohl trucks once pulled up to receive their shipments and prepare to make deliveries.
I assume this other section must have been some sort of warehouse. There wasn't anything in there that would hint it had been a brewery. This section of the building contained lawn equipment and just general junk. There were two interesting relics found inside though:
The above "Cat's Diggity Dog" vendor stand bore the University of Cincinnati emblem and the only relic of the Hudepohl brand we could find was found on a door inside the warehouse...
...a sticker bearing the logo of "Hudy Delight."
Due to the demolition and destruction of the brewery, access to the upper floors was cut off, which is a shame. I bet the top has an amazing view of the downtown skyline. We stood out on the shipping decks as the sun set, taking our last few pictures. This place had once been home to a company that dominated the Cincinnati beer market. Cincinnati had once been home to many local breweries, but like the Hudepohl Brewing Company Cincinnati's affair with beer production has faded with time. Although, there are still many breweries that produce their products here in Cincinnati. Today Hudepohl can still be bought as a specialty beer at places like Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, Ohio according to a 1999 Cincinnati Enquirer article and a friend who said he purchased some there.
The exploration of the Ruins of the Hudepohl Brewing Company was the first Queen City Discovery of 2009 and a great way to end my Christmas break. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for many more Queen City Discovery updates in the coming weeks!
Part 2: Climbing to the Top of Mt. Hudepohl - A followup article.