April 19, 2018
Just up the street from our Cincy Shirts store in Over-the-Rhine sits a part of Cincinnati brewing history. Taking Main Street over Liberty and veering on to McMicken takes you past Vine a few blocks to the site of the old Clyffside Brewery.
Brewing started on the site, 244 West McMicken to be precise, in 1845 when the Hamilton Brewery opened its doors. Founded by Johann Sohn and George Klotter, the brewery originally produced only about 275 barrels of beer per day but it grew steadily from there. In 1853 it was known as Klotter, Sohn & Company before Sohn bought out his partner in 1867. At the point, it became the J.G. Sohn Brewery. In 1900, Johann sold out to his brother William, who in turn sold the operation to Mohawk in 1907. Mohawk was best known for its Zincinnati Beer and was quite successful until Prohibition was introduced in 1920.
Many brewers went out of business, while others tried to keep their doors open by making so-called near beer, as well as other non-alcoholic beverages. Mohawk did this as well but also secretly brewed full-strength beer. That is until 1925, when federal agents raided the brewery, putting it out of business.
The facility sat empty until 1933 when Prohibition was repealed and Clyffside Brewery moved into the complex’s seven buildings. There they brewed Felsenbrau and Old Hickory Ale, among others, until 1945 when Red Top, who had also started in 1933, bought the operation.
Apart from its main brand, Red Top also brewed the Red Top Extra Dry and the popular 20 Grand Ale. They also had Barbarossa and later Wunderbrau. Sluggish sales forced the brewery to close in 1957. It was the last company, until recently, to brew in Over-the-Rhine.
The building sat empty for many years after that before being purchased by a church and later a developer who had plans on turning the space into lofts, but that fell through. In 2010, the oldest building on the grounds, constructed in 1845, collapsed. However, the rest of the structures are in good shape, including the main building.
In 2019, though, brewing is slated to return to the site with the opening of Rebel Mettle Brewing. The $17 million project recently confirmed financing and construction is due to start in July of 2018 according to Rebel Mettle CEO Mike Brown. The brewery and beer hall will occupy the first two floors of the main structure, built in 1887, with the above floors featuring reception rooms for corporate meetings, wedding receptions, and other events.
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