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- Garrison Hilliard
February 1, 2009, 1:48 pm
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Contributed by Andy Hemmer
Thursday, January 01, 2009
BRINGING HOME THE BRANDS: Cincinnati's Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. has
purchased Little Kings Cream Ale and folded the iconic Cincinnati brand into its
portfolio of historic, Cincinnati-born beers such as Christian Moerlein,
Hudepohl, Hudepohl 14K, Hudy Delight and Burger Beer. For more information,
please visit www.ChristianMoerlein.com.
Greg Hardman, the Cincinnati beer baron dedicated to returning the legacy of
Cincinnati’s brewing heritage to its former national glory, leaned back at his
desk after signing the papers.
“We finally did it. We have finally consolidated the ownership of some of
Cincinnati’s historic beer brands under a single, local owner,” said the owner
and CEO of Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. after his Dec. 30 purchase of Little
Kings Cream Ale.
With a flourish of Hardman’s signature, a flurry of faxes and legal papers,
Christian Moerlein Brewing Company added one of the biggest names in the long,
storied line of Cincinnati brewing brands with the purchase of Little Kings
Cream Ale. Little Kings has enjoyed a cult attraction amongst fans for years
with its green-bottled, seven-ounce frame, the brand that helped propel
Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co. to be one of the greatest regional brewers of
During its heyday, Hudepohl-Schoenling was a top 10 brewer nationwide in the
U.S. With a recent resurgence of “retro-brands” such as Pabst, the
Hudepohl-Schoenling brands are now positioned for rapid growth in the
Hardman, a graduate from Ohio University, has enjoyed a lengthy career in the
beverage industry, and is a man on a mission: to bring back the Cincinnati beer
brands that put the Queen City on the map more than a century ago.
Hardman cut his teeth with 25 years of industry experience and success, starting
with a beer distributor in Athens after graduating from OU, then proceeding to
18 years of success with the Warsteiner Importers Agency. After Warsteiner,
Hardman engineered the takeoff of one of the hottest selling craft beer brands
in the nation with Christian Moerlein, coupled with the recent re-release of
Hardman’s professional passion turned a new corner in March 2004 when he bought
Christian Moerlein and the right of first-refusal for the legendary
Hudepohl-Schoenling beers. Two years later, he bought Hudepohl 14K, Hudy Delight
and Burger. The Little Kings acquisition ends 2008 with a bang and closes the
loop with the corralling of the Hudepohl-Schoenling brands, coming full-circle
back into the portfolio and ownership of a Cincinnati beer company.
Underneath the Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. corporate umbrella, and in
conjunction with the Little Kings purchase, Hardman announced plans to establish
a Moerlein Lagers and Ales Craft Brand Division, which will only handle the
Moerlein hand-crafted brands of beer. A separate Hudepohl-Schoenling division
will handle Little Kings and Hudepohl.
WITNESS TO HISTORY, SPURRED BY A REVIVAL
During his employment at a local distributor in Athens, prior to joining
Warsteiner, Hardman was a first-person witness to one of the darkest days in
Cincinnati brewing history: when the doors were closed at the Hudepohl Brewing
Co. in Queensgate.
Hardman again was there in 1991 when Hudepohl-Schoenling sold the last remaining
brewery-related distribution facility to the local Coors distributor. He
literally saw some of the last bottles of Hudepohl roll down the line.
“It was emotional for all to watch, including the workers who were on the front
line of Cincinnati’s historic brewing tradition,” Hardman said. “That’s
something you never forget, to watch the heart and soul of a great regional
brewery torn from the city."
With the new year, however, comes a new life for Little Kings, and a
continuation of Cincinnati’s time-honored beer tradition.
“Our strategy with the return of Little Kings is the same thing that we’ve been
doing with the Moerlein Lagers and Ales the last four years, which is
repositioning the brands to make them relevant with today’s consumers, and to
brew great beer,” Hardman said. “With Little Kings, we are now poised to take
better advantage of the economies of scale that we now command and the entire
breadth and depth of a complete portfolio to become competitively engaged
throughout the marketplace.”
GRAND BRANDS: EXCITING NEW PLANS LOOM ON THE HORIZON
One example of recent success enjoyed by a sister brand: Since Hudy Delight was
released in November, sales have tripled. Hardman plans to announce similar
rollout plans for other brands in his portfolio as the details come together.
Bringing Little Kings into the Christian Moerlein family, as well as with the
other Hudepohl-Schoenling brands, is just the latest in Hardman’s major moves.
He has plenty in store over the next several years. “Stay tuned, we only have
just begun,” he said.
Hudepohl Brewing Co., now part of Moerlein, dates to 1885 when it was founded in
Over-the-Rhine. For more information, please visit www.ChristianMoerlein.com.
Mr. Hardman can be reached at ghardman@ChristianMoerlein.com.