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- Garrison Hilliard
September 8, 2009, 10:15 pm
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Business Courier of Cincinnati - by Jon Newberry Staff Reporter
Mark Bowen | Courier
Branrger, Wiedemann brands bringing the hops back home
Hello, old friendsds like Burger beer have built-in fan base with older drinkers
but also could benefit from retro trend
* Miller launching caffeinated malt beverage
* New Pittsburgh Brewing owners take charge
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* Moerlein debuts St. Patrickís Day beer
* Hudy Delight relaunches in cans
Long-thirsting fans of Wiedemann and Burger beer are due for some liquid relief,
as brewers of the two classic brands are separately getting ready to bring them
back to town.
Production of Wiedemann Bohemian Style Special Beer, the former flagship brand
of Newport's Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Co., is scheduled to resume next month at
Iron City Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh. The company emerged from the bankruptcy
reorganization of Pittsburgh Brewing Co. last month.
Both Wiedemann and Burger remained steady sellers as budget-priced beers long
after the Cincinnati area breweries that once made them had folded. Wiedemann
signs can still be found above the entrances to numerous bars and pony kegs in
Iron City last shipped Wiedemann in March before financial constraints forced it
to concentrate all of its resources on its core Pittsburgh brands.
Tony Ferraro, the brewery's vice president of sales, said the reintroduction of
Wiedemann is merely the first step. Next year it plans to upgrade the beer's
packaging - adding 12-ounce long-neck bottles, for example - to boost sales at
on-premise accounts such as restaurants and bars and begin to raise pricing out
of the budget beer category.
The company fell behind its intended schedule over the summer when it ran into
delays winding up bankruptcy proceedings and getting necessary licenses. It had
planned to begin brewing Wiedemann in July and have it back on the market in the
Cincinnati area by August. Now it's shooting for December.
It's Burger time
The company has finally emerged from bankruptcy as Iron City Brewing but is now
installing a new boiler, Ferraro said. The work will limit production for a few
weeks. It will begin brewing Wiedemann as soon as it refills the pipeline for
its Pittsburgh brands. Wiedemann is distributed only in the Cincinnati area.
In the meantime, Cincinnati's Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. is preparing to
bring back another classic Cincinnati brand that it acquired when it bought the
Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co. last spring. Burger beer hasn't been widely
available locally for a couple years.
Moerlein has talked with City Brewing Co. of La Crosse, Wis., which used to make
the beer for the brand's former owner. It's also considering a number of other
options, said Greg Hardman, Moerlein's owner and CEO.
Moerlein's first move with the Hudepohl-Schoenling brands was the reintroduction
of Hudy Delight, which is now sold in bottles and kegs. Once it gets a canning
line for Burger, it also could bring back Hudy Delight in cans, he said.
Another brand, Hudepohl 14K is yet another option, but the market for Burger is
larger geographically, and Burger would be sold in Minnesota, Wisconsin and
Illinois in addition to Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, he said.
"Burger and 14K are the ones I get pulverized over (by consumers). It could be
14K, as well," he said.
Hardman said a number of factors - including escalating prices for cans and
ingredients - conspired against his efforts to get Burger back on the market
this year, so now he's shooting for 2008.
"Commodity pricing has really hurt. Prices have jumped dramatically," he said.
In some ways, Wiedemann never left town.
At Jerry's Jug House in Newport, the sign says Wiedemann Fine Beer, but the
cooler has been empty for months. Once the word got around that it wasn't being
made anymore, somebody came in and cleaned them out. It's the beverage of choice
for some members of Newport's East Row Historic Foundation who often stop in
after monthly meetings.
Frank Cento, president of Heidelberg Distributing of Northern Kentucky (formerly
Z&S Distributing) in Covington, said he now has confirmed orders from the
Pittsburgh brewery for December delivery - but he also had confirmed orders for
November, October and just about every other month this year.
When it finally arrives, Cento doesn't anticipate much problem getting it back
on retailers' shelves.
"I'm not saying it's going to be easy. Shelf space is hard to come by. It's
always a fight," Cento said. "But it's a proven seller. I think they (retailers)
are probably getting calls for it left and right."
Cento bought Z&S Distributing in the late 1990s from two former Wiedemann
brewery managers who started the distribution business when the Wiedemann
brewery closed in 1983 and then-owner G. Heileman Brewing Co. shifted production
to its Evansville, Ind., brewery.
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