Wiedemann Brewing Co. toasts its robust rebirth

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It’s the kind of product launch most entrepreneurs can only dream

Wiedemann’s Special Lager went from four to 300 locations in one year,
and on the anniversary of the rebirth of the Geo. Wiedemann Brewing
Co., its owners are promising an even bigger future for the beer.

Jon and Betsy Newberry said they will start looking for a location in
Newport that would be suitable for brewing -- first on a small scale
producing kegs, eventually expanding to include a bottling facility.

“From the start, that was our intention,” said Jon Newberry, co-owner
with his wife of the new Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Co.

The original Wiedemann was founded in Newport in 1870 and enjoyed a
long brewing history at Sixth and Columbia streets. The facility was
family owned by George Wiedemann’s descendants until the 1960s, when
the family sold it to Wisconsin-based Heileman Brewing Co.

The Newport brewery produced more than a million barrels of beer in a
year and in its height employed about 800 people, Newberry said, but
it closed in 1983. The Wiedemann name was sold and production moved to
the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. until 2007, when the name was was dropped.

The Newberrys hosted a Wiedemann’s Special Lager ceremonial
keg-tapping last year at Pompilios in Newport. There, they introduced
their lager – different from the original Wiedemann’s beer.

Rick Wagner, a great-great grandson of George Wiedemann, tapped the
beer and has been watching the resurgence of the family name in beer
ever since.

He will be at a first anniversary celebration at 5 p.m. Friday, again
at Pompilios. The Italian restaurant’s bar came from the original
Wiedemann brewing facility.

“They’ve done a remarkable job,” said Wagner, of East Walnut Hills.
“The whole family is cheering for them. It’s great that they’ve
resurrected the brand.”

The Newberrys recently opened an office at Sixth and York streets, and
Jon Newberry said they hope to start brewing in the city in 2014,
although he hasn’t yet worked out details.

“We plan to begin brewing again in Newport, hopefully getting underway
next year, although we do not have a site yet,” Newberry said.

“We’ll probably start off doing draft beer in Newport and then add a
bottling facility as volume picks up.”

Don Tolzmann, president of the German-American Citizens League of
Greater Cincinnati, sees the Newberrys’ plan as an exciting historical
venture. “I think if they open a brew pub in Newport it would be the
continuation of such a great tradition of brewing,” Tolzmann said. “It
would be a big hit.”

Jon Newberry said his concept is a brewery with a tap room, where
people could stop in and enjoy the beer, but he is not inclined to go
with a full-scale restaurant or bar because it could take away from
local taverns’ and restaurants’ sales of Wiedemann‘s Special Lager.

When the Newberrys’ venture started last year, their beer was
available only in draft and served at four local businesses.

Coaches Corner on Sixth Street in Newport was one.

“People like it – especially the people that remember it from the last
time around,” said Midge Brewer, who owns the restaurant and bar with
her husband, Terry Brewer. “The young kids are liking it, too.”

Listermann Brewing Co. in Cincinnati originally brewed Wiedemann’s
Special Lager, and Newberry credits its owners with helping him come
up with a new recipe for a fine Bohemian beer.

Fast forward to this year: About 300 locations – grocery stores,
restaurants and taverns – across the region are selling Wiedemann’s
Special Lager.

Since May, the beer has made its way across the river, where it is
available at 186 of those locations, Newberry said.

Wiedemann’s Special Lager has been brewed and bottled by Stevens Point
Brewery in Stevens Point, Wis., since December. Listermann Brewing Co.
continues to brew other Wiedemann beers. The latest craft beers are
Wiedemann’s Royal and Wiedemann’s Oktoberfest.

Rich Ritchie, owner of Herb & Thelma’s Tavern in Covington and an
expert on Wiedemann Brewery history, said the new Wiedemann and the
old have little in common in taste, but he’s OK with that.

“I drink the new beer. It’s a craft brew now. It used to be a working
man’s beer,” Ritchie said. “I admire these people doing it – a
new-generation beer, catered to the America of today.”

Newberry, a long-time business reporter in the area and fan of
Wiedemann and Bohemian beer, jumped at the chance to restore the beer
after learning the Wiedemann trademark was available.

Danny Gold, buyer of craft beer for Party Source in Bellevue, sees the
new Wiedemann going a long way – literally. “We’ve had great success
with it, right from the start,” he said. People lined up at Party
Source the first day Wiedemann’s Special Lager arrived on a truck and
waited for staff to unload it and put it on the shelf to be sold.

“That was a fun and neat response,” Gold said.

Party Source also ships beer, and Gold said Wiedemann’s Special Lager
is popular outside the region.

“We’ve shipped it all the way to Washington state,” he said


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