How a French Immigrant Built an American Beer Company

The Brewing Heritage Trail is proud to highlight Cincinnati’s rich brewing history through guided tours, and by sharing stories of local brewers. In this post, we’ll share some information about one of Cincinnati’s original beer barons, John Kauffman, and the story of the John Kauffman Brewing Company.

John Kauffman
John Kauffman was born in Lorraine, France on February 10, 1830. He immigrated to the United States and came to Cincinnati when he was just 15 years old. He started working for his uncle (also named John Kauffman) who owned the Franklin Brewery in Deer Creek, which opened in 1844. His uncle died in 1856. Kauffmann, then age 26, bought the company and expanded production. He married Marianne Eichenlaub shortly after buying the company.
In 1856, Kauffmann, George F. Eichenlaub and Rudolph Rheinboldt purchased the Franklin Brewery on Lebanon Road near Deer Creek from Kauffman’s aunt and named it Kauffman & Company. In 1859, they bought the F. & J.A. Linck Brewery at Back and McMicken streets and sold it to Christian Boss for the Gambrinus Stock Company Brewery. In 1860, they also bought the Schneider Grist Mill on Walnut Street near McMicken Avenue.
Cincinnati’s brewing industry was primarily located along McMicken Avenue and the Miami & Erie Canal, which is now part of today’s Over-the-Rhine Brewery District. By 1866, Kauffman Brewing Company along with Jackson, J.G. & Sons and Christian Moerlein, John Hauck and Windisch-Mulhauser brewing companies were all located in the area. Between 1875-1900, more than 18 breweries were located in Over-the-Rhine and West End.
By 1861, the company was producing 1,000 barrels annually. By 1871, Kauffman was the fourth largest brewery in Cincinnati with sales of $30,390 and producing 25,000 barrels annually. In 1876, an employee dormitory was built and in 1877, production increased to 50,000 barrels.

Expanding to meet national demand
In 1863, the company was renamed Kauffman Brewery. Eichenlaub retired from the business in 1865 and Rheinboldt retired in 1875. George Weidemann was a master brewer at Kauffman before leaving to start his own company in 1870. Kauffman’s son John studied brewing in Augsburg, Germany and joined the company along with Emil Schmidt, his son-in-law, who became his superintendent of operations in 1877.
By 1882, the company was incorporated as John Kauffman Brewing Company with paid-in capital of $700,000 and a new brewery was built in 1888 at 1622 Vine Street. The company’s main office was also constructed at 1625 Vine Street and the Kauffman family residence at 1627 Vine.
By 1890, production expanded to 55,000 barrels and peaked in 1894 at 70,000. The brewery plant covered five acres of land and its malt house held 150,000 bushels of barley. Kauffman was sold in the Nashville, Montgomery, Atlanta, Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans markets. By 1913, the company produced several beers including “Gilt Edge,” “Columbia” and “Old Lager” beers.

Prohibition forces closure
Kauffman passed away in 1892 and his wife Marianne became president and took over operations. The company closed in 1919 when the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors, was adopted.
To view the artifacts from the brewery district or to hear more about Kauffman and other local beer barons, sign up for a guided Brewing Heritage Trail tour through historic Over-The-Rhine in Cincinnati. Be sure to check us out on FacebookTwitterInstagram or LinkedIn for our latest updates!

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