George Wiedemann Brewery

George Wiedemann Brewery

Jefferson Street Brewery was started by John Butcher in 1866.  He ran a dry goods store in Newport, and took its name from its location at 4 and 6 Jefferson Street. On August 8, 1870 he took on a young partner from Saxony named George Wiedemann and the firm became Butcher and Wiedemann.  They employed 17 people and produced about 3500 barrels of beer a year.

Wiedemann was born in Germany in 1833 and came to the United States when he was 13 years old.  He worked for a short time at a brewery in Williamsburg, New York and later for another at Louisville, before moving to Cincinnati at the age of 15, where he worked for the Ohio Brewery in Walnut Hills.  He worked his way up through the company as a beer driver and foreman before going into business in Newport.

Wiedemann enabled Butcher's business to expand by establishing a reputation for "strict integrity, modest demeanor and close attention to business."  His lager won legions of loyal customers because he used the best malts and hops, and prepared them in the finest German tradition.  Wiedemann bought out Butcher's interest for $28,000 on September 24, 1878 so that Butcher could retire.  Butcher purchased the Newport Brewery at Monmouth and Liberty from Peter Constans in 1879 and in 1882 sold it to Weidemann.  Wiedemann incorporated these interests as The George Wiedemann Brewing Company on March 17, 1890.

It was Wiedemann's genius that designed and built one of the world's largest and most efficient breweries, with a plant covering five acres at 6th and Columbia in the 1880s.  His brew house rose five stories, contained two complete brewing outfits that fed off a 300-barrel copper brew-kettle, and used the best steel and copper for its tanks and pipes.  It had total annual capacity of 80,000 gallons.  Towering over the boiler-house was a 130 foot chimney.  The above ground ice cellar utilized a 50 ton refrigerating machine and could chill 20,000 barrels.  In 1885 he built a five story malt house at Monmouth and Liberty, whose eight steel tanks held capacity for 175,000 bushels and a grain elevator with capacity of 150,000 bushels.

The company's Standard Lager, Extra Pale Lager and Muechener beers retailed widely in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee by 1889.  By the time of his death at age 57 on May 25, 1890, he had established the firm solid enough to survive a fire at the malt house that resulted in losses of $80,000.  Wiedemann's would emerge as the largest brewery south of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi after 1900.  Supplying its customers eventually required a stable of 150 horses.

In 1946 Wiedemann's installed the first stainless-steel fermenting tanks west of Pittsburgh and bought the largest steel fermenting tanks owned by a local brewer in 1956.  The company's capacity stood at 900,000 barrels annually and its sales totaled $20 million by 1967.  But on August 1, 1967 Wiedemann's independence ended when its President Richard E Wagner and the shareholders sold it to G Heileman Brewing Co. of LaCrosse Wisconsin.

  Heileman eventually concluded that its Newport operations were no longer cost effective and began closing the brewery down in May 1983.

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