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Good luck finding a cold Hudy

It could be a long, thirsty summer for beer drinkers who want to quench their cravings with something from Hudepohl, a brand synonymous with Cincinnati’s brewing tradition.

Little Kings Cream Ale, Hudy Delight, Burger and Christian Moerlein beers have become very scarce as their Cleveland-based owner struggles with a financial reorganization. The brands have all but disappeared from retail shelves in most of Hamilton County and Northern Kentucky.

At numerous outlets this week, managers said they haven’t received new shipments of Hudepohl-Schoenling products in weeks or even months. Shelf space once reserved for those products has been turned over to competing brands.

Keller’s IGA store in Clifton hasn’t received any Hudepohl products in months and a manager said the store was told it wouldn’t be available. The store only had three six packs on the shelves on a recent visit.

Kevin Burton of City View Tavern in Mt. Adams said the bar’s distributor can no longer get Christian Moerlein, a Hudepohl product. The bar, which has three Cincinnati beers on tap, has only one keg of Moerlein left.

J.D. Willett, manager of Beer House Distributors in Newport, said he hasn’t gotten any beer at all from Hudepohl-Schoenling since March, and the brewery doesn’t even acknowledge his orders.

Hudepohl-Schoenling was the last of the large regional brewers from Cincinnati’s heyday as a brewing center. It sold the former Schoenling brewery on Central Parkway to Boston Beer Co. in 1996. The only other Cincinnati brand from that era still on the market is Wiedemann, which is now brewed in Pittsburgh.

Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co. and its parent company, Snyder International Brewing Group Inc., are now being run by a court-appointed receiver who’s negotiating with several parties interested in buying the operations. Snyder includes Hudepohl-Schoenling, Cleveland-based microbrewer Crooked River Brewing Co., and a majority stake in Frederick Brewing Co., a microbrewery in Frederick, Md. That’s where Christian Moerlein and Little Kings are brewed and Hudy Delight is bottled. Burger, Burger Light and Hudy Delight in cans are produced under contract by City Brewing Co. in LaCrosse, Wis.

Paul Abrams, former communications director for Hudepohl-Schoenling who left earlier this year, said the company’s Westwood office on Montana Avenue was vacated Friday.

Mark Dottore, a principal of Dottore Cos. in Cleveland, said Friday he is negotiating with four parties interested in buying the Snyder operations, which acquired Hudepohl-Schoenling in 1999. Dottore, a business turnaround specialist, is the acting CEO of Snyder.

Dottore said he expects to solicit final offers within 10 days. He did not identify the prospective buyers but did say that some of them were in the beer business.

Dottore said he was appointed receiver for Snyder in late January by the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Calls to Frederick Brewing Co. were referred to Dottore. Calls to Snyder were not returned.

"There will be Little Kings back on the shelves very quickly," Dottore said. "All the brands."

A legal dispute over the mold for the 7-ounce Little Kings bottles has prevented the company from bottling that particular package, he said, but it has other bottles and plenty of kegs.

"We’re alive. We’re brewing beer," he said.

The only place in town that seems to have a fresh supply of Hudepohl-Schoenling beer is Pessler Distributing Co. in Sayler Park, which only handles Hudepohl-Schoenling products and distributes them in western Hamilton County.

Mike Pessler said he received a shipment of draft and bottled beer this week from Frederick and has been told that he’ll get canned beer from Wisconsin in a couple weeks.

Willett of Beer House Distributors estimated that Hudepohl brands account for about 10 percent of his business — when he can get the beer. He’s convinced that someone will buy them and get them back on the shelves.

"Those are great brands. The staying power is unbelievable," he said. "It’s like a good piece of property. Somebody will pick it up and renovate it."

Officials at H. Dennert Distributing Co. in Cincinnati, which handles the brands in most of Hamilton County, could not be reached.

Jon Newberry

Cincinnati Post - 12 July 2003
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