This year’s Haunted Brewery Tour features clues about local beer baron John Kauffman. In 1880, brewer John Kauffman sent his brewmaster on a two-year journey through Europe where he brought back a secret recipe that allowed his brewery to become one of the most successful in Cincinnati. That secret recipe is locked away in a safe, and during the Haunted Tour, your goal is to survive your trip through the haunted brewery and solve the puzzles to figure out the combination. Your ghoulish tour guide will lead you through the historic Kauffman Brewery and current Christian Moerlein Brewery, including down to the very bowels of the building in cellars long ago abandoned.
To prepare to crack the safe during your interactive tour, we thought we’d give you a little history about Kauffman.
Kauffman Grows His Brand
John Kauffman was born in Lorraine, France in 1830 and immigrated to the United States when he was 15. He came to Cincinnati and started working for his uncle (also named John Kauffman) who owned the Franklin Brewery in Deer Creek. His uncle died in 1856 and Kauffmann bought the company with partners George Eichenlaub and Rudolph Reinboldt. He was only 26. He married George Eichenlaub’s daughter, Marianne, shortly after they bought the company.
In 1863, the company was renamed the Kauffman Brewery. By 1877, Eichenlaub and Reinboldt had both retired and Kauffman retained complete control of the company. He set out to expand his brand and to make a better beer than his competitors. He acquired information from some of the best brewers around the world and sent one of his master brewers on a two-year tour of breweries in Europe. He purchased some of the best raw ingredients available internationally by importing Bohemian malt and Sanzer Langot hops from Saaz, Bohemia.
Kauffman’s Marketing Genius
Kauffman was years ahead of his time when it came to marketing. In 1882, he began advertising for the company’s Bohemian beer before its release. Though it is common practice today to advertise before the release of a new product, this was unheard of back then. Kaufmann’s ad boasted of beer stored for seven months in “immense arched cellars,” kept at “near-freezing temperature” to deliver a “pale, mild pleasing beer” containing some of the “world’s finest ingredients.” Kaufmann also painted his beer barrels green so bar patrons could see the beer was on tap when they ordered. Because of his marketing ideas, sales for the company had increased by 12,000 barrels within the next year.
With his success came risk, however. With the success of his Bohemian beer in the green barrels, competitors in Milwaukee started imitating the green barrels for their inferior product called “Milwaukee Corn Beer.” Though Bavaria’s Reinheitsgebot (a strict food purity law) was not established in the United States, Cincinnati’s beer barons had a gentlemen’s agreement to follow its guidelines for brewing. The law restricts the contents of beer to water, barley malt, yeast and hops. Following this was considered a code of honor among Cincinnati’s German brewers. Kauffman ran an ad campaign against the Wisconsin brewery, accusing them of using corn and therefore was producing an inferior beer.
In January 1886, Kauffman returned home from Erie, Pennsylvania after attending a funeral. Thinking he only had caught a cold while on the trip, his health turned for the worse. He became very ill and he began coughing blood. He died on January 15, 1886.
Prohibition Ends an Era
Kauffman’s wife Marianne took over the operations of the company. 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. Like many other Cincinnati breweries, the company closed in 1919 with the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors.
The Haunted Brewery Tour: Can You Crack the Safe?
Get into the Halloween spirit again this year with beer, fear and fun with the Haunted Brewery Tour every Friday and Saturday during October. The first of its kind in the country, this tour connects you with the people, places and stories of the brewing industry. It also raises funds in support of the Brewery District Community Urban Development Corporation (BDCURC) along with the Brewing Heritage Trail. Co-partners of the Haunted Brewery Tour include Christian Moerlein Brewing, Escape Room Family and Cincinnati Landmark Productions.
Tickets and Tour Details
Tickets are available online at HauntedBreweryTour.com and cost $25 each. Use code BHTSAFE to save 20 percent off your tickets, but hurry. The best times and dates will be sold out soon.
All tours begin and end at the Christian Moerlein Malthouse tap room, located at 1621 Moore Street in Over-the-Rhine, 45202. There is limited street and private parking available adjacent to the tap room. We suggest parking in one of the public garages/lots located in Over-the-Rhine and walking to the brewery. Most garages are less than a 10-minute walk away. The tap room is also located next to a number of bus stops as well as two blocks away from the Cincinnati Bell Connector Streetcar’s Liberty Street station.