Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer

Beer.

Beer.

Thank God for beer.

It’s my way of keeping,

my mind fresh and clear —

These are the words to a song my cousin Vance wrote and produced in the 80’s for Cincinnati radio’s WEBN song contest. He was one of the winners, not surprisingly. Because if there’s one thing Cincinnatians love (besides pigs), it’s beer.

We are a town built on German heritage and a large part of that heritage revolves around lager. German lager. Hearty, substantial, Deutsch-born lager. In addition to the pork industry, Cincinnati was a brewing giant in America, with 32 breweries in the city, employing 30-40,000 people in what’s known as Over-the-Rhine. Even the name Over-the-Rhine (which yes-inspired the name of the band) was named so because of beer. The area got its name because some local residents said that crossing over the area canals into the brewery district was like crossing the Rhine River into Germany.

A view of the Over-the-Rhine district. You can see the German influence on its architecture.

I knew some of this from growing up in Cincinnati, but learned even more when I took American Legacy Tours’ Underground Cincinnati tour. I had no idea that there were approximately 100 beer tunnels beneath the streets I’d walked on all my life. I was dying to go down and see one for myself.

Inside the tunnels on the Underground Cincinnati Tour.

They looked much like the bomb shelter  I explored in Manchester, England; the same shape and atmosphere. But the tunnels beneath Cincinnati weren’t used to save lives. They were used to make and store beer. Or maybe they were used to save lives — a German beer city needed its beer. We thrived on it and eventually suffered as the breweries came under attack during Prohibition. That terrible time in history nearly brought Cincinnati to its knees.

We weren’t just beer brewers; we were beer drinkers! An estimated 40-gallons-per-man-woman-and-child-kind-of-drinkers. Making that illegal had to hurt.

And it did.

Long established breweries such as Christian Moerlein, Muhlhauser, and Burger Beer suffered. Others switched to root beer to stay afloat. Some, like Hudepohl and Little Kings, did eventually survive. Cincinnatians are as hearty as their beer.

Now there’s a resurgence in Cincinnati brews. Christian Moerlein just opened again in downtown Cincinnati. Other breweries plan to come back. We’re celebrating our heritage and resurrecting it again. If you’re in Cincinnati and you take the Underground Tour, I’d definitely plan to make a stop afterward to taste the beer. According to my cousin, it keeps the “mind fresh and clear.” And keeps Cincinnati breweries in business. 🙂

13 responses to “Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer

    • Now this is pure speculation at this point, but there was some talk on the tour about adding a bar or at least a small drinking spot down in the tunnels. (Cincinnati beer, of course.) But the problem is restrooms. They can’t have a drinking establishment without restrooms.

    • I guess I never thought about it before. Maybe Ohio does seem like a strange place. Maybe not. I’m not sure whether the location of a brewery has much effect. But I’ll tell you this (which surprised me), we have wineries nearby, too!

  1. Just like you, I’m a beer girl. All of my friends drink wine, and while they’re staring at the ceiling at 2:00 a.m. from a huge sugar rush, my carbs have pushed me into a deep, long sleep. =)

  2. Yay for beer! Living in Milwaukee has turned me into an expert. My girlfriends in other states are like…huh? I always say, “You haven’t had any good beer yet. That’s why you think you don’t like it.” These beer tunnels look neat!

    • Apparently, Cincinnati used to rival Milwaukee as far as brewery towns. I didn’t like beer much when I was younger, but now that I’ve had better beer, it’s definitely become more of a drink of choice.

  3. Pingback: Kentucky Gangsters | Browsing The Atlas·

  4. I may have contacted you before. I loved your cousin’s song. I went to DePauw in Indiana and one of the girls on my floor freshman year had the WEBN ‘album’ with “The Beer Song” on it. Now 36 years later I can still sing the whole song including the beer can opening sound at the end. At one point I had found a recording of the song on the internet. I have since lost the website. Any idea where I could find it again. My version is good but his recording was awesome. Any help you could give would be great.

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