Across the country, as midnight approached on Friday, January 16, 1920, Americans either gathered to give thanks in prayer for Prohibition, which went into effect on January 17, 1920, or headed for one last legal sip.
Lima, in the grip of snowy and unpleasant weather, did little to mark the end of legal alcohol either.
“Members of the various temperance unions were unable to attend the parties which had been scheduled for last night due to bad weather,” wrote the Republican-Gazette of Lima on January 17, 1920.
Lodges and clubs in the city, “which had taken advantage of their private ‘nips’, quietly prepared for the day by “removing their private stocks from their homes yesterday”, the newspaper added, noting that the law “puts cautions against maintaining private stocks in clubs”. , hotels or similar places unless the individual lucky enough to own them establishes his domicile in the same place”.
At the Lima library, employees in the days leading up to Jan. 17 kept tabs on a cookbook. The book, the Republican-Gazette explained, “contains a recipe for making grain alcohol, and it’s been around so often over the past few months that there’s a danger someone will get into it. permanently attached, they say”.
A Lima industry with more than a passing interest in prohibition had been planning for a year.
“What divestiture will be made of the Lima Brewing Company plant when the Prohibition Act takes effect was discussed at the company’s annual directors’ meeting. No final decision has been made,” the Republican-Gazette wrote on January 29, 1919, about a year before the law took effect. “The suggestion to turn the plant over to ice making was widely approved, as the plant is already equipped with two large ice machines. The manufacture of soft drinks or the making of ice cream were also offered.
The brewery was born from the dream of Austrian immigrant Michael Wolf, who came to Lima in 1852 and established a brewery on the banks of the Ottawa River, on the south side of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad. Wolf’s son, Joseph, and a man named John Reeder were also involved in the operation. In 1865 Joseph Wolf married Mary Zimmerman and for a time operated a brewery in Kenton, while his father continued to operate the brewery in Lima.
Joseph Wolf eventually went into business with his brothers-in-law, Adam Zimmerman Jr., a brewer, Michael Zimmerman, Lewis Zimmerman, and Harry Zimmerman. In 1878, Joseph Wolf returned to Lima with his associates, took over his father’s old brewery, and founded the Lima Brewery, also known as the Lima Bottling Works.
Lewis Zimmerman eventually became the driving force behind the business, and after his death in 1890 the brewery was sold in 1891 to Dietrich Brewing Co., with Harry Zimmerman remaining as vice-president. Later that same year Frank Dietrich sold himself to John Kunzleman, although he too remained with the brewery.
“At the next meeting (of shareholders),” reported the Lima Daily Times in September 1891, “the name of the company will be changed, probably to ‘Lima Brewing Company.’ A large team of carpenters are now engaged inside the brewery, remodeling and improving much of it.
Improved or not, the brewery went into receivership again in 1894. A March 1894 legal advertisement in the Lima Times-Democrat announced that it would be disposed of at the sheriff’s sale.
“For the next 30 days, I offer for sale, by order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allen County, Ohio, free of encumbrance, the entire plant of the Lima Brewing Company, valued at 27,255, $66 Appraisal includes some 1,300 barrels of premium beer in stock,” according to the announcement.
The brewery was soon under the management of Henry Frueh and Charley Wilhelmy, who had arrived six months earlier with 26 years of brewing experience in Vienna and Munich. By 1897 Frueh was working with Gustave Spannagel, another German brewer, and the business was now known as Quilna Brewery.
“This industry has been led for many years by Henry Frueh and Gus Spannagel and a few months ago Mr. Frank Sieber became a partner in the business,” wrote The Lima News in February 1899. so he can be considered an almost entirely new plant. Spacious and substantial buildings have been erected in which are placed new boilers, mash-kettles, mash-vats, and other machinery and apparatus of the most modern mark known to human art.
On January 1, 1902, the brewery also received a new/old name when it was incorporated as the Lima Brewing Company. The brewery manufactured four brands, Prosit, Gold Schild Brau, Malt Extract and Special Export.
All, a September 1906 ad in the Times-Democrat suggested, were good for you. “Lima beer, taken with your food, will aid digestion. Those who use it regularly on the table are therefore rarely troubled by dyspepsia,” the advertisement promised. Beer too “is a soft and temperate drink. The prejudice against stronger stimulants can in no way apply to it.
Either way, with the relentless lobbying of the temperance movement, the writing was on the wall for the national liquor industry. On January 16, 1919, the writing was on every front page of every newspaper in the country. “THE UNITED STATES WILL BE WELL DRY ONE YEAR FROM TODAY,” the Lima News proclaimed that day. “Nebraska, the home state of William J. Bryan, ratified the Federal Prohibition Amendment on Thursday, being the 36th and final state under the federal constitution to act to make Prohibition part of the constitution,” the newspaper reported.
Two weeks later, directors of the Lima Brewing Company were planning for this arid future. The plan was Limo, “the drink with a smile”, according to newspaper advertisements in 1919. The limo was described as “a refreshing, non-intoxicating grain drink”. The Lima Beverage Co., as the brewery became known, also planned to make ice cream.
In 1925 it was sold to Jersey Products Co.
“He took a stab in the quasi-beer business, then finally emptied his vats for the last time,” wrote The Lima News.
The company emerged from prohibition in 1933 with a new group of owners and new plans to return to brewing beer. By 1938, it was in foreclosure and again at sheriff’s auction. The prospective buyer never paid.
Neon Products, a Lima company established in 1930 that had set up shop next to the brewery, purchased the last of the brewery’s buildings in 1944.
In May 1955, to make way for expansion, Neon Products razed most of the old brewery. The workers, wrote The Lima News on May 8, 1955, “didn’t need their eyes to tell them where they were. …Distinguishable to their noses, they insisted it was a faint phantom of an odor – an odor of hops and malt mixed together, and what results when combined correctly.
Ten years later, in June 1965, the last trace of the brewery disappeared when the old boiler building and its 48-foot chimney were demolished.
Neon Products went out of business in 1977 and the site was eventually purchased by the Otis Wright Company, which used it for storage and recycling. A massive three-day fire in October 2014 destroyed it.
The Lima Brewing Company can be seen with the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago tracks in the foreground.
Contact Greg Hoersten at [email protected]