Big (BIG) Plans

Christian Moerlein strives to be next Boston Beer Co.

Owner Greg Hardman of Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. has an ambitious goal; capture 1 percent of the $101 billion U.S. beer market, which would put his privately held Christian Moerlein Co. on par with Boston-based Boston Beer Co.

“I want to be the largest independently owned and operated brewer in the United States,” Hardman said in a interview.

Hardman plans to roll out his Hudepohl and Burger brands in dozens of states, joining his Little Kings brand in near-nationwide distribution. His ultimate goal; a billion-dollar brand.

That’s one tall goal. Probably too tall. The brands are stuck are more similar in style to the major brands but without the distribution, pricing and advertising power. And the brands aren’t anywhere close to the full flavored craft.

Granted, Little Kings, with its quirky green, 7-ounce bottles, is already sold in 36 states, giving Hardman the distribution network to sell Hudepohl and Burger in those states, too. “That gives us a platform to systematically roll out our entire brand portfolio,” he says.

But what’s the attraction to Cincinnati brand Hudepohl, Hudepohl Amber Lager? Hardman says he’ll launch with a new marketing campaign behind Little Kings that’s aimed at 20-somethings.

Over the course of five years, Hardman acquired Christian Moerlein, Hudepohl, Burger and Little Kings, the best-known of the Cincinnati brands. He purchased not only those, but 63 other long-forgotten brand names, such as Top Hat, Hauck and Windisch-Muhlhauser. They’re now owned by Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. What he bought were the brand names, logos, recipes, marketing rights and some contracts – there were no breweries involved. All those beers are still brewed out-of-town, in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – for now. The next phase of Hardman’s plan is to bring brewing back to Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, the hotbed of brewing in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Sometime in the first quarter of 2011, he plans to relocate the production of some Christian Moerlein and Hudepohl into a former potato chip plant, part of which was once part of the Kaufmann brewing complex.

Sometime in the fall of 2011, Hardman plans to open the Moerlein Lager House, a pub and microbrewery strategically located next door to Great American Ball Park and the Cincinnati Reds.


  1. LuskusDelph says

    admin wrote: …And the brands aren’t anywhere close to the full flavored craft…

    This aspect isn’t necessarily a bad thing from a business standpoint. Most of the brands he has acquired are pretty ‘normal’ American beers; Little Kings, while still on the lighter side of things, was at least a beer with some character (which unfortunately became muted after the original producers sold the brand). If he has it made the way it originally was, there is some potential for his plan.

    Given that he will be producing the kind of beer that most beer drinkers still prefer, I think with the right marketing he has a pretty good shot at some success here.
    And I certainly don’t see it as a bad thing.
    He’ll be reviving an old brand that was always a cut above the norm. More importantly, there certainly is a big potential audience for, and just as much art to, beers that fall on on the lighter side of things. He’ll probably do just fine with the right marketing.