The last local brewery -- the Hamilton Brewing Company on South C Street near Millikin Street -- stopped producing its Old Hollander brand in 1941.
Hamilton historians reported that as early as 1813 a commercial brewery was operated here by a person known only as R. Birch. His product is believed to have been English beer, not the popular Bavarian lager which came with the arrival of German brew-masters.
Lager -- introduced in Ohio in the early 1830s -- was produced with a different yeast and a different fermentation process, yielding a lighter, sweeter beverage, which was more effervescent and lower in alcohol content than ale, porter and stout.
John W. Sohn, a native of Bavaria, is recognized as the first of the German lager brewers in Hamilton. He converted a saddlery shop into a brewery in 1839.
"The introduction of lager beer decreased the sale of common beer to such an extent that it could not be manufactured at a profit," noted Stephen D. Cone, a Hamilton historian.
Sohn was born May 23, 1815, in Windsheim, Germany, a son of a brewer. At 17, he was apprenticed to his father as a cooper and brewer and two years later came to the United States.
Sohn appeared in Hamilton in November 1834, arriving from Baltimore on foot and via canal-boat.
His first local job was chipping wood. Later, he worked is a brewer for one year in Hamilton and three years in Cincinnati.
The 24-year-old German immigrant revolutionized local brewing in 1839 when he opened his own business at the southwest corner of High Street and Monument Avenue (then known as Water Street), near the site of the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument.
A year later, Sohn married Catherine Rosenfeld, also a native of Germany and the daughter of a Hamilton minister, the Rev. Ernst Rosenfeld, pastor of the German Lutheran Reformed Church. They became the parents of nine children.Sohn operated the downtown brewery until 1865, when he limited its production to malt, which he sold to other brewers in the area.
But Sohn was more than a brewer. He also was a farmer who developed vineyards on his land. Other local Sohn businesses included pork-packing, woodworking and tanneries. He also was a member of the board of the First National Bank of Hamilton.
His political activity included service on the county commission, Hamilton City Council and the Hamilton Board of Education. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the U. S. Congress in 1872.
In the mid 1850s, Sohn was a Hamilton representative on the committee that worked for the merger of the towns of Rossville and Hamilton.
Sohn died Jan. 11, 1889, at his residence at High Street and Monument Avenue.
Many familiar Hamilton names joined and followed Sohn in the production of malt and lager beer here. The list includes Henry P. Deuscher, Martin Mason, Louis Sohngen and the Schlosser brothers, Henry and Jacob. Only Mason wasn't a German native, but both of his parents had been born in Germany.