Schoenling Little Kings Cream Ale
This month let's look at an old favorite of mine from Cincinnati, a Little Kings Cream Ale. OK, this version was brewed in Pennsylvania, but the brand was a longtime favorite in Cincinnati, made by the Schoenling Brewery.
Schoenling Brewing was founded in 1934 as the Schoenling Brewing and Malting Company in Cincinnati. It was unusual in that it was not a pre-prohibiton brewery brought back, but a new firm. They made a number of different brands, their Lager, a Bock beer, several ales, Top Hat Beer and Top Hat Ale, Silk Hat, Moon River, and others. By the earlys 1970 they were making basically Little Kings Cream Ale, Schoenling Lager Beer, Fehr's (purchased when Louisville's Fehr's closed) and Sir Edward Stout. Schoenling Lager Beer and Fehr's appeared in cans. The Fehr's must not have been a big seller in Ohio as I don't remember ever seeing it. Perhaps it sold mostly south of the Ohio River in the brand's old territory. I always liked the Lager Beer can because it featured Riverfront Stadium, home of the Reds, on it.
Little Kings was created in 1958. It was sold in these little 7 oz green bottles. The draft tap system at the Montgomery Inn broke down, and customers wanting to buy a shot and a beer chaser balked at buying an entire 12 oz glass of beer. Restaurant owner Ted Gregory asked Schoenling to package its ale in smaller bottles. In 1988 Hudepohl-Schoenling awarded Gregory a plaque proclaiming him to the the originator of Schoenling's famous little green 7 oz bottles.
It should be noted that Schoenling wa snot the first brewer to use a 7 or 8 oz package. Smaller sized cans and bottles were sometimes marketed as "just the right amount" for those who didn't want to consume a full 12 oz's. In some cases, such as the Fox Deluxe 8 oz can from the 1930s, it was sold as the perfect amount for a nightcap. In the 1950s smaller cans were marketed for women (who were assumed not to want as much to drink) or for Malt Liquor, which had a much higher alcohol content.
These little bottles were really popular. I remember stopping with buddies to buy an 8 pack before heading to the drive-in to watch "Moonraker" in 1979. Or buying a bottle to drink with a sandwich or some pizza. I'm pretty sure there were signs advertising it in pizza places like Marion's and Cassanos. Best of all, Little Kings Cream Ale was really good.
At some point it became Schoenling's main brand, replacing their beer as their main focus. Their last canned Schoenling Beer appeared in the mid 1970s after the brewery decided they could not compete with the big nationals huge canning lines. Instead, they concentrated on bottles and draft. Little Kings remained in the popular little bottles (and on draft if I remember right) and did not appear in cans until about 1985 when the brewery began canning again. It came out in different sizes, including 12 and 24 oz cans. Schoenling still made their beer, as well as Big Jug and Top Hat (which also appeared in cans). But Little Kings was their mainstay and sold all over the eastern and Midwestern US.
In 1986 Schoenling purchased their last hometown rival, Hudepohl, to form the Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company. Advertising themselves as "Cincinnati's Brewing Company" all of the new joint brewery’s production moved to the Schoenling facility. They kept producing Little Kings, as well as Hudepohl, Pace, Christian Moerlein, Midnight Dragon, and a host of other brands. Production reached 500,000 barrels a year by 1988 (To put that in perspective, that was about 150th of what Anheuser-Busch produced).
In 1997 Hudepohl-Schoenling was sold to Boston Beer (Samuel Adams). Sam Adams owner, Jim Koch, had a connection to the brewery. He father was a brewmaster in Cincinnati. After 1999 their brands were made in Frederick, Maryland and LaCrosse, Wisconsin. In 2008 Christian Moerlein, a new Cincinnati micro-brewery, bought the rights to the brand and it returned to Cincinnati. Ironically, the old Schoenling plant is still owned by Samuel Adams and it makes their beers while Little Kings is made in the Christian Moerlein plant.
“Local Samuel Adams Brewery Expands” Cincinnati Magazine (February 2006)
Hehman, Maureen “Spirits of Cincinnati” Cincinnati Magazine (November 1980)
Holian, Timothy J. Over the Barrel: The Brewing History and Beer Culture of Cincinnati, Volume Two: Prohibition - 2001. (2001)
"Media Meanderings" American Breweriana Journal 33 (Summer 1988)
Musson, Robert A. Brewing Beer in the Queen City. Vol II: Lackman, Schoenling, and Sam Adams. (2016)
Pyle, Albert, “Fresh Beer Here: It’s Always Better in Your One Backyard” Cincinnati Magazine, (August 1988)