There’s a certain irony in my love for Hudy Delight.
The Cincinnati brew is an utterly inoffensive light beer created by Hudepohl in response to the deluge of similarly inoffensive light beers that crowded store shelves and beguiled homemakers in the 1960s.
Yet Hudy Delight stands out to me, not because it’s tastier or lighter or visually distinct from those national brands. ... It’s not. Rather, I drink Hudy with gusto precisely because it’s local. That’s a dab of provincialism Hudepohl might not have anticipated when it introduced Hudy Delight in 1978 to compete with those national brands. But it’s one that’s reinvigorating sales of the beer in 2016, and the future only looks brighter.
How did we get from then to now? Well, we actually have to begin a bit earlier.
IT ALL STARTED
... with the failed European revolutions of 1848. Prussia’s hipsters peace’d out of that whole Central Europe deal. Then, they landed in Cincinnati in search of a place that wasn't quite so uptight. They brought with them their love for a new kind of brew that all the kids were raving about back in the Fatherland.
That brew was lager beer, which quickly took off in the Queen City. Hudepohl capitalized on the demand and was rolling in dough by the twentieth century.
Then Prohibition, which Hudepohl struggled through well enough. But things weren't the same afterward. Ownership of beer brands consolidated nationally, smaller breweries shut down, and beer itself became the lowest common denominator stuff... Think water — but with less flavor. (There is indeed a fine line to be walked between criticizing the Miller Lites of the world while championing its imitators.)
The production of Hudy Delight was one of many Hudepohl efforts to remain relevant in Cincy's beer market, which was no less thirsty for the recent trends. Other moves included local mergers, more expensive and flavorful beers, and courting interested buyers. The result was Hudepohl's acquisition by the guys behind Sam Adams. (It's a bit more complicated than that, but I can already hear my editor telling me it's time to wrap this up.)
That deal worked out, but not as well as everyone had hoped. A few other owners later, Hudepohl and its assets wound up in the hands of Cincinnati resident and modern-day beer baron Greg Hardman. In the years since, Hardman has resurrected countless Cincinnati beer brands from the graveyard and placed them on store shelves next to Truth, Psychopathy, and more.
THE POINT BEING
You might not be able to taste the difference between a Miller Lite and a Hudy Delight. But that's not the point I'm making. Going by flavor alone — and I’m sorry if I’m about to ruffle ye olde Moerlein’s feathers — Hudy is every bit the run-of-the-mill light beer that Miller Lite and Bud Light are.
But darn it, it's our unremarkable light beer. And that, my friends, makes all the difference.
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A big thanks to Zachary Fein for letting us use some of his wonderful photography. You should definitely check out his website – zfein.com – for some wonderful articles and photos.