The story of brewing in Cincinnati, both in the 19th century and the 21st, reveals basic truths about the economic development of a community. This can be seen by examining the role of the Hauck family and the Hauck Brewery.

The first lesson is the importance of immigrants. John Hauck was born in 1828 in Bavaria and immigrated to the United States in 1852. Whether attracted by promises of a better life in the United States or driven by poverty or political oppression in their home country, the very act of leaving everything and everyone they know makes immigrants risk takers. In the 1850s, immigrants didn’t wake up in the morning wondering how to assimilate into Cincinnati society. They woke up asking themselves how they were going to build this place from the ground up. Starting a new business—becoming an entrepreneur in modern parlance—wasn’t a very risky step for an immigrant.

In a community with a significant immigrant population, individuals find a great deal of support. When John Hauck arrived in Cincinnati, more than 48 percent of the city’s population was foreign-born. Hauck gained his early experience in the brewing business working for his uncle, John Herancourt, Cincinnati’s first brewer. Later, he worked for his father-in-law, Frederick Billiod, at the Lafayette Brewery in Cincinnati.

When he went out on his own in 1863, he formed a partnership with fellow Bavarian immigrant John Windisch and founded the Dayton Street Brewery. That partnership lasted 16 years, until Windisch suddenly passed away.

The huge German immigrant population provided a thirsty customer base for local breweries. Whether at one of the hundreds of local saloons, a beer garden or home, Cincinnatians in the late 19th century consumed an average of 40 gallons of beer per year, two and a half times the national average. Ultimately, Hauck’s brewery grew into the third largest brewery in the city, producing 90,000 barrels a year of Golden Eagle Lager, Export Lager and specialized beers, including one that promised to improve the health of dyspeptics (people who are irritable because of depression or indigestion issues).

Today, Cincinnati has a relatively small immigrant population, and that should worry us. Cities from New York to Dayton, Ohio are actively recruiting immigrants, promising understanding and support in the midst of a national political climate that is often hostile to immigrants. The most important job creators are new businesses, and today, especially in the tech sector, nearly a quarter of those jobs are started by immigrants. Immigrants are not a threat to American jobs—instead, they may very well be the solution.

Second, the growth of a strong brewing industry in any one city cannot happen in isolation. The explosion of brewing rested on the development in the mid-19th century, of lager beer. Lager, as opposed to the many ales that had existed for centuries, required an understanding and control over the yeast and the temperatures during fermentation. This was a technological revolution that transformed a basic industry; the success of brewers all over Europe and the U.S., including Hauck and other Cincinnati brewers, rested on this advancement.

Third, the experience of John Hauck and his family also tells the story of the way that success in business becomes leadership in the broader community. For example, John and Catherine Hauck were active in their support of the symphonic music and local theater. Additionally, in 1884, the Cincinnati Zoo faced a heavy debt and was about to lose its option to buy the grounds. John Hauck provided the zoo relief in 1885 with a $135,000 loan. As the new owner of the grounds, he gave the Zoological Society a perpetual lease on the land.

A year later, Hauck bought the Cincinnati Reds. The team had basically been pitched out of the National League. In 1881, the Reds took a leadership role in founding a rival league: the American Association. The issue was beer.

Most of the teams in the American Association were owned by brewers who had principles—first and foremost, an unapologetic willingness to sell beer to baseball patrons at the park, even on Sunday. This earned the upstarts the nickname “the Beer Ball League.”

John Hauck’s son Louis ran the club’s day-to-day operations, including negotiating player contracts. The typical professional baseball player in the 1880s made $1,800, which may sound ridiculously low in 2014 terms, but was a good salary in its day when compared to a skilled laborer, the point of reference in the 1880s rather than millionaires. And although both John and Louis Hauck lived on a part of Dayton Street known as “millionaire’s row,” Willie White, the Red’s star pitcher, lived just two blocks west on Dayton Street.

The Hauck’s involvement in the community has continued into the fifth generation. Frederick (Fritz) Hauck helped fund the 1971 Fountain Square and many other things throughout Ohio. His brother Cornelius assembled two incredible rare book collections that were donated to the Cincinnati Historical Society. The History of the Book collection was sold at auction seven years ago for $10.5 million dollars.

The history of brewing is woven into the core of this community’s identity. Following even one thread of the story—as reflected in the story of the Haucks—speaks not only to past but also present realities of the region.

Dan Hurley is an historian and the Director of Leadership Cincinnati for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.