Cincinnati is a town built on beer.

And since this issue of Cincy magazine celebrates our annual Manny Awards for excellence in manufacturing, we thought it only appropriate to pay tribute here to the Queen City’s storied tradition in the art and science of brewing.

It’s a manufacturing history that began in 1811 with the opening of the Embree Brewery at 75 Water Street. While smaller breweries reportedly operated, on the fly, as early as 1806, most historians see the Embree as the Queen City’s first full-fledged brewery.

Other factories soon followed: The Wm. Floyd Brewery on Fifth Street, the Thomas Wood Brewery at Fifth and Vine, the Reilly Brewery on Congress Street, the William Rowland Brewery at Second and Broadway, the James Byrne Brewery on Water Street at Main, the Wood & Price Brewery at Water and Race ... well, the list goes on to include five dozen beer-making companies and their products that you’ve probably never heard of, much less tasted.

Not until the mid 1850s, when one Christian Moerlein, a blacksmith by trade, opened his brewery at the corner of Elm and Henry streets, did the age of the modern brewer begin. The largest brewery in the state of Ohio, Christian Moerlein’s product became a staple brew of Cincinnatians. Moerlein followed the strict Reinheitsgebot Bavarian Purity Law of 1516; the beer was allowed to contain just four ingredients (malted barley, hops, water and yeast).

Dozens more beer factories opened between the 1850s and Prohibition, including George Wiedemann’s facility in Newport, the John Hauck Brewing Co. on Dayton Street, and most notably, the John Kauffman Brewing Co. on Clifton Street.

Haven’t heard of the Kauffman label? No reason you would, or at least, not until you hear how a guy named Ludwig Hudepohl brazenly stuck his name on the bottle’s label. The Hudepohl Brewing Co. thrived, and even managed to survive Prohibition by switching production to near beer (less than one-half of 1 percent alcohol), vichy water, root beer and other soft drinks.

Flash forward to 1932. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who included a repeal of Prohibition in his platform, won election. He immediately signed the Cullen/Harrison Act legalizing 3.2 percent beer (“BEER RETURNS” read a front-page headline in theCincinnati Post, in a type size worthy of a World War II battle). A year later, Utah would become the tie-breaking 36th state to vote for repeal of the national Prohibition.

For a long time, Cincinnati held the national record, drinking more beer per capita than residents of any other American city (an average of 40 gallons a year). Nearly 95 percent of that beer was brewed in town.

Cincinnatians have debated for years why beer was so popular here. Some attribute it to the city’s Germanic roots. Others suggest it’s a peculiar conflux of river valley weather and dry thirst. Some just say we’re fond of saloons (when famed temperance leader Carrie Nation arrived here in 1901 with her hatchet, she was asked why she wasn’t breaking any saloon windows. “My goodness,” she responded, “if I had undertaken to break all the windows of all the saloons on your Vine Street, I would have dropped from exhaustion before I had gone a block”).

If Cincinnatians were drinking beer, however, it wasn’t the national brands. The signs on the scoreboard and outfield walls at Crosley Field weren’t adorned with advertisements for Schlitz, Pabst or Bud. Instead, such homegrown favorites as Wiedemann, Schoenling (maker of Little Kings Cream Ale), Burger, Red Top and more were promoted. National beers seemed more expensive and less fresh, an affront to true Cincinnatians.

The city’s brewing history has translated to the modern era via the city’s micro-breweries and beer festivals.

The Oldenberg Brewing Company, opened in 1987, was a huge multiplex in Fort Mitchell featuring a restaurant, craft brewery and beer museum. Later would come Main Street Brewery, Barrelhouse Brewing Company, Watson Brothers Brewhouse, Rock Bottom, Holy Grail, Brew Works at the Party Source (inside the legendary old Bavarian brewery in Covington), Teller’s and Hofbrauhaus.

On the festival side, the annual Bockfest celebrates the centuries-old tradition of brewing a Lenten bock beer in early spring. October’s Zoo Brew is a Cincinnati Zoo fund-raiser featuring the beers of Samuel Adams, which operates a brewery in Cincinnati. Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati is the largest Oktoberfest in the world outside of Munich. And Brew Ha-Ha at Sawyer Point brings together 50 comedians and 70 beers for a huge charity fundraiser each August.

The brew-making tradition continues today. Some of the latest breweries to emerge include Listermann Manufacturing Company on Dana Avenue across from Xavier Square, proud producers of Wild Mild Ale, and Mt. Carmel Brewing Company in Mt. Carmel, makers of such specialities as Mt. Carmel Blonde Ale (used to create the signature Mt. Carmel Fish and Chips entrée at downtown’s Oceanaire restaurant). “It’s been fun and crazy,” says Mt. Carmel Brewing Company president Kathleen Dewey of her business, which has expanded 60 percent this year. “We have five beers that we brew year-round, plus one seasonal.”

So as we celebrate the accomplishments of Manny Award winners for excellence in Cincinnati-based manufacturing, say a toast with a Mt. Carmel Ale, pop a Hudy Delight, sip a Little Kings, indulge in a Moerlein, even try out a Wild Mild — but for goodness sake, don’t down a generic Bud.