Thrusday, December 24, 1998

Beer memorabilia on tap

Antiques store stocks reminders of Newport past

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jimmy Peluso holds a Burger Beer promotionbal bottle from the 1940s and wears the cap of a Wiedemann's truck driver..
(Ernest Coleman photo)

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        NEWPORT — Jimmy Peluso loves beer.

        Everything about beer. The history, the memorabilia, the lore and, of course, the taste.

        “Sure, I'm a beer drinker,” said Mr. Peluso, 50, standing amid the wonderful clutter of his York Street shop, Peluso's Antique Mall.

        “But to me, beer is more than just something to drink. There are stories to tell and remember, there are memories for me. Beer was a big part of my life growing up in Newport.

        “That's why it means so much to me.”

        There are certainly larger collections of beer memorabilia than the one Mr. Peluso has scattered among the old lunchboxes, colorful figurines, vintage soft drink bottles and yellowed photographs of his store.

        But none has the emotional pull that drew Mr. Peluso to the Burger Beer placemat, the Hudepohl 14K platter and the Wiedemann wall carving he eagerly displays for a visitor.

        Just outside the store's window and across York Street, where a new Thriftway grocery store takes up most of the block between Sixth and Seventh streets, Wiedemann beer was made.

        “My dad worked there,” Mr. Peluso said, motioning to where the old Wiedemann brewery once stood.

        “Heck, everybody knew somebody who worked there. It was a big part of Newport. When you woke up in the morning you could smell the beer being made.”

        The Pelusos, well known around Newport, grew up on Monmouth Street. The family had a grocery store that Jimmy's brother Jerry, a city commissioner, still runs.

        Jimmy Peluso, himself a city commissioner in the late 1970s, sees his beer collection as more than just an extension of the antiques he loves to buy, collect and sell.

        “I look at this stuff and it reminds me of growing up. It reminds me of my dad. It reminds me of the way Newport used to be,” he said.

        Mr. Peluso tells of an in dustrial, blue-collar town. Lots of factories, lots of jobs. And Wiedemann was one of the best, biggest employers in Newport.

        “They made great beer that was shipped all over the country and to other places in the world,” he said.

        Wiedemann closed in the mid-1980s, leaving people like Mr. Peluso little more than memories and pieces of the past.

        Mr. Peluso takes his collection quite seriously. He even looks the part, wearing a Wiedemann driver's green hat and jacket that apparently once belonged to “Lloyd,” according to the red-letter stitching opposite the breast pocket.

        If you want to see some of the pieces in the beer collection, just ask.

        Sitting on a dusty, wood table is what today is called a 12-pack but then — probably in the 1950s, Mr. Peluso guesses — was called a pony pack of Burger Beer, one of the many beers once made across the Ohio River in Cincinnati.

        “People used to buy bottled beer by the case,” Mr. Peluso said. “Well, Burger split that in half and started selling pony packs.”

        There's an opener from a long-closed Newport brewery that made Bruck's Beer. Dozens of bottle caps from all sorts of local brands. Ornate beer steins and elaborate drawings of breweries that no longer brew.

        “I love getting all this stuff out and looking at it and showing it off,” the owner boasted before turning mournful.

        “But in a way, it's kind of sad. The breweries are gone, and when they closed, a big part of Newport's history was over. I guess I try to keep a little bit of that alive.

        “For me, that works.”


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