Bengals’ famous ‘Who Dey’ chant born from legendary Cincinnati beer

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It’s easy to know when the Cincinnati Bengals are good again. The signs are always the same and they come in triplicate: 

1. There’s a renewed love affair with the tiger-stripe helmets, the best at any level of football. 

2. It’s impossible to turn on your television without seeing either Boomer Esiason or Cris Collinsworth, who are much prouder (or at least louder) alums of the Bengals than they are of Maryland or Florida, their respective college alma maters. 

3. “WHO-DEY!!!!!” As in the back and forth chant, “Who-Dey?! Who-Dey?! Who-Dey think gonna beat them Bengals?!” To which the immediate reply is “NOBODY!” 

It started this time when another old hero of Cincinnati, Ickey Woods, took part in the ceremony accepting the Lamar Hunt Trophy when the Bengals beat the Chiefs in Kansas City nine days ago. Of course, back home, the chant had never gone away, not since it was originally popularized in 1981, during the Bengals’ first run to the Super Bowl, not since it was revived in 1988, the most recent one, in which both Esiason and Collinsworth played. 

(And, in fairness to the loyal Bengals constituency, it survived many, many, MANY years when the Bengals were the Bungles and the standard answer to “Who-Dey think gonna beat them Bengals?!” was actually, “Everybody! And by two touchdowns!”) 

Yes, you’ll be hearing that chant a lot in the coming days, and you can place the over-under at 25 ½ at how many times NBC will show Bengals fans either inside SoFi Stadium Sunday or back home, in one of the town’s more popular sports bars like Knockback Nats on 7th Street or Kitty’s Sports Grill on 3rd screaming themselves hoarse. 

Ickey Woods is handed the Lamar Hunt trophy.
Ickey Woods is handed the Lamar Hunt trophy after the Bengals clinched their Super Bowl birth.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The story behind this story starts, as most good stories do, with beer. 

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Hudepohl Beer, to be specific. Back in 1885, Ludwig Hudepohl II, son of Bavarian immigrants, teamed with a partner, George Kotte, to buy the struggling Buckeye Brewery on Main Street in Cincinnati, a city teeming with beer halls and brew pubs thanks to an enormous German population. The renamed lager became an immediate hit and years later was one of only four local breweries to survive Prohibition. 

Hudepohl could’ve become a civic footnote like other mostly local beers like Iron City in Pittsburgh and Old Style in Chicago and Schaefer in New York. But it happened to be awfully popular in the city’s sporting venues — Crosley Field at first, later Riverfront Stadium — and thus was born a local rallying cry: “Gimme a Hudy!” 

Hudy it was. Which morphed into Hu-Dey. It didn’t take long for it to become the Bengals’ public mantra. And Cincinnatians are quick to remind you that the very similar “Who-Dat!” chant adopted by New Orleans fans didn’t become a recognized Saints cheer until 1983 (even if locals used it to celebrate other things for decades). 

During the ’88 Super Bowl run Hudepohl came out with a limited-edition brand called “Hu-Dey” and last week, as Bengals fans grew used to the idea of being AFC champions, a few long-time true believers responded by cracking open one of the cans they’d saved as souvenirs for almost 35 years. The results were, predictably … well, unappealing. 


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Hudepohl (now under the umbrella of Cincinnati Beverage Company) responded by issuing another limited edition run — and “limited” is being generous. Three thousand six-packs with orange-and-black stripes and the traditional Hudepohl logo (with HU-DEY, naturally, dominating and the city’s newest motto: “It. Is. Us.” in smaller type) were released Monday in Cincinnati between 1 and 5 p.m. 

Original Hu-Dey beers from the Bengals' 1988 Super Bowl run.
Original Hu-Dey beers from the Bengals’ 1988 Super Bowl run.
Twitter: @DrewGarrison
A Cincinnati Bengals fan equipped with a beard full of adult beverages
Longtime Bengals fans embrace the team’s history — including it’s beer-based rallying cry.
UPI/Shutterstock

“We’ve been with the Bengals through thick and thin,” Jodi Woffington, chief marketing officer for CinBev, told Cincinnati’s City Beatwebsite. “Lifelong, diehard Bengals fans have really waited for this moment to be on the national stage again and we just felt like it was the right time to bring the commemorative can back to celebrate the city.” 

It’s worth going to Google and checking out some of Hudepohl’s vintage local commercials, which starred Arte Johnson of “Laugh-In” fame and used to have a slogan — “The 24-hour, eight-day-a-week beer!” which, on the scale of hilarious-beer-jingles-you-could-never-get-away-with-now is second only to the granddaddy of them all, Schaefer: “The one beer to have when you’re having more than one.” 

The limited edition 'Hu-Dey' beer that was released for the Super Bowl.
The limited edition ‘Hu-Dey’ beer that were released for the Super Bowl.
Courtesy of Cincinnati Beverage Company

“We created a special recipe for the commemorative edition,” Woffington said. “It’s going to be only a one-time run, and it’s going to be a light, easy-drinking ale.” 

It’s likely, of course, that nobody will drink a drop of the precious grog until and unless the Bengals go through another extended drought. Bengals fans will make do with their usual flavors Sunday. But Hudy will surely be on their lips, even if it isn’t in their throats. 

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