An Index to WisconsinBreweries with Histories
Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly,copyright 1996
Last Revised 08/16/2015
Addison (see St. Lawrence)
Ahnapee (later Algoma)
Allouez (see Green Bay)
“The first industry in Almawas a brewery. This is understandable since the river froze in the winterand settlers were isolated, and the Swiss were fond of their special beer.”
Farmer’sBrewery is purchased in 1866 by Phillip J. Binzel (and Peter ?)
Started by Ulrich Oderbolz in 1856. There is some tragedy behindthe history of the brewery. In the late 1880’s Ulrich Oderbolz’s18-year-old son, Charlie, fell into a boiling vat of beer. Charlie pulledhimself out of the vat but survived for only a few more hours. The localpaper, in describing the tragedy, stated that poor Charlie never recovered fromthe initial shock.
After Ulrich Oderbolz passed away in1900, his oldest son, Frank, took over the daily tasks of operating the brewerywhile his Father’s estate was being settled. Frank operated the brewery,but his mother, Anna Oderbolz had assumed ownership. In 1907, an ownershipchange take place (AmericanBreweries II), perhaps Frank’s mother passing away.
In the spring of 1911, Frankand some other local businessmen were boating in the waters above the dam inBlack River Falls. Unfortunately, the motor on the boat quit and the groupstarted to go over the dam. One by one the passengers grabbed hold of thedam and pulled themselves to safety. All survived but Frank, who was thelast person on the boat and was unable to escape before the boat went over thedam. Frank’s body was found several days later and several miles downstream.
Two years after Frank’s death, the family sold the brewery to somelocal businessmen. That brewery, Badger Brewing Company, was shut down byprohibition just several years later. But while they couldn’t brew beer, theydid reopen during Prohibition to brew soda until beer became legal again in1933. Attempts were made to resurrect the beer brewing process but failed due toeither lack of capital/resources because a Federal permit was never issued. Thebrewery closed sometime in 1934.
In late 1996 brothers Dave and Jim Hellman purchased andrefurbished the old building, installing a brand-new, state-of-the-art brewingsystem. They called the new brewery Pioneer Brewing Company. In Juneof 1997 the first kegs of Pioneer Lager and Pioneer Pale Ale were rolled off thelines. Within hours local residents were sampling the new brews.
In 1998 Pioneer purchased the Wisconsin Brewing Companybrands and moved production from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin to the brewery in BlackRiver Falls. Today, the brewery produces Pioneer Pale Ale, Pioneer Lagerand Black River Red under the Pioneer label and Badger Porter, Whitetail CreamAle, Rainbow Red Ale and Wooduck Wheat under the Wisconsin label. Allproducts are available in both barrels and bottles.
John Wendland and FredAdler established a brewery in 1875. It burned down in 1883 and again in 1888.Mr. Wendland rebuilt it each time.”
Buchanan (see Kaukauna)
Wisconsin Brewing Company, has beenestablished in Burlington, Wisconsin. The new brewery will operate the plant ofthe former Burlington Brewing Company, and will be under contract towholesale distributors outside Wisconsin, producing for them beer in cans withprivate individual labels. (Source: The American Brewer Newsletter, December,1954 — American Brewer and Wisconsin Brewing sited in this article folded andare not related to present-day entities – Wisconsin Brewing Company, Wauwatosa,WI.)
Buttes des Mortes
Carlton (see Norman)
The Cedarburg Brewing Co.began in 1869. One of the area’s busiest breweries, it was producing 1,500barrels of beer a year in the mid-1870s, according to “Breweries ofWisconsin” by Jerry Apps (University of Wisconsin Press; 1992). It stayedin business until 1920. Today the brewery building, at W62-N718 Riveredge Drive,houses an artists’ collective.
The Engels and Schaeffer BrewingCo. began in Cedarburg in 1848, but no one is sure where it was located orwhen it closed, according to Gordon Engeldinger, who is co-writing a book onOzaukee County breweries.
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
Since 1867 Leinenkugel’s has been brewing beer with areputation for exacting standards of excellence. Guided tours by reservationonly. Gift shop hours: Mon-Fri 9 am to 5 am, Sat 9 am to 4 pm.
1 Jefferson Ave, Chippewa Falls
Christiana (later CrossPlains)
Cleveland (see Centreville)
Cross Plains (formerly Berry or Christiana?)
1873 – Hochgreve Brewery is aflourishing business in nearby Allouez.
Eau Claire (includes Randall)
Spaeth’s City Brewery – 22-26 S. Water St. W.
Originally constructed in 1890.OnWisconsin’s list of Historical Buildings: Theeasternmost section of this building was the refrigerator of the City Brewery,built between 1898 and 1904. The rear wing, along the river was originally abarn for Krueger’s saloon next door. Other buildings were added between 1894 and1924, except for the one-story western wing which postdates 1930. The corbelledcornice and corner turrets of the cream brick refrigerator building remainintact but windows have been punched into the first and second floors. Despiteits many alterations, the brewery is included in the district because it is ofthe same height, massing, roofline, scale and materials as the rest of thebuildings in downtown Fort Atkinson and because of the importance of the localbrewery to 19th century townspeople. The building has lost much of its integritybut its local history as a brewery is still visually apparent. Record#: 0074636
Francis Creek (see Kossuth)
Freestadt (Friestadt ?)
In 1839, a small group of immigrantsfrom Saxony built homes near the Milwaukee River. That same year, 20 familiesfrom Pomerania arrived, seeking religious freedom. They founded Freistadt (FreePlace) in the western Mequon Township
A green expanse of lawn along theeast bank of the Milwaukee River, just north of the Washington Ave. bridge, nowcovers the remains of Grafton’s John Weber Brewing Co. It operated fromthe mid-1880s well into the 1890s.
The GraftonBrewing Co. was run by George Blessing shortly before Prohibition and thenrevived shortly afterward, from 1933 to 1935, when it was bought by theWisconsin Cooperative Brewery, which ran it until it closed in 1941. The oldbrewery is in a house about a half-block north of Washington Ave. on Green BayRoad.
Green Bay (formerly Allouez)
Hika (see Centreville)
BRUENIG BREWERY – JACOB BREUNIG, brewer and saloon keeper, 108-112 N Main ST.,Jefferson; born March 24, 1815, inElsenfeldt, Bavaria, Germany; learned trade, and worked as apprentice ten yearsin Wertsberg; came to America March 6, 1854, and first worked in Philadelphiathree months, and then came to Jefferson and worked at coopering, and got outtimber for making beer-barrels; helped erect his present brewery in 1863. Married AnnaRuecker in 1854; they have one son George. People are members of CatholicChurch. Mr. Breunig has been Alderman several terms. For full description of Mr.Breunigs manufacture, see Breweries. The History of Jefferson County, Wisconsin, published: Chicago: WesternHistorical Company. 1879. Wisconsin Historical Building Record#: 0006828,National Register Date: 6/14/84
Kiel (see Schleswig)
Lake (Town ofLake incorporated into Milwaukee, south side)
LisbonTownship (see Sussex)
CapitalBrewery was founded on March 14, 1984. Located in a former eggprocessing plant building, Capital Brewery produced its first brew in the springof 1986.Much of the brewing equipment currently used in the brewery, includingthe two copper brewing kettles, came from the Hoxter Brewery in Germany.
Markesan (see Mackford)
Menomonie(also Menomonee or Menominee)
Franz Zimmerman Brewery inMequon, also known as the Mequon Brewery, operated from 1878 until themid-1880s. Its facilities can still be seen on Mequon Road where Kelch Corp. islocated. The brewery maintained beer caves on the old fox farm near Green Bayand Highland Roads.
Capital Brewery Company
- Voted Madison’s Favorite Local Brewery (Isthmus newspaper1996-97). Taste our many award- winning Garten Brau beers. 17,500 BBLcapacity. Gift shop. Tours by request.
7734 Terrace Ave, Middleton
WisconsinBrewing Company, 1064 N. 63rd off State Street, Wauwatosa, WI. Mark May wasthe Chief Operating Officer and one of the principal owners of the WisconsinBrewing Company, a micro-brewery, until 1998 (see Pioneer BrewingCompany) . He was responsible for generaloperations and sales in the Milwaukee area. Mark had been in the brewingindustry for 15 years. He began his career home-brewing in California. He servedas the head brewer for Lakefront Brewery prior to starting Wisconsin BrewingCompany in c1996.
Joseph Huber Brewing Co.
1845 -1848 Bissinger 1848 – 1867 John Knipschilt 1867 – 1868 Ed Ruegger 1868 – ?Ruegger & Hefty ? – 1890 Jacob Hefty 1890 – 1891 Hefty & Son 1891 – 1892Hefty & Blumer 1892 – 1906 Adam Blumer, Monroe Brewery 1906 – 1920 BlumerBrewing Co. 1920 – 1933 Blumer Products Co. 1933 – 1943 Blumer Brewing Corp.1943 – 1947 Blumer Brewing Co. 1947 – 1985 Joseph Huber Brewing Co. (JosephHuber was brewmaster for the Blumer Brewing Company, of Monroe, Wisconsin, whenhe acquired a controlling interest in the company in 1947.) 1985 – 1986 MTX,Inc. 1986 – 1991 Berghoff-Huber Brewing Co. 1991 – Joseph Huber Brewing Co.
Mount Pleasant (see Racine)
Neosho (Brewery c1914)
The Robert Schwalbach Breweryin Newburg, which operated from 1876 to 1899 and produced about 125 barrels ayear. A tavern, The Newburg Brewery, 315 Main St., is there now. Tracy Preschat,whose family owns the tavern, said notebooks and diaries – but not beer recipes- from Schwalbach have been found in the walls, as has a tunnel from the tavernto a local funeral home.
The Binzel Brothers – Peter Binzel Sr., was the first (?)to arrive in America c. 1862, coming from Germany where he was born on1/11/1840. Peter came to Milwaukee, then up to the Waupun Brewery, laterto be joined by brothers, George, Balthasar, and Philip. Balthasar left hisbrothers and moved to Montana, while George became a manager at the BlatzBrewing Company. After the Waupun Brewery burned in 1864; in 1866, the Farmer’sBrewery of Beaver Dam is purchased by Phillip J. Binzel (and Peter ?)who had served his apprenticeship with Joseph Schlitz and Val Blatz from 1857 -1863.
Circa 1867, Peter moved to Oconomowoc purchasingsome property on Fowler St., where a tanning business had been in operation. In1868 (July 2) he marries Sarah Schneider of the Town of Erin, and buildsa small wooden structure on his property to start his brewery, the BinzelBeverage Company (aka Peter Binzel, Brewer; Binzel’s; Philip Binzel; BinzelOconomowoc; P. Binzel). As the brewerygrew, his family did; on May 25, 1871, son Philip was born in the familyhome, also on Fowler St.
As Philip grew, an ice house was built in 1873, thefollowing year, Peter put on a 60 x 24 ft addition, holding beer vaults and alsoused for storing barley. These structures were made of brick, and the originalbuilding also had brick exterior added.
Success led to a new building in 1877, and with it, thebottling of beer in clay bottles and output capacity was 3400 barrels.
Binzel was not only distributed in the local areahorse-drawn wagons, but shipped to Milwaukee via the railroad (note:Peter was not the type of owner to sit around, he drove the wagons as well, manytoo much. In late 1888 he fell from his uncontrollable wagon and broke his femurbone.) To further promote his product locally, Peter bought or builtseveral taverns in the area. Feeling more prosperous, he built a largerhome on Fowler Lake in 1895 (his daughter Ida lived there as recently as 1957).
1912, Peter Sr. retires and son Philip takes over.
1918 – Business is sold to Andrew Fischer (formerly abrewmaster in Chippewa Falls for the Leinenkugal Brewing Co.), see OtherOconomowoc breweries
1937 – the Binzel family regains control of the brewerywhen Peter Binzel Jr. buys it. Renamed the Binzel Brewing Co. (1937-1942).
1939, after Peter Jr.’s death, Clarence Binzel, cousin ofPeter Jr. (a son of one of his father’s brothers: George, Balthasar, orPhilip?), (1891-1966), assumed control of the company, until 1942 when thebrewery closed.
1 Peter Binzel 1/11/1840-12/31/1924
sp – Sarah Schneider 8/6/1847-3/15/1901 (after herdeath, Peter married Bertha Meyer 1863-1917)
Philip Binzel 1871-1931 (married1915)
sp – MaryMueller 1876-1933
George Binzel 1869-1895
Mary Binzel 1872-1873
Peter Binzel Jr. 1874-1939
Anna Binzel 1876-1962 (married in1907)
sp -Ernest Theobald (1870-1939)
Laura Binzel 1878-1894
Arthur Binzel 1881-1882
Ida Binzel 1870-1957
circa 1881, also on Golden Lake, John Link Brewery;
1895-1904, Frederick Lugviel bottles beer;
1915-1916; E. Schermerhorn & Son, bottling beer and soda;
Oconomowoc Bottling Works, 1917-1920 (formerly E. Schermerhorn &Son), owned by E. Dames, brewed “Coca Cola” and other soda – no beer;
the Andrew Fischer Beverage Company (formerly the Binzel BeverageCompany) by owned Andrew, brewed soda and near-beer, 1918-1922;
the Oconomowoc Brewing Company (formerly the Andrew FischerBeverage Company) owned by George Sipple from Illinois, 1922-1924;
the “Ross Brewery” operating as the Andrew FischerBeverage Company aka the Walter A. Ross Brewery, owned, 1924-1930 (?)by Walter A. Ross of Chicago;
1933-1936, Oconomowoc Brewing Company aka the Bucher Brewery,owned by George Bucher;
Pheasant Branch (later Middleton)
Portage (Fort Winnebago until 1852)
The first beer brewed in the city was ahomespun operation done by an old Englishman named J. Arnet who built a logcabin in the village and brewed the city’s first beer in iron kettles outside.The first commercially made beer, however, was produced by a brewer namedWittman, who built his brewery on N. Harrison St. some time between 1850 and1883. This nearly square plan building (539 N. Harrison St.) is still extant andit is two-stories in height and has cream brick walls that are founded on astone basement story. Wittman built this building next to the Front Gable formcream brick building (551 N. Wisconsin St.) that he built about the same time asa saloon with family living quarters above. Wittman’s brewery stayed inoperation until at least the early 1880s, but Sanborn-Perris maps show that thisusage was discontinued by the turn-of-the-century and the brewery building waseventually converted into apartments.
Other related enterprises also existed by the beginning of the1880s.
- The brewing interests [in Port Washington] are taken careof by Mrs. Wittman and [by] Messrs. Dix and Kemp and the Port WashingtonMalt Company. The last named company have erected a new malt-house[non-extant] near the depot, 100×120 feet, two stories high. The building isbuilt of brick manufactures in the village, and was completed October 1,1881, at a cost of $16,000.
The Port Washington Malt Co. was animpressive enterprise for a village of Port Washington’s size, but it has nowbeen completely demolished. An even larger enterprise was the brewery built atthe foot of the north bluff fronting Lake Michigan on what is today the westside of the 400 block of N. Lake St. Today, only a single greatly alteredbuilding from this brewery still exists and it is now used as the AmericanLegion Memorial Post No. 82’s meeting hall (435 N. Lake St.). The exact datewhen this brewery was begun has not yet been identified but by 1883 it was knownas the Lakeside Brewery and was owned by G. Biedermann, proprietors. Biedermannstill controlled it as late as 1900, but in 1903, the company changed hands andwas renamed the Port Washington Brewing Co., makers of Premo beer, sold underthe slogan “the beer that made Milwaukee furious.” The new proprietorsof the firm, Louis and C. F. Labahn and George Blessing, rebuilt and enlargedthe brewery in 1909. The firm managed to survive Prohibition and was againproducing beer in 1935 and was known as The Old Port Brewing Corporation. Sincethen, however, all but one of its buildings have been demolished and this solesurvivor has now been greatly altered.
In 1847, Jacob Moritz began brewing in PortWashington at Lakeside Brewing. It was renamed Port Washington BrewingCo. and then, after Prohibition, the Old Port Washington Brewing Co. Itclosed in 1947. The brewery’s old offices now form part of the American LegionHall, 419 Lake St., across from Lower Lake Park. The brewery had beer caves,since bulldozed shut, built into St. Mary’s Hill behind it. One of the company’ssignature beers was Premo, whose slogan was “The beer that made Milwaukeefurious.”
From 1865 to 1894, the Wittman Breweryoperated in Port Washington. The brewery’s building, which also was a tavern, istoday a private residence at 532 N. Harrison St. It also had beer caves builtinto St. Mary’s Hill on the west side of Wisconsin Ave.
Potosi Brewing Company‘s originsdate to the Albrecht & Hail brewery, opened in 1852. Potosi was purchased bythe Schumacher brothers in 1886 and the brewery remained in family hands untilit closed in 1972, suffering from a lack of family members to carry on thebusiness. Joseph Huber bought the Bohemian Club, Potosi, Holiday and Alpinelines.
Prairie du Chien
Princeton (John Ernst Brewing Company, c 1911, in post prohibition days itbecame the Princeton Brewing Company, home of “Tiger Brew” the beerwith a Purr!
Rhinelander Brewing Company was founded in 1882, and were successful through the early 1960’s. In 1967, thecompany closed and Huber purchased their line.
St. Martin (see Franklin)
Schleswig (now Kiel)
Sewastopol (see Sturgeon Bay)
Sherman Township (see Spencer)
Silver Creek (see Random Lake)
Slinger (see Schleisingerville)
South Germantown (see Germantown)
Stevens Point Brewery – Since 1857, the Stevens Point Brewery has transformed pureWisconsin water, the finest grains and European style hops into award- winningBrews. Tour the brewhouse, packaging area, museum and the Hospitality Room forsamples of our hand- crafted premium beers. Reservations suggested. Summerseason Jun through Aug from Mon through Sat 11 am to 2 pm hourly. Off season Septhrough May from Mon to Fri 11 am, Sat 11 am and 1:30 pm. Call 715-344-9310, toll-free 800-369-4911.2617 Water St, Stevens Point
Superior (West Superior annexed in 1905)
Note:Most of the article below originally appeared in the July-August 1997 AmericanBreweriana Journal. (ABA Homepage) A number of corrections and additions have been added by this editor.
NorthernBrewing Company was founded in 1890 by Louis Rueping and John A. KIinkert asthe KIinkert Brewing Company. Both KIinkert and Rueping had worked many years inthe brewing business before setting up this brewery in West Superior, Wisconsin
John KIinkert was born in Hesse-Darmstadt,Germany in 1849 and came to America in 1865. His experience as a brewer datesback to his graduation from the Brewers Academy at Frankfort, Germany. From 1867to 1882, he was employed in some of the principal breweries of Milwaukee,including six years as foreman of the Philip Best Brewery. In 1882, he bought aone-half interest in the Red River Brewery at Fargo, North Dakota, with John G.Kraenzlein. Two years later, Kraenzlein sold his interest to Louis Rueping. KIinkertand Rueping were successful with their small operation in North Dakota untilearly Prohibition laws closed down their brewery in 1889. The pair moved to WestSuperior, Wisconsin, in 1890, and continued their partnership by building a newbrewery, the KIinkert Brewing Company. It was one of seven breweries operatingin Superior to quench the iron ore miners’ thirst for good beer.
John KIinkert dissolved the partnership in 1898, selling hisinterest so he could start a brewery with Frank Pabst. The new KIinkert Brewingand Malting Company at 24th and Scranton stayed in business until 1908 when theland was sold to the Northern Pacific Railway at their request. KIinkert retiredfrom the brewing business, but remained active in his other city enterprises. Hepassed away on April 20, 1915.
When John Klinkert’s home at 24th andScranton was demolished in July 1956, an 1891 KIinkert Brewing Companyadvertising calendar was discovered in the attic.
After Klinkert’s partnership ended in 1898,Louis Rueping renamed the original brewery the L. Rueping Company. In thefollowing months, he reorganized and incorporated the Northern Brewing Company.Northern eventually grew to become one of Superior’s most prosperous industries.At one time, Northern beer outsold the combined sales of all other brands in thecity.
The brewery was located at the corner ofCatlin and 8th Streets (702 N. 8th Street). It represented an investment of$300,000 for “the most modern brewery machinery of the time.”Glass-enameled storage tanks, which most breweries didn’t use until afterProhibition, were installed at Northern as early as 1909. The tanks werepurchased from the Anheuser Busch brewery at St. Louis. The apparatus forfilling the barrels and bottles where also state of the art. It excluded air inthe bottling process, so that none of the original flavor and purity was lostduring filling.
During the next five years, the capacity ofthe brewery was doubled to 20,000 barrels by additions and the modernization ofthe plant. Northern’s Blue Label beer was introduced in 1912. The companyemployed 50 men that year who were proud of a new fire-proof, all-brick bottlinghouse. Lager beer and malt extract were the main products. Wooden barrels ofbeer were stacked on hand cars, railroaded to Hammond Avenue, and eventuallyplaced on horse drawn wagons for delivery.
The Northern Brewing Company was a hometown brewery. Its market was the citizens of Superior, and its purchases andpayroll added $125,000 a to the local economy each year
When Prohibition came to Superior in 1919,the brewery was cashing in on the popularity of its Blue Label Beer. Nearly25,000 barrels of the brand were being brewed annually when the brewery wasforced to shut its doors. On April 20, 1920, the owners of the brewery disposedof their holdings and moved to Southern Wisconsin. The new owners in Superiorallowed the brewery to sit idle for two years.
Since the plant had the most modernequipment available at the time, very little renovating was necessary to resumeoperations at the brewery – this time with near beer and root beer. Breweryofficers petitioned Secretary Mellon for a permit to manufacture real beer forthe use of medical purposes. The petition was not granted, but they did receivea permit to manufacture a cereal beverage and soft drinks. Workers were back onthe job at the Northern Beverage Company on November 16,1922.
After several months of experimenting withits distiller for near beer, the company offered a very high grade near beer androot beer to the people of Superior. In a full-page ad in the Superior Telegramon November 13, 1922, a contest was announced to name Northern’s new beverages.The company offered a cash prize of $25 for the originator of the best names.This was a considerable amount of money at a time when the average weekly wagewas $12.
The promotion created an instant demand forthe brewery’s products. The results of the contest aren’t known, but theofficers continued to use the “Northern” name on their near beer andsoft drinks – until one summer evening in 1924.
Most of America’s breweries were closed. Thefew who attempted to survive the dry years were struggling. Business was good atthe Northern Beverage Company in Superior, Wisconsin. In fact too good! OnMonday evening, July 29, 1924 Federal Agents stopped Robert Delahunt, a breweryworker, as he was leaving the brewery. They found five kegs of real and illegalbeer in his car.
Delahunt appeared before FederalCommissioner Charles Bishop on July 30. His bail was set at $2,000. The NorthernBeverage Company was the first Wisconsin brewery caught manufacturing anddistributing illegal beer during Prohibition.
On Monday November 17, 1924, the company’spermit to manufacture non-intoxicating beverages was revoked by the Wisconsinoffice for Prohibition. The people of Superior would wait nine years beforetheir local brewery would reopen. Northern was not the only brewery caughtbrewing illegally. The following week, two other Wisconsin breweries were raidedand their operating permits revoked: the Ebner Beverage Company of Fort Atkinsonand the Cassville Beverage Company in Cassville.
On the dawn of Repeal, the new owner ofNorthern, Rudolph Peterson, mad plans to introduce beer to Superior after a 13year absence. The Northern Brewing Company reopened on Wednesday March 22, 1933.
The brewery needed a major overhaul, andPeterson spared no expense in refitting the brewery. He had some difficulty ingetting a brewing permit due to the company’s illegal operations back in 1924Since he was not involved, he finally received the necessary permit in July1933.
J.S. Cochrane returned as engineer for theNorthern brewery, a position he held during the pre-Prohibition days. He firedup the coal-fed boilers to heat the building and provide hot water to clean theoutdated equipment. Five other men were hired to clean and varnish the vats andother machinery.
The Northern Brewing Company started brewing around 3:00 inthe morning. The brew house had a 165-barrel system with maximum capacity of30,000 barrels annually. Production never matched capacity and peaked in 1947with 25,000 barrels. In the early days, deep artesian wells supplied water forbrewing. After Prohibition, water was taken from Lake Superior.
The brewmaster usually brewed a new batchthree times a week. A pasteurizer was added to the brewery, due to a brief 1933Wisconsin law promoted by tavern owners. They complained of unfair competitionfrom package stores selling cold beer. The law required package stores to sellbeer at room temperature. To extend the beer’s shelf life and satisfy thepackage stores, Northern pasteurized its beer for two hours.
In the bottling house, every bottle wasvisually inspected to insure proper filling. This was done eight hours a day.Labels were added after filling, then bottles racked and dropped into beercases. For many years, the brewery had a problem with bottles exploding as theywere dropped in cases. This must have been considered acceptable in brewingoperations at Northern, since the foremen never bothered to fix this problem.
The popular Blue Label from pre-Prohibition was revived, and beer was in retailoutlets by October 1933. For the next two years, the brewery’s future seemedassured. Things changed with the untimely death of Rudolph Peterson in August1936. Lacking good leadership, the brewery started to lose money and wasdeclared insolvent by June 1938.
In August 1938, the Northern Brewing Company was sold at atrustee’s sale to Victor Nelson, Oscar Johnson, and John Fritschler. Nelson, aprominent road contractor, became the new president and George Ehnann continuedas general manager. In a full-page ad in the Superior Telegram, Nelson assuredeveryone that his company would continue manufacturing “a beer that willlive up to the enviable reputation that Northern Pale beer alreadyenjoyed.” He asked the local citizens for their whole-hearted support. Anew bottling plant was built inside the brewery and an additional $40,000 wasspent on improvements by the end of the year.
Between 1933 and the summer of 1943,the Northern Brewing Company had six different brewmasters. Blue Label andNorthern Pale beer took on a different taste with each new brewmaster. Thisended in June 1943 when Joseph Hartel started his long career as brewmaster. He brought with him over 34years of brewing experience and a standard of high quality that won beerdrinkers throughout Superior.
Joe Hartel took advantage of the extremecold winters of Northern Wisconsin. During the winter he opened the windows toallow the sub-zero weather to cool the wort as quickly as possible Someemployees recall standing on floors that were half ice.
Victor Nelson was a leader in the brewingindustry. His stated goal, “We’re here to make money.” The former roadcontractor operated the brewery like he managed a road crew. When he caught aworker slacking off, he would shout, “You got to get going boy, don’t evenlook at the sun.”
The Northern Brewing Company was one of themost sanitary small brewing operations in Wisconsin. Joe Hartel kept the breweryspotless. Even though he demanded hard work from his employees, their reward wasa $100 bonus every Christmas. When the brewery changed from wooden to aluminumkegs, Victor gave a Northern beer neck tie to all his employees.
Victor also wanted to market a beer namedafter him and introduced Vic’s beer. It was Northern Pale beer, but in anunusual screen printed shorty bottle. Because the shorty bottles were hard toseparate from the regular stubby bottles, many of Vic’s beer bottles never cameback to the brewery.
The brewery was managed by Victor Nelson until it was sold toRobert R. Rooney on December 8, 1955. Rooney was the President of NorthernLiquors, a chain of package stores in northern and central Wisconsin. Joe Hartelstayed On as brewmaster. When Victor retired from the brewing business, Rooneydiscontinued Vic’s beer.
The new owner gave Joe Hartel fullauthority to order the best hops in the world for Northern Pale Beer. OnFebruary 13, 1956, Hartel took the first step in a generalproduction-distribution expansion program by importing Bavarian hops to improvethe quality of Northern beer. This was the first time imported hops had beenused at the brewery. Hartel selected the Bavarian hops from the HallertauerValley in Germany where he had spent his early brewing days. “Hops,”Hartel explained, “contribute the finer, mellow flavor to the beer. I knowthis Bavarian product will give us top quality.”
Northern beer was a full hopped beer with aheavy body, old German beer flavor, and the second highest alcohol content inthe country (4.9%). The brewery also made a bock beer every year until 1966,using a dark caramel barley. The brewery never had a chemist on hand, but JohnnyHey from Fitgers, in Duluth, was used occasionally.
The Northern brewery packaged their beer in cap sealed cansfrom 1948 to 1953. When the flat top canning equipment was installed, all theremaining cone top cans were hauled to the dump.
For outdoor advertising, a huge Northernoutdoor billboard sign with a clock was placed next to the Nemadji Bridge andwas maintained by the brewery. Over the years, six different neon sign styleswhere produced for Northern beer. The neon signs were used mostly in the DuluthSuperior area. Northern beer glasses were used at the brewery’s two tap roomsand by certain major accounts. In 1962, the Northern brewery produced “BestBeer by a Damn Sight,” a private label, for the Damn Sight Tavern on U.S.Highway 8 near Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. The label featured an artist’s renditionof the tavern building.
Public relations were also important forthe Northern Brewing Company. The brewery had two tap rooms, one for theemployees and a second was rented to the public. Local unions met regularly inthe brewery tap room until 1966. Garbage men visited the brewery every Fridayafternoon to pick up spent hops and enjoy a few free beers in the tap room.Victor Nelson once installed a beer tap in the brewery’s office. It was removedby Bob Rooney during the late 1950s..
Joseph Hartel’s son, Richard, worked at theNorthern brewery from 1945 to 1965. Dick Hartel learned everything about thebrewing industry from his father. His first lessons started in 1937, when hisfather was the brewmaster at the Eulberg Brewery in Portage, Wisconsin.
In 1942, when his father became brewmasterat Peter Bub, no openings were available to him, so he worked briefly atHeileman in La Crosse. Richard was working at the munitions plant in Baraboo in1943 when his father asked him to join him at the Northern brewery. Dick Hartelrecalls, “My dad always worked around the clock; everything had to he justright.”
Joe Hartel suffered a mild heart attackin mid 1961 and decided to retire from brewing. Harry Husold was appointedgeneral manager and production supervisor. Husold was with the Waukesha Fox Headbrewery and joined Northern just before Heileman closed the Waukesha brewery in1962. When Harry took over Hartel’s position as brewmaster, he discontinuedBavarian Hops and ordered the cheapest hops available. Regular drinkers ofNorthern beers quickly noticed the difference and switched brands.
Peter Slomann became the new president ofNorthern Brewing Company and continued to cut costs to keep the company inbusiness. A circuit brewmaster from Stroh, Joe Linsky, was brought in two tothree days a week to oversee the brewing operations.
Bob Byrns remembers working at the Northernbrewery from 1957 to 1967. Each year, Bob had to scrape varnish off the agingtanks and apply two or three new coats. One day while replacing the doublebottoms in the wort tank he forgot to close the tank’s hatch. Beer startedpumping out of the hop jack like a fire hose. The entire 165-barrel batch ofbeer was lost as it flowed down the stairs and into the sewer. Bob Byrns and BobRooney also wanted to see their names on a label, so the brewery introduced”Bob’s Beer. “It was the same Northern beer in a different package!
During the early 1960s, returnable bottlesweren’t being returned to the brewery. They were being picked up by the largerbreweries in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Bob Byrns had to occasionally go over toFitgers to buy their surplus bottles.
In 1963, the Northern Brewing Companyreplaced its redwood cypress fermenting tanks with aluminum metal tanks. Toinstall the new tanks a large hole was cut in the outside brick wall of thebrewery. A worker for the Lakehead Pipeline Co. was fatally crushed against thebrewery wall during the installation.
Superior, Spooner and Rice Lake wereNorthern’s biggest accounts in Wisconsin, but the brewery regularly sent twosemi-truckloads of beer to the Milwaukee area. When the brewery was using aCircuit brewmaster, a bad batch of Northern beer left the brewery. Beer wasreturned to the brewery by the truck load. The mistake was costly to thebrewery. Many long-time accounts never called on the Northern brewery again.
Many employees blamed the circuitbrewmaster for the bad beer. Management advertised for a full-time brewmaster toprevent this error from re-occurring. Henry Rothmann, associated with the WausauBrewing Company for 28 years, became the new brewmaster and manager at theNorthern brewery. Many employees felt that Rothmann was not the right person tomanage the brewery. The brewery was averaging about 18,000 barrels per year, andsales declined substantially after Rothmann made changes to the brewingoperations.
Northern beer distribution and pricing weredifferent throughout Wisconsin. Milwaukee distributors paid less for their beerthan did local distributors. Dick Hartel said, “I could go down to Wausauand buy our beer cheaper than I could working at the brewery in Superior.”Dick Hartel voluntarily left the brewing business and worked as a custodian atthe Superior High School. “I could see it coming. After my dad left thebrewery, it wasn’t the same. Corners were cut and the writing was on thewall.”
After five years of declining sales, theofficers of the Northern Brewing Company announced on February 13, 1967, thatthe brewery would cease operations at the end of the week. The announcement wasanti-climactic, since no beer had been brewed since the previous December. TheNorthern beer label and its distribution network were sold to the Cold SpringBrewing Company of Minnesota. Cold Spring brewed Northern beer, but could notovercome – or benefit from – its past reputation. The brand was discontinued in1995.
The Northern Brewery in Superior had a fullfloor of inventory when the plant closed. A skeleton crew was kept to dispose ofthe beer inventory. Hank Rothmann went to work at Huber in Monroe after thebrewery closed. Tommy Byrns Tavern was the last tavern to serve Northern beer ontap from the Superior brewery.
The Fitger’s Brewing Company in Duluthconsidered purchasing the old Northern brewery in 1968 after the InterstateCommission threatened to build 1-35 through Fitger’s historical brewery grounds.The Northern brewery, as it turned out, was too small Despite Fitger’s closingin 1972, its buildings still stand (the freeway was tunneled below and aroundit). It is now a tourist shopping mall and hotel.
The Northern brewery stood vacant forseveral years until a second hand and sign shop came and went. Currently, it’san appliance recycling business and warehouse. The heart and soul of the brewerywas torn down in the mid 1980s. It was literally split in two. The originaloffice, tap rooms and cooperage are gone. The bottling house remains today, asdoes a four-story section of the brew house. It’s rumored that the equipment isin South America.
The old Northern Brewing Company is stillremembered by older Superior residents who had the fortune to the drinkexcellent beer once brewed by Joseph Hartel and his brewing assistants.
Engels Brewing Co. in Thiensville was begun in the 1870s byCharles Engels. It was in the 100 block of Green Bay Road, Engeldinger said, andstored its beer in caves on a hill near Green Bay and Bonniwell roads about twomiles north.
J. Harz Breweryin Thiensville operated from 1870 to 1880. A portion of its old foundation canstill be seen on the north edge of town, on the east side of Cedarburg Road.
Hoeffner and Frohne started a distillery in this year, and thatwas at the site of the former Hoeffner’s brewery which later passed over to Jos.Bursinger [north side of Cady, east of bridge]. In fall Frohne parted from JacobHoeffner and built a distillery with Fritz Herrmann where his summer-garden ispresently located [south of Fourth street bridge] and began in the spring of1849 to distill.
JOSEPH BURSINGER, brewer, was born in Baden, Germany, Feb. 17,1822, and came to Wisconsin in July, 1853, and located in Milwaukee, where heengaged in brewing beer and cooperage; from Milwaukee he went to Waukesha Co.,and farmed for one year; then he came to Watertown and commenced the brewing ofbeer, which he has continued up to the present time. He married, in November,1849, Mary Voppiller, of Sigmeringen, Prussia; he has two children living Ferdinand and Ellanora. Mr. And Mrs. Bursinger are members of St. HenrysCatholic Church.
AUGUST FUERMANN, brewer; was born in Germany Jan. 8, 1822;came to Wisconsin in 1847, locating in Milwaukee, where he opened a grocery andsaloon; he then moved to Watertown and engaged in the brewing of lager beer in abuilding 24 x 50 and gradually made additions to the same until he has thehandsomest brewery in Watertown. He married, in 1846, Christiana Hengott, ofPrussia; he has nine children Charlie, August, Amelia, Julius, Aida, Henry,Iette, Albert and Gerhard.
AUGUST FUERMANN, Jr., proprietor of saloon; born in WatertownSept. 3, 1850; associated with his father in the brewing business here, andChicago agent of the Fuermann Brewing Company from October, 1871, until hereturned to Watertown, and engaged in present business in February, 1878. Dec.19, 1874, he was married to Eliza Speer (daughter of Ferdinand Speer); she wasborn in Watertown; they have one child Amanda, born April 29, 1878. Mr. F.is a member of A., F. & A. M., I.O.O.F., Turners and Concordia MusicalSocieties.
West De Pere (see De Pere)
Yuba (see Greenwood)
Other Reference Sources: AmericanBreweries II by Dale P. Van Wieren; The Register of United StatesBreweries 1876-1976, Vol. I & II, by Manfred Friedrich & DonaldBull; The Pabst Brewing Company – The History of an American Brewer byThomas C. Cochran; Breweries of Wisconsin by Jerry Apps; BadgerBreweries: Past & Present by Wayne L. Kroll.The Great American Beer Book by Robertson, James D..Ottawa, IL: Caroline House Publishers, 1978.
;The Beer Can -Beer Can Collectors of America, by Matteson, IL: Great Lakes Living Press, 1976.
Western Historical Company, Chicago: 1880 – Like many similar publications of the period, Western’s 1880 history reliesheavily on interviews with early residents conducted many years later.Narratives were subject to selective, sometimes creative recollection, and theresulting work should be appreciated for the historical publication that it isbut viewed with a critical eye as a history. We caution viewers to verify thedata contained in these early stories.