Historic Beer Birthday: August Krug

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Today is the birthday of August Krug (April 15, 1815-December 30, 1856). Krug was born in Miltenberg, Bavaria, Germany, but when he was 33, in 1848, emigrated to the U.S. and settle in central Wisconsin. He opened a restaurant and the following year, 1849, added a brewery, which was known then as the August Krug Brewery. When he died young, in 1856, his bookkeeper, Joseph Schlitz took over management on behalf of Krug’s widow, Anna Marie. In 1858, Schlitz married Krug’s widow and renamed the brewery after himself.

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Here’s a biography of him from Find-a-Grave:

Brewer. His August Krug Brewery was the foundation that became the giant Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Born Georg August Krug in Miltenberg, Bavaria, Germany, he came to the USA about 1848, established a restaurant in Kilbourntown (now central Milwaukee), Wisconsin and added a small brewery in 1849 which, limited by lack of refrigeration to brewing in cooler months, produced about 150 barrels the first year. In 1850, his father, Georg Krug, came to visit, surviving a shipwreck on the way. The father managed to save himself, Krug’s eight-year-old nephew August Uihlein and $800 in gold. The gold was used to expand the brewery and hire four people, including Joseph Schlitz as bookkeeper. Krug, who is credited with building Kilawukee’s first underground brewer’s vault tunneled into the hill to provide the consistent cool temperatures essential to brewing and storage, died seven years after his brewery produced its first barrel of beer. The bookkeeper, Schlitz, acquired both his brewery and then his widow after Krug died in 1856. The brewery’s market share increased steadily, and sales doubled when Schlitz entered the Chicago market immediately after the Chicago Fire in 1871. Schlitz was lost at sea in 1875, after which Krug’s four nephews began the Uihlein dynasty that was to run the company during its long history. In the 1960s, Schlitz was the second-largest brewer in the world; during the 1970s it was troubled by indictments for improper marketing, by insufficient advertising and by public resentment over a change in the brewing recipe; finally a 1981 strike lead to the closure of their Milwaukee plant although it was still the USA’s third-largest brewer when purchased by the Stroh Brewery Company of Detroit (now part of Pabst Brewing Co.) in 1982.

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The August Krug Brewery, c. 1850s.

This portion of the brewery’s history from Immigrant Entrepreneurship is entitled “Political Revolution, Emigration, and Establishing a Regional Player in Brewing: August Krug and Joseph Schlitz” and is the early section that includes Krug’s contributions:

At the beginning was the German revolution of 1848. Georg August Krug (born April 15, 1815 in Miltenberg, grand duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt; died: December 30, 1856 in Milwaukee, WI) was born the son of Georg Anton Krug (1785–1860) and Anna Marie Ludwig (1784–1864), who owned the brewery “Zum Weißen Löwen,” the predecessor of today’s Faust brewery, in Miltenberg. This was a small and contested town at the River Main, which belonged until 1803 to the Electorate of Mayence (Mainz), became part of the grand duchy of Baden in 1806, was transferred to the grand duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1810, and finally became part of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1816. Georg August Krug worked in the family business but also became a member of a group of revolutionists surrounding a local doctor and farmer, Jakob Nöthig, who later emigrated to the U.S. after he was accused of being a ringleader (Rädelsführerei) of a local band of political agitators and other offenses against the Bavarian authorities. Krug and his father were among the petitioners in Miltenberg on March 8, 1848 who demanded liberal reforms. On the following day Miltenberg was shaken by protests and turmoil, and Bavarian armed forces reestablished order. Facing official prosecution, the younger Krug became part of the first wave of politically-motivated emigration. He arrived in the United States in May 1848, where he used only his second name and where he was naturalized on December 15, 1854.

In Milwaukee, at that time a preferred destination for the 48ers, August Krug established, probably with his savings, a saloon and restaurant on 4th and Chestnut Streets. Far from Bavaria, he still managed to receive additional support from his family. First, his fiancée Anna Maria Wiesmann Hartig arrived from Miltenberg (Oct. 9, 1819–Jan. 20, 1887) and they eventually married—likely in 1849. She was the daughter of Michael Wiesmann and Christina Schlohr, both from Miltenberg. Her presence allowed an expansion of his business activities. While Anna Maria Krug managed the restaurant, August Krug started a small brewing business at a nearby building at 420 Chestnut Street in 1849. Second, his father Georg Anton Krug arrived in the United States on October 25, 1850, accompanied by his grandson, 8-year-old August Uihlein. Such visits were not without risk: the visitors travelled on the Helena Sloman, the first German steamship on the transatlantic route. It encountered distress at sea on November 28, 1850 and sunk. Nine people were killed, but the vast majority of the crew and the passengers, in total 175 persons, were rescued by the American ship Devonshire. Georg Anton Krug lost a Bavarian beer pump, which went down with the wreckage, but he rescued $800 in gold (or $23,000 in 2010 dollars). This capital was invested into the brewery of his son and used to hire three additional employees, including a bookkeeper named Joseph Schlitz.

August Krug became a respected citizen. In 1850, his real estate property was valued at $1,600 ($46,100 in 2010 dollars). His household consisted of five people: himself and his wife Anna Maria, two brewery workers (both from Bavaria), and a young 18-year-old women, probably a servant. Krug was apparently a respected voice in his neighborhood, as his name was invoked in a newspaper advertisement for a local fireproof tile maker. He could afford to visit Germany in 1855, where he was able to meet with his relatives again.

By the mid-1850s, Krug already saw himself as a competitor for preeminence with other German immigrant brewers in Milwaukee in particular the Best family and Miltenberg-born Valentin Blatz (1826–1894). However, he was injured in an accident late in 1856, when he tumbled down a hatchway, and passed away several days later. The value of the eleven lots of real estate he owned was estimated at $20,050 ($532,000 in 2010 dollars). There were a total of $15,296.76 in claims and demands against the estate, including $276.50 owed to bookkeeper Joseph Schlitz (in 2010 dollars, equivalent to roughly $406,000 and $7,330, respectively).

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