Today is the birthday of John L. Hoerber (October 24, 1821-July 3, 1898). Hoerber was born in Germany, I believe, but founded the John L. Hoerber Brewery in 1858 of Chicago, Illinois, located at 186 Griswold Street. There was very little information I could find about him, not even a photo. But his brewery appears to have taken on a partner in 1864, and was renamed the Hoerber & Gastreich Brewery, but just one year later was the John L. Hoerber Brewery again. But in 1865 it was sold. As far as I can tell, another John L. Hoerber Brewery was opened in 1864, located at 216/224 West 12th Street, but appears to also have been sold in 1882. Then in 1882, yet another brewery was opened at 646/662 Hinman & 22nd Streets, though it 1885 it changed its name again from brewery to the John L. Hoerber Brewing Co., which is stayed until prohibition. After prohibition, it reopened as The Hoerber Brewing Co., and remained in business until 1941, when it closed for good.
There’s a little bit more information in this translation of “Chicago’s Breweries Statistical Items about the Most Outstanding Breweries,” from Western Brewers, 1875:
J. L. Hoerber is one of our oldest German citizens….He founded a brewery on the South Side….in 1858. He sold this brewery later and established himself at his present location, 220–222 West Twelfth Street. Evidently this was a very fortunate choice, because property values….have increased rapidly in that neighborhood.
Mr. Hoerber has had ample opportunity and means to enlarge his establishment, but 24he prefers to brew only as much beer as he requires in his own beer hall, and possibly enough to supply three or four of his old customers.
Hoerbers’s brewery and beer hall is one of the most imposing brick buildings on West Twelfth Street. The frontage, including the cigar business of the younger Hoerber, is seventy-five feet. Since the house on the east, at 218 West Twelfth Street, also belongs to Mr. Hoerber, the total frontage on Twelfth Street reaches one hundred feet….
The ground floor of the main building is used for the beer hall. It is a popular meeting place for all who like a good glass of beer.
The upper floor contains a hall, a dining room,….etc., and is used for lodge meetings by the Freemasons at present.
J. L. Hoerber brews only in winter, and his guests may rest assured that they will always receive genuine lager beer in the summer, since he serves only his own 25 product.
The business….is stable and well managed. Mr. Hoerber is superintendent…. He stored one hundred and fifty cords of ice….
As we pass the main building, walking towards Dussold Street, we notice the following arrangement: The beer hall faces Twelfth Street; at the back is the adjoining icehouse and the brewery. The yard along Dussold Street would make an excellent beer garden.
Chicago historian and beer writer Bob Skilnik had an article in the Chicago Tribune that mentioned the Hoerber Brewery in 1997:
A population increase from a few hundred in 1833 to more than 100,000 in 1860 opened the market and made success possible for scores of brewers. In 1857, the city council ordered the grades of all existing properties to be raised to a height that would ensure proper drainage. John Hoerber used this opportunity to raise his combination saloon, store and boardinghouse and install a small brewery underneath, pumping fresh beer to his customers. By doing so, Hoerber beat the now-defunct Siebens on West Ontario by about 150 years for the title of Chicago’s first brew pub.