Historic Beer Birthday: Franz Falk

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Today is the birthday of Franz Falk (August 9, 1823-August 5, 1882), though some accounts give August 9, and I’ve also seen both 1823 and 1825 given as the year, so it’s safe to say there’s no consensus about his actual birth date. What is more agreed upon is that he was born in Miltenberg, Germany, part of Bavaria. Although not completely, as one source says he was born in Munich (München), Münchener Stadtkreis. Falk became a master brewer when he was just 24, in 1848, and the same year emigrated to the U.S., working first in Cincinnati, working at various breweries, before settling permanently in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1856, he founded the Bavarian Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but changed the name to the Franz Falk Brewing Co. when he incorporated in 1882. In 1889, it became known as the Falk, Jung & Borchert Brewing Co. but closed three years later, in 1892.

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This history is from “The Industrious Falk Family,” part of a documentary called “The Making of Milwaukee Stories:”

In 1848, at the age of 25, Franz Falk decided to leave his home in Bavaria, a state in southern Germany, and immigrate to the United States of America. Franz first traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, but soon moved to Milwaukee. Franz felt very much at home in Milwaukee because approximately 35% of the people living there in the mid to late 1800’s were also German. There were German churches, schools, and gymnasiums.
Newspapers were printed in German and German operas were performed. The German immigrants in Milwaukee loved being able to speak the language of their mother country. They also honored other German traditions such as brewing beer.

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Franz and his friend Frederick Goes decided to start their own brewery. Milwaukee was a great place to make and sell beer so Franz and Frederick set a challenging goal; to become the largest brewery in Milwaukee. The friends purchased land in the Menomonee Valley and named their business the Bavaria Brewery. Franz and Frederick had numerous competitors because many other German brewers had also settled in Milwaukee. Those other brewers included Valentine Blatz who developed the Blatz Brewery; Joseph Schlitz, who created the Schlitz Brewery and adopted the slogan, “Schlitz: The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous”; and, Captain Frederick Pabst, who married the daughter of another successful brewer, Philip Best. Pabst beer won a blue ribbon in the 1870’s and so they called their beer Pabst Blue Ribbon. Another brewer, Frederick Miller, founded the Miller Brewing Company. Miller products are still produced in Milwaukee by the MillerCoors Company.

At one time in the mid 1800’s, there were over 20 breweries in Milwaukee, most of them owned by the Germans. There were so many successful breweries that Milwaukee became known as the “beer capitol of the world”.

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Even though Franz Falk had a lot of competition, he was a hard worker and the Bavaria Brewery eventually became the fourth largest brewery in Milwaukee. Franz died in 1882 and two of his seven sons, Louis and Frank, continued the family brewing tradition. But on July 4th, 1889, disaster struck! A fire destroyed part of the Bavaria Brewery. Beer spewed out, ankle deep, into the Menomonee Valley. Despite this fire, Louis and Frank did not give up. They rebuilt and reopened the brewery just three months after the fire.

However, their dreams were dashed again when another fire devastated their business. This time the sons of Franz Falk did not rebuild. In 1893, they sold the Bavaria Brewery to Captain Frederick Pabst. As a result of this acquisition, the Pabst Brewery Company became not only the largest brewery in Milwaukee but also in the entire United States.

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This is a history of the early Falk Brewing Co. from Wisconsin Breweriana:

The founding grandfather of the Falk Corporation was born in August 9,1823 in Miltenberg, Bavaria Germany. (Also the birthplace of August Krug and Val Blatz) Entrepreneurial drive was not the only skill Franz Falk brought with him to make his niche in the New World. After 6 years spent mastering his father’s trade, coopering, Falk added the “art and mastery” of brewing while employed by a Miltenberg brewery. In 1848, Franz Falk decided to make a new life for himself in America. Falk departed for the United States, reaching New York in June 1848. In October of 1848, after three months in Cincinnati, Falk relocated again to Milwaukee. With one third of the population German, Milwaukee was a favorable environment for brewers. All of Milwaukee’s famous breweries- Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, and Blatz – were established in the 1840s. Franz Falk’s timing could not have be better to find a brewing position. In the Cream City he was soon employed as a general brewery workman by August Krug, who founded the brewery eventually operated by Joseph Schlitz. After approximately six months Falk moved on to the Menomonee Brewery, working with Charles T. Melms for a seven year career as the brewery foreman, or brewmaster. The 1857-1858 Milwaukee City directory lists Falk as the brewery foreman of Melms & Co. This time frame is approximately when Melms took full control of the former Menomonee brewery, Franz Falk was ready to set out on his own.

In mid to late 1855 Frederick Goes and Franz Falk formed a partnership and began to build a malting and brewing enterprise. The brewery portion was called the Bavaria Brewery, no doubt Falk’s influence in the name. Goes was a successful dry goods businessman, the 1857-1858 Milwaukee City directory lists Goes as a variety store owner. If we read into the Goes & Falk name under which they did business, it’s possible that Goes may have supplied the venture capitol, or perhaps an important asset for the venture. The record indicates that in 1856 Frederick Goes assumed ownership of the Middlewood & Gibson malt-house (3), originally established in Milwaukee in 1849 as the Eagle Brewery. (Later operated as the Sands Spring Brewery.) Goes and Falk leveraged the malting operation with their new brewery venture. The first Goes & Falk enterprise was located on 8th and Chestnut, now Juneau and Highland. The address is near the Eagle brewery, and although the final relationship between the properties and owners is unclear, it is possible that assuming part of the former Eagle Brewery and malt house facilities launched Goes and Falk’s enterprise. In brewing history, 1856 was a year of turn over. Krug, Falk’s former employer also died in 1856 allowing Schlitz to step up. During Falk’s initial year, 1857, Goes & Falk employed five men and produced 1000 barrels.

A rare 1863 Goes & Falk civil war token is one of the few breweriana references to the earliest years of the brewery and malt house. A known pre-pro glass is another, later breweriana reference illustrating the A. Gunther & Falk partnership, Gunther being the sole bottler of Falks Lager. The embossed emblem referencing Falk’s Milwaukee Lager, lager being the specialty brew of the Bavaria Brewery. “Falk” means “falcon” in German, and the embossed crest clearly shows a falcon perched on a letter G, presumably in reference to A. Gunther.

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The Bavaria Brewery was conducted by the firm Goes & Falk until 1866 when Franz became the sole proprietor, buying out Goes and forming the Franz Falk & Company business name. When Franz Falk took the reins in 1866 the production had increased to 5468 barrels. In 1867 Falk also acquired a partial interest in Goes malting business, the business being successively conducted by Goes & Falk and then Franz Falk & Co. In 1870 the Goes sold his remaining malting interests to William Gerlach & Co. who eventually bought out Falk’s holdings at the original site in 1872. In 1870, Falk chose a new Menomonee Valley site just west of C.T. Melm’s for a more extensive, modern brewery. In 1872 the original Bavaria Brewing operation was closed and the Menomonee Valley operation was in high gear, dramatically increasing production nearly two fold.

Falk built his own on-site malting house as part of the new Bavaria Brewery, one of the first owned and operated by a brewery, which allowed him to sell his previous malt holdings to Gerlach. By 1872 Falk was the 4th largest Milwaukee brewery behind Best, Schlitz and Blatz. In 1880 the Bavaria brewery consisted of five brick and stone buildings, including the yards, outbuildings, and side track to the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. The site occupied about 5 acres, operating with eight icehouses and on-site malting production of approximately 100,000 bushels annually. Falk employed 100 men, twelve teams of horses and operated it’s own cooperage. In addition Falk owned their own rail cars for shipping beer.

Older sons, Louis and Frank eventually joined the brewery and incorporation papers from 1881 show the Franz Falk Brewing Corporation, as a limited family partnership with Franz as President, Louis and Franz as the Vice President and Secretary Treasurer respectively. If one examines the Trade Cards of the Falk’s Milwaukee and Franz Falk Brewing Co. you notice the evolution of the company name as well as the colorful and more detailed illustrations which reflect the growing, prosperous company in its later years. In 1877 Falk established one of Milwaukee’s first bottling facilities. Every bottle bore the Bavaria Brewery’s trademark: a falcon perched atop a mountain peak.

Falk later out-sourced this activity to A.Gunther who became the only bottler of Falk’s Milwaukee Export Lager. A look on the back side of the trade cards also shows the assumption of bottling duties by the A. Gunther company. The Gunther operated plant was located at 20 Grand Avenue, Wauwatosa and was in operation from approximately 1878-1884. Falk’s Milwaukee Bottled Beer, and Milwaukee Export Lager trade cards indicate the early adoption of shipping bottled beer allowed Falk’s to expand their market to Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, Mexico, New Orleans, Pittsburg, San Francisco St. Louis, and more. With the main storage vaults only about 20 yards from the rail siding, Falk’s fleet of rail cars leveraged their strategic location near the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, also operating out of the Menomonee Valley. Warranted to keep in any climate, Falk’s Export Beer was an award winning premium beer. Falk won domestic and international awards, including medals from the San Francisco Mechanics Institute Exhibition of 1880 and the Advance Austrailia International exhibition. Over the years of operation the brewery’s output climbed quickly while other breweries which ignored the idea of a national market were left behind, or failed.

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On March 24th, 1882 Franz Falk opted to incorporate as the Franz Falk Brewing Company, proceeding with $400,000 of capital stock. Only a few months later, August of 1882, the death of their father Franz to a stroke required the elder brothers to take over the family business. After William Gerlach’s death in 1884 his estate would briefly run Gerlach’s malting business before Goes’ sons George W. and Fred E. Goes regained ownership the malt business in 1901. Frederick Goes died in 1894.

By 1886 the Falk operation was consuming 200,000 bushels of barley, 160,00 bushels hops, and 25,000 tons of ice annually. The facilities had added a carpenter shop, machine shop, and shipped beer extensively throughout the Union, the East Indies, Sandwich Islands, Mexico and South America. About 125 Falk agencies were in operation as of 1886 and roughly 25,000 barrels of beer where being bottled annually. The business also maintained an office in Milwaukee proper at the southwest corner of East Water and Mason, directly linked by telephone to the brewery. Falk’s beer held a reputation for purity and quality and their manner of conducting business was held in high regard. During the spring of 1886 the Milwaukee brewery workers and maltsters began to form the Local 7953 chapter of the Gambrinus Assembly of the Knights of Labor. The new union drafted a letter to the nine Milwaukee breweries demanding, among other things an eight hour work day, better pay and installation of the union in the breweries. Collectively the breweries, including Falk, penned a response proposing a 10 hour day, including over time pay after 10 hour, but lesser pay increases than requested. Additionally the brewers balked at the proposed union controlled hire of employees. By early May of 1886 most non-office brewery workers, except Falk’s, had walked out on strike idling all the major Milwaukee breweries. May 3, 1000 brewery workers marched to Falk convincing the workers it was their duty to strike, and they did, joining the others as well as the larger, city wide labor protests. By May 5 the Governor sent the State Militia to keep order over the growing protests, and they ended up firing on some protestors, killing six and wounding three. Collectively, the brewers then decided to concede on increases in pay, including an advance of 120 dollars per year for each worker. The advance sum of $162,000 was split among the brewers, based on their size. Falk’s share being $12,000. Thus we may confirm that Falk had just over 120 employees in 1886, including office executives.

In 1888 sons Otto and Herman joined the brewery, Otto becoming the general manager and Herman the Superintendent and brewery mechanic. A mechanical genius since childhood, Herman’s mechanical prowess would lead the Falk name down its future path. November 1st, 1888 the Franz Falk Brewing Company Limited merged with the Jung and Borchert brewery operated by Philipp Jung (a former Pabst brewmaster) and Ernst Borchert (a local maltster’s son). Together they formed the Falk, Jung and Borchert Brewery Corporation in 1889. Frank Falk fulfilled the duties of President, Phillip Young the Vice President and Superintendent of Brewing, Ernst Borchert as Treasurer, Louis Falk as Secretary, Otto Falk as Assistant Secretary and Herman the Assistant Superintendent.

The old Jung and Borchert brewery was converted to storage while all operations were consolidated into the Menomonee Valley location. After a large investment in new buildings and expansion up and down the hill, the new facilities were producing 120,000 barrels by 1888, with capability of 200,000 barrels. Closing in on Val Blatz’s position at third place in town seemed within reach when an extensive fire ravaged the brewery in July of 1889. Breaking out in the malt house, the fire consumed the bottling house and main brewery buildings. During the fire it was noted that Herman and Otto were seen rolling barrels out harms way to try and save some of their valued product. Holiday crowds at the neighboring beer gardens watched the blaze from the nearby bluffs. Ultimately only the stables and icehouse survived. Milwaukee’s Sentinel reported that the rebuild would include a new “fireproof” design and within a few months the brewery was back in operation.

Franz Falk commented at the time that “we haven’t lost a single customer since the fire”. The new improved site stretched further into the Menomonee valley. Within a years time production swelled to 200,000 barrels. Unfortunately, in 1892 another unexpected fire occurred, starting again in the malt house due to a overheated motor. The malt house was destroyed as were a large portion of the brew house, grain elevator, and refrigeration house. Pledging to rebuild again, the partners purchased raw beer from Pabst to finish and supply their customers. Captain Pabst, seeing the opportunity for an acquisition offered to buy out the beleaguered partners holdings for $1 and approximately $500,000 in Pabst Stock, including positions for the top executives. The acquisition attributed as one of the main factors in the increase of Pabst’s 180,000 barrel increase in sales in 1893, pushing their output over 1 million barrels for the first time.

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Interestingly, Frank Falk’s duties from 1893 until his 1902 resignation from Pabst included Treasurer, management of Purchasing, Rents, City Bottled Beer Sales, General Finance, and Labor. The Falk family’s holdings of nearly 500 shares were purchased by semiannual payments of $11,500 from the time of Frank Falk’s retirement until 1910, plus a final lump-sum payment of $395,520 on January 1, 1911.

Louis and Otto Falk both accepted positions with Pabst as did Ernst Borchert. Phillip Jung went into the malting business, however after the three-year period of abstention specified in the sale contract of 1892 Jung returned to brewing, purchasing the Oberman plant and reorganizing as the Jung Brewing Company. By 1910 Jung grew to 100,000 barrels, ranking fifth in Milwaukee, never quite achieving the same earlier success of Falk, Jung and Borchert.

Herman Falk was not content with, or perhaps offered a position at Pabst and decided to start a new business. Striking out on his own, Herman rented a surplus wagon shop from Pabst to build wagon couplings. At first unsuccessful, despite patenting a new wagon brake, Herman eventually channeled his mechanical genius into the creation of a “foundry on wheels” to facilitate joining of trolley tracks with molten iron. Herman Falk’s inventive equipment eventually serviced over one third of the nations electric street railways. As entrepreneurial as his Father, it was his company that has now evolved into the Falk Corporation, which is still operating within sight of and includes a portion of the original Menomonee Valley Bavaria Brewery grounds.

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Franz Falk Brewing

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Historic Beer Birthday: Gabriel Sedlmayr II

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Today is the birthday of Gabriel Sedlmayr II, sometimes referred to as Gabriel Sedlmayr the Younger (February 26, 1811-October 1, 1891). He was, of course, the son of Gabriel Sedlmayr the Elder, who acquired the Spaten brewery in 1807, when “at the time was the smallest brewery in Munich.” When his father died in 1839, the brewery passed to Gabriel and his brother Joseph, and the two ran the brewery for three years, until Joseph bowed out to start his own brewery, and Gabriel became the sole owner of the Spaten brewery. By 1867, it became the largest brewery in Munich, a position it held until the 1890s. In 1874, Sedlmayr retired, and three of his four sons, Johann, Carl and Anton, began running the company. During his tenure at Spaten, he played a major role in the development of lager fermentation.

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Here’s a short biography from the Entrepreneur Wiki:

Gabriel Sedlmayr II was born in Munich on February 26, 1811. He is often called Gabriel Sedlmayr the Younger. While in high school, he was given private lessons by Professor Johann Baptist Hermann in chemistry and physics. He graduated from high school and then began training in a brewery.

He also traveled to European to visit and learn from different breweries, as well as local scientists. In Vienna he attended lectures at the Polytechnic of Vienna and in Berlin he attended chemistry lectures at the University of Berlin. He then took over his father’s brewery with help from his brother.

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In 1842, when Joseph, his brother, left the business, he became the sole owner of the brewery. In 1866 he then opened up the Bavaroise Brasserie in Paris. Then he helped at and then eventually took over the Spanenbrau Brewery. He is responsible for developing a dark lager called Dunkel at his Spaten Brewery. He was known for using science, microbiology, and cultivation to develop new beers. In 1874, he passed his business to his sons Johann, Carl, and Anton because of his poor health. In 1881 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the City if Munich and then on October 1, 1891 he died.

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This is his entry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Beer, written by Ian Horsey:

Sedlmayr, Gabriel the Younger

was a brewer who took over the reins of the Spaten Brewery of Munich, with his brother Josef, upon the death of his father, Gabriel Sedlmayr the Elder, in 1839. The two brothers inherited their father’s innovative zeal and, over the next few years, modernized the brewery at the same pace as their father had done before them. In 1844, Spaten became the first brewery outside England to adopt steam power. A year later, Gabriel bought out his brother and became the sole proprietor of Spaten, which would continue to be a center of brewing innovation. Already during his student days, Gabriel had been an innovator. As part of the requirement for his Master Diploma, young Gabriel embarked upon an extensive grand tour of noted European brewing centers in the early 1830s. On one of his trips, he met fellow brewer Anton Dreher, whose mother owned a small brewery in Klein-Schwechat, just outside Vienna. The meeting, in 1832, marked the beginning of a life-long friendship and business association. The two travelers visited Great Britain in 1833 to learn more about fermentation—and engaged in what can only be described as a classic case of industrial espionage. By using a specially modified hollow walking cane, they furtively gathered wort and beer samples during their brewery visits und subsequently analyzed them in their hotel. They put the data thus collected to good use after they had returned home by developing two new malts and two new beer styles: Dreher came up with Vienna malt and Vienna lager; Sedlmayr invented Munich malt and märzen beer.

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In those days it was difficult to brew lagers in the summer; the hot central European climate was inhospitable to brewing in general and lager brewing in particular. Brewers used ice blocks cut from frozen lakes and ponds in the winter and stored them underground for use as coolant in the summer. This was costly and inefficient. So Sedlmayr looked around for a technological solution, which he found in the work of a young Munich engineering professor, Carl Linde. Linde had been tinkering with refrigeration machines, and in 1873, Sedlmayr persuaded Linde to install one of his experimental devices in the Spaten fermentation and lagering cellars. This was, as best as anybody knows, the first time that mechanical refrigeration had been used in a brewery, and Spaten was from then on uniquely equipped to brew bottom-fermented beer reliably year-round. With this new technology in place, Spaten had become the largest of the Munich breweries. Spaten’s superb lager-making ability allowed it to experiment with ever more delicate brews, especially one that could compete with the rising popularity of the Bohemian pilsner from just east of the Bavarian border. The result was the introduction, in 1894, of a straw blond beer, the delicate lager that was to become the signature brew for Bavarian beer garden and beer hall lagers for the next century, Helles.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Philip Zorn

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Today is the birthday of Philip Lewis Zorn (February 21, 1837-January 4, 1912). Zorn was born in Wűrzburg, Bavaria, and learned brewing from his father, how was a brewer in Germany. In 1855, when he was eighteen, he emigrated to the U.S., and initially settled in Illinois, where he worked in breweries in Blue Island, Illinois. In 1871, he moved to Michigan City, Indiana and opened the Philip Zorn Brewery. Twenty years later, he incorporated it as the Ph. Zorn Brewing Co. After prohibition, his sons Robert and Charles, who had worked for the brewery beginning as young men, reopened the brewery as the Zorn Brewing Co. Inc., but it in 1935 it became known as the Dunes Brewery, before closing for good in 1938. He was also a city councilman and a co-founder of Citizens Bank of Michigan City.

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This account is from the Indiana Bicentennial:

Philip Zorn Jr. was the son of a brewer in Wűrzburg, Bavaria who immigrated at the age of 18. He worked at a brewery in Illinois from 1855 until he started his own in Michigan City. By 1880 he was making 3,000 bbls annually. He became a prosperous man, a city councilman and the founder of the Citizens Bank of Michigan City.

The company passed to Philip’s sons Robert and Charles who built a new brewhouse in 1903 and reached almost 15,000 bbls by the time of Prohibition. During the dry years they made the Zoro brand of soda pop. After Prohibition they changed the name to Dunes Brewing, possibly because of a court action against Zorn in 1935 for selling beer to unlicensed companies. They made Grain State, Golden Grain and Pilsenzorn brands.

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Zorn beers.

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And this excerpt is from “Hoosier Beer: Tapping into Indiana Brewing History,” by Bob Ostrander and Derrick Morris:

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Historic Beer Birthday: Georg Schneider

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Today is the birthday of Georg Schneider (November 26, 1817-1890) who co-founded G. Schneider & Son along with his son Georg Schneider II in 1872. Georg leased the royal ‘Weisse Brauhuas’ Hofbräuhaus in Munich in 1855 and purchased from King Ludwig II the right to brew wheat beer in 1872. Georg, along with his son acquired the so-called Maderbräu Im Tal 10′ in 1872.

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Both he and his son passed away in 1890, and his grandson, Georg III, took over the brewery even though he was barely 20 at the time, and today George VI still owns and runs the brewery.

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Here’s what the brewery website has about their history:

The history of wheat beer is also the history of the Schneider brewing family and its famous Schneider Weisse. Georg I Schneider, as the wheat beer pioneer and creator of the Schneider Weisse Original recipe (which is still used today), is revered by all wheat beer connoisseurs.

Two-hundred years ago, wheat beer could only be brewed by the Bavarian royal family in their reweries. In 1872, King Ludwig II discontinued brewing wheat beer due to a steady decline in sales.

That same year, he sold Georg I Schneider the exclusive right to brew wheat beer. Thus, the Schneider Family saved wheat beer from extinction. Today, Georg VI Schneider is running the brewery in Kelheim, which the family acquired in 1927 and has remained the Schneider Weisse brewery to this day. It is the oldest wheat beer brewery in Bavaria; wheat beer has been brewed there without interruption since its founding in the year 1607.

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The Schneider Brauhaus has a slightly different history of the Schneider story:

Georg Schneider I was a tenant of the Königlich Weissen Hofbräuhaus in Munich between 1855 and 1873. On the basis of the prevailing narrow conditions, the production of white beer was to be abandoned. The victory of the lower-fermented beers (at that time known as brown beer) could no longer be stopped in Bavaria.

Georg Schneider I believed, however, that the old top-breed brewing method had a future. Therefore, during the reign of King Ludwig II, he negotiated with the Bavarian court brethren about the replacement of the Weissbierregal (the right to brew Weissbier). The latter believed that he could give the request, since Weissbier was no longer allowed any chance.

At the same time Georg Schneider I had the opportunity to purchase the abandoned Maderbräu. After about a year of conversion, he began to produce his own white beer together with his son Georg Schneider II. The “Schneider Weisse” was born and the “Weisse Bräuhaus G. Schneider & Sohn” from the original Maderbräu became. Georg Schneider I himself was responsible for the business and found in his wife Maria Anna, born Hettel, an efficient cook and economist.

Overall, the acquisition of Georg Schneider I was a speculation with a high level of commitment. The success did not fail. The influx of guests, who wanted to enjoy a “delicious mouth beer” soon surpassed all expectations. George Schneider I is rightly referred to as the Weissbierpionier, who has rescued the superior brewing methods in their original form into modern times.

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The “Weisses Bräuhaus” in Munich, Tal (or Thal) is the founding place of their brewery. It’s the place where Georg Schneider I brewed his first Schneider Weisse Original in 1872.

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“In 1927 the owners, who to this day are descendants of Georg Schneider I, expanded their brewing operations into Kelheim and Straubing. After the breweries in Munich were destroyed in 1944 by aerial bombardment by the Allies of World War II, the entire production was relocated to Kelheim.”

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Historic Beer Birthday: William IV, Duke of Bavaria

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Today is the birthday of William IV, Duke of Bavaria (November 13, 1493-March 7, 1550). William IV “was Duke of Bavaria from 1508 to 1550, until 1545 together with his younger brother Louis X, Duke of Bavaria. He was born in Munich to Albert IV and Kunigunde of Austria, a daughter of Emperor Frederick III.”

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Portrait by Barthel Beham.

Here’s a short account of William IV’s life:

Though his father had determined the everlasting succession of the firstborn prince in 1506, his younger brother Louis refused a spiritual career with the argument that he was born before the edict became valid. With support of his mother and the States-General, Louis forced William to accept him as co-regent in 1516. Louis then ruled the districts of Landshut and Straubing, in general in concord with his brother.

William initially sympathized with the Reformation but changed his mind as it grew more popular in Bavaria. In 1522 William issued the first Bavarian religion mandate, banning the promulgation of Martin Luther’s works. After an agreement with Pope Clement VII in 1524 William became a political leader of the German Counter reformation, although he remained in opposition to the Habsburgs since his brother Louis X claimed the Bohemian crown. Both dukes also suppressed the peasant uprising in South Germany in an alliance with the archbishop of Salzburg in 1525.

The conflict with Habsburg ended in 1534 when both dukes reached an agreement with Ferdinand I in Linz. William then supported Charles V in his war against the Schmalkaldic League in 1546. William’s chancellor for 35 years was the forceful Leonhard von Eck.

William was a significant collector and commissioner of art. Among other works he commissioned an important suite of paintings from various artists, including the Battle of Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer. This, like most of William’s collection, is now housed in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. With his order to expand the Neuveste with the so-called Rundstubenbau and to set up the first Court Garden began the history of the Munich Residence as a representative palace. To the history cycle of the garden pavilion belonged Albrecht Altdorfer’s painting. In 1546 he ordered to upgrade Dachau Palace from a Gothic ruin into a renaissance palace. In 1523 with the appointment of Ludwig Senfl began the rise of the Bavarian State Orchestra.

On 23 April 1516, before a committee consisting of gentry and knights in Ingolstadt, he issued his famous purity regulation for the brewing of Bavarian Beer, stating that only barley, hops, and water could be used. This regulation remained in force until it was abolished as a binding obligation in 1986 by Paneuropean regulations of the European Union.

William died in 1550 in Munich and was succeeded by his son Albert. He is buried in the Frauenkirche in Munich.

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Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria by Hans Schwab von Wertinger.

William IV, Duke of Bavaria, wrote and signed the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Bavarian Beer Purity Law, and later the German Beer Purity Law.

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In the Bavarian town of Ingolstadt on April 23, 1516, William IV, Duke of Bavaria wrote and signed the law, along with his younger brother Louis X, Duke of Bavaria. That 1516 law was itself a variation of earlier laws, at least as early as 1447 and another in independent Munich in 1487. When Bavaria reunited, the new Reinheitsgebot applied to the entirety of the Bavarian duchy. It didn’t apply to all of Germany until 1906, and it wasn’t referred to as the Reinheitsgebot until 1918, when it was coined by a member of the Bavarian parliament.

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Another painting by Barthel Beham.

Historic Beer Birthday: Jacob Schmidt

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Today is the birthday of Jacob Schmidt (October 8, 1846-September 2, 1910). He was born in Bavaria, Germany, but moved to America, worked at breweries in New York and Milwaukee, then settling in Minnesota, in 1866. In St. Paul, he was brewmaster at Hamm’s, and later left to brew for August Schell and some breweries in the midwest. In 1884, he returned to St. Paul and bought a 50% share of the North Star Brewery, but it burned to the ground, a total loss, in 1899. With his daughter and son-in-law Adolph Bremer, he acquired the Christopher Stahlmann, Cave Brewery, and in 1900 completely remodeled it turning into the iconic “Castle” brewery with the help of Chicago brewery architect Bernard Barthel. They also renamed it the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co., and after Prohibition, it became the nation’s seventh largest brewery. The brewery continued until 1972, when the brand was bought by G. Heileman. The Castle brewery in St. Paul was abandoned and only recently was renovated into the Schmidt Artist Lofts. Today the Schmidt Brewery brands are owned by Pabst.

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Surprisingly, I could find very little biographical information about Jacob Schmidt himself, not even a photo. Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:

Businessman. Born in Bavaria, Germany, he arrived in America at the age of 20 and after working at several breweries for five years, he settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. In St. Paul, he was the Brewmaster for the Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Company, when he left this position in 1900, to become owner and founder of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company. He became one of the first brewers to sell more than 10,000 barrels in Minnesota, along with being one of the first brewers to bottle his own beer. He died at age 63 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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The Schmidt “Castle” brewery in 1905.

Here’s the brewery history from the current brand website:

In 1884, Jacob Schmidt moved to St. Paul, Minnesota and purchased a half interest in the North Star Brewery located at Commercial St. & Hudson Rd. Jacob retired in 1899, turning over the operation to his daughter and son-in-law. The following year the brewery burned to the ground and a new location was immediately found. In 1901, the brewery was incorporated as the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company and a new plant and malt house were erected next to the existing structures.

Jacob died in 1910, but the brewery continued to enjoy success until Prohibition struck. After a failed attempt at producing soft drinks, a non-alcoholic malt beverage was created and became extremely popular.

After considerable success following the repeal of Prohibition, the company continued to prosper under the Schmidt name until 1955. Most of the original buildings still stand today, looming proudly above the Mississippi River.

Schmidt beer is known as the “Official Beer of the American Sportsman”…a slogan that capitalizes on the exciting, rugged appeal of the Pacific Northwest. The quality and brewing tradition instilled by Jacob Schmidt, continues today.

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And here’s the portion of Schmidt’s Wikipedia page that deals with the brewery’s namesake:

Jacob Schmidt started his brewing career in Minnesota as the Brewmaster for the Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Co. He left this position to become owner of the North Star Brewing Co. Under Schmidt’s new leadership the small brewery would see much success and in 1899 Schimdt transferred partial ownership of his new brewery to a new corporation headed by his son in law Adolph Bremer, and Adolph’s brother Otto. This corporation would later become Bremer Bank. With the new partnership the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company was established. In 1900 the North Star Brewery would suffer a fire that would close it for good. With the new management team in place a new brewery was needed, the new firm purchased the Stahlmann Brewery form the St. Paul Brewing Co. and immediately started construction on a new Romanesque brewery incorporating parts of Stahlmann’s original brewery along with it including the further excavation of the lagering cellars used in the fermentation process to create Schmidt’s Lager Beer.

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This account is excerpted from the Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota, by Doug Hoverson:

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Here’s a portion of a lengthier, more thorough account of the brewery’s history, from Substreet:

He came to the United States in 1865 at the age of 20 and worked in brewhouses as he moved westward. He worked in Rochester, Chicago, and Milwaukee, before coming to Minnesota, where he found a position at Schell’s brewery in New Ulm, before moving to Minneapolis’ Heinrich’s and then to Banholzer’s and Hamm’s of St. Paul.

At Theodore Hamm’s brewery, the biggest of its kind in the state, Schmidt became not just the chief brewer, but also a personal friend of the firm’s powerful owner and namesake.

Ultimately, Jacob Schmidt wanted his own brewery.

On the other end of Swede Hollow, in 1860, Edward Drewry and George Scotten founded what would become the North Star Brewery, then just called ‘Drewry & Scotten’. Though it featured a brewhouse large enough to compete with Stahlmann’s operation on the other side of St. Paul, and had adequate—though far from extensive—underground cellars to match, this brewery produced ale, not lager beer, and therefore did not compete with Stahlmann’s brand.

After changing hands several times, it was clear by the early 1880s that North Star required a talented master brewer. The owners of that humble brewery, William Constans (grocer and brewery supply dealer) and Reinhold Koch (brewer and Civil War veteran), hired Jacob Schmidt, and the former Hamm’s brewer rapidly expanded production below the bluff.

Together, Schmidt, Constans and Koch grew North Star Brewery to the point it competed directly with Hamm’s.

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In a few years, the Dayton’s Bluff brewhouse became the second greatest producer of beer west of Chicago by some estimates, sending out 16,000 barrels annually as far as Illinois. In 1884, Constans and Koch decided to leave the business, thereby leaving Schmidt as sole owner. In 1899, Schmidt took down the ‘North Star Brewery’ sign and replaced it with ‘Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company’.

The next year, it all burned.

Today, all that remains of the brewery are its aging cellars, which are a part of the new Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in Lowertown off Commercial Street.

As he considered the cost of rebuilding, Schmidt received a proposal from St. Paul Brewing: they wanted to sell him their troubled brewery. The brewmaster accepted the offer and moved his operation into the former Cave Brewery, which had been only slightly modified since Stahlmann built it almost 50 years prior. Facilities were inadequate, but he would fix that.

Interestingly, Jacob Schmidt had all the bottles salvaged from the ruined brewery shipped to his new location. The glasses still bore the mark of the North Star brand, a large five-pointed star—a feature the brewer would ultimately opt to keep.

Stars cover the Schmidt brewery to this day, in signs and ironwork, hearkening to Jacob Schmidt’s time at, and the destruction of, North Star Brewery.

Observing the lowly state that Stahlmann’s brewery was in, Schmidt hired a rising Chicago architect, Bernard Barthel, to design a totally new complex to replace what was left of the Christopher Stahlmann Brewing Company, and St. Paul Brewing Company’s brash modifications to it.

It would be medieval on the outside, but totally modern and streamlined inside.

Soon, imposing red brick towers were rising on Fort Road, with obvious influences borrowed from feudal era castles, replacing the modest remains of Cave Brewery. Construction of Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co. was completed in 1904, followed in the next decade by its more significant outbuildings, notably ending in 1915 with the Bottling Department. Schmidt beer was some of the first to be bottled on-site in the state.

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The new brewery complex was designed to compete with the biggest brewers in the country, and it did.

When Jacob died in 1911, his brewery was an icon of the West Side and the employer of more than 200 people. More importantly, the beer continued to flow, unlike the bust that followed the Stahlmanns. Though the man himself was gone, the name Schmidt was becoming ever more prominent across the country.

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Schmidt’s also hired famed artist Norman Rockwell to do one of my favorite pieces of advertising art for them.

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It’s a pretty awesome piece, but not the only work in beer he did. For more, see Norman Rockwell’s Beer.

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The thing I personally remember about Schmidt’s was their collectible cans which were all over the place when I was a kid. There was a seemingly endless variety of their can designs, and I have read that it really helped keep the business afloat, at least for a time.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Valentin Blatz

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Today is the birthday of Valentin Blatz (October 1, 1826-May 26, 1894). Blatz was a German-American brewer and banker. He was born in Miltenberg, Bavaria and worked at his father’s brewery in his youth. In August 1848 Blatz immigrated to America and by 1849 had moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Blatz established a brewery next to Johann Braun’s City Brewery in 1850 and merged both breweries upon Braun’s death in 1852. He also married Braun’s widow. The brewery produced Milwaukee’s first individually bottled beer in 1874. It incorporated as the Valentin Blatz Brewing Company in 1889 and by the 1900s was the city’s third largest brewer.

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

Businessman, Beer Magnate. Valentin Blatz, born to Casper Blatz, a brewer, in Miltenberg am Main, Bavaria, Germany, attended municipal schools until age 14 when he began an apprenticeship in his father’s brewery. He began in 1844, to acquire additional experience at breweries in Augusburg, Wurzburg and Munich until 1848 when he emigrated from Bavaria to Buffalo, New York, where he worked for a year at Philip Born’s brewery. Arriving in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1849, he became brewmaster at John Braun’s Cedar Brewery producing 150 barrels annually. He boarded at Braun’s home until 1851 when, after having saved $500, he established his own brewery. Shortly thereafter, Braun was fatally thrown from his horse-drawn beer wagon and Blatz eventually married Braun’s widow. Subsequently he combined Braun’s small brewery and his own into a new company, City Brewery; with output of 500 barrels annually it would eventually become one of the largest breweries in Milwaukee. Blatz was widely acknowledged to be the first of the great Milwaukee brewers to establish a reputation outside of Wisconsin, the first to begin developing a national distribution network, and the first to establish a bottling plant in connection with his brewery. During its early years of development, he operated the brewery as a sole proprietorship and reportedly out-paced both the Pabst and Schlitz operations. With production exceeding 200,000 barrels in 1889, he incorporated it as the Val. Blatz Brewing Company with capital stock of $2,000,000 and sold it in 1891 to a group of British and American investors, United States Brewing Company, reportedly netting himself (also a member of the syndicate) and his family $3,000,000 and full control of the Milwaukee operation. Blatz was the only beer available on tap in German restaurants at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

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A year later he died unexpectedly at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, Minnesota, returning from a trip to California, where he had vacationed and attended a midwinter exposition. Ironically, he had postponed the trip several times because of a premonition he would not return to Milwaukee alive, but made the trip because of his wife’s deteriorating health so they could spend part of the winter in California’s milder climate. At his death, he was one of Milwaukee’s wealthiest men, with an estate estimated at between $6,000,000 and $8,000,000. Throughout his life he had been active in community affairs and belonged to the Milwuakee Old Settlers Society and a host of other organizations. In 1866 he became the first president of the Merchants National Bank, and in 1868 he was elected President of the Second Ward Savings Bank, a position held until his death. A member of the Milwaukee Brewers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, he belonged to an influential group of local businessmen who organized the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition in 1879. Also served a single term as a Milwaukee city alderman in 1882. His company survived prohibition with “near beer” and other non-alcoholic products until 1933, when it resumed producing beer, until 1958 when it was purchased by Pabst. The Blatz label was sold to G. Heileman brewing in 1959, which was acquired by Stroh Brewery in 1996, which was sold to Pabst in 1999 who now owns it.

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And here’s a biography of both Valentin and his Blatz Brewery, from the Blatz Brewing Company Records, 1862-1944, housed in the University of Wisconsin Library:

Valentin Blatz was born on October 1, 1826, in Miltenberg am Main, Bavaria. The son of a local brewer, Caspar Blatz and his wife Barbara, he attended school until age fourteen at which time he began an apprenticeship in his father’s business. In 1844 Blatz began an extended tour of some of Europe’s greatest breweries where he spent his time learning new techniques and the latest in brewing technology until, at age twenty-one, he was forced to return home in order to fulfill his military obligation in the army. However, his father, a prominent community leader, obtained a substitute to serve in his place and shortly thereafter, like thousands of his countrymen, Valentin Blatz left Bavaria for the United States. Landing in New York City in August 1848, Blatz found work almost immediately at the Born Brewery in Buffalo, New York.

Blatz remained in Buffalo for approximately one year after which time he journeyed west to Milwaukee. Arriving in 1849, he found work as the foreman (some sources say brewmaster) at John Braun’s Cedar Brewery that had been established in 1846. It was a small operation, employing only a few workmen and capable of producing approximately 150 barrels of beer annually. The brewery’s storage capacity was said to be only 80 barrels. Blatz worked for Braun and boarded at his home until 1851, when, after having saved $500, he purchased half of a city lot and began his own brewing business.

Around the time that Blatz was establishing his own brewery, John Braun was killed suddenly after being thrown from his horse-drawn wagon while on a trip selling beer. He left a son, John, and a wife, Louise, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child. In December of 1851 Blatz married Braun’s widow and adopted her infant child (also named Louise) who was born after Braun’s death. Blatz also raised his late employer’s son John as his own. Although he was never formally adopted, John Braun became known generally around Milwaukee as “John Blatz.” Valentin and Louise (Braun) Blatz also had five children of their own: four sons; Albert, Emil, Valentin Jr., and Louis (who died at a young age); and one daughter, Alma.

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The marriage allowed Blatz to acquire Braun’s small brewery and combine it with his own operation, which he named City Brewery. This formed the basis of what would eventually become one of the largest and most prominent breweries in Milwaukee. Blatz was widely acknowledged to be the first of the great Milwaukee brewers to establish a reputation outside Wisconsin, the first to begin developing a national distribution network, and the first to establish a bottling plant in connection with his brewery. During its early years of development, the Blatz brewery reportedly out-paced both the Pabst and Schlitz operations.

Blatz operated his business as a single proprietorship until 1889 when it was incorporated as the Val. Blatz Brewing Company with a capital stock of 21 $2,000,000. Officers of the new corporation were Valentin Blatz, president; Albert C. Blatz, vice president; John Kremer (a son-in-law), secretary; and Val. Blatz, Jr., superintendent. The company was quietly sold in 1891 to a group of British and American investors incorporated as the United States Brewing Company and known variously as the “English Syndicate” or the “Chicago Syndicate.” The sale reportedly netted Blatz (who was himself a member of the syndicate) and his family $3,000,000 and left them in full control of the local operation.

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Three years later, on May 26, 1894, Valentin Blatz died suddenly while staying at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, Minnesota, on his return from a trip to California, where he vacationed and attended a midwinter exposition. Ironically, it was a journey that he had reportedly postponed several times because of a premonition that he would not return to Milwaukee alive. A newspaper reported at the time that it was only because of his wife’s deteriorating health that he agreed to go to California where they could spend part of the winter in a milder climate. At the time of his death at age sixty-eight, Blatz was regarded as one of Milwaukee’s wealthiest men, with an estate estimated at between $6,000,000 and $8,000,000. Throughout his life Blatz was a generous man. In his will he not only left thousands of dollars to more than a dozen local charities, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged, but also provided for the four children (Cora, Selma, Elsie, and John) of his late step-son “John Blatz.” He was survived by his wife, Louise, who was with him in St. Paul; three sons, Albert, Emil, and Valentin, Jr.; and two daughters, Louise (Mrs. John) Kremer and Alma (Mrs. Gustav) Kletzsch. He was interred in Milwaukee’s Forest Home Cemetery.

Throughout his life, Blatz had been active in community affairs. He was a lifelong member of the Milwaukee Musical Society and belonged to a host of other groups, including the Milwaukee Old Settlers Society, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.), the Aurora Lodge of Freemasons, The Arion Club, the Frei Gemeinde, the Liederkranz Society, the Germania Maennerchor of Chicago, the Eichenkranz Maennerchor of New York, several local Turnverein Societies, and–reportedly one of his favorite haunts–the West Side Old Settlers Bowling Club. In 1866 he became the first president of the Merchants National Bank, and in 1868 he was elected President of the Second Ward Savings Bank, a position he held until his death. Blatz was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and also belonged to an influential committee of local businessmen who organized the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition in 1879. Blatz, who became an American citizen in 1855, was elected for a single term as a Milwaukee city alderman in 1882

After Blatz’s death, the brewery was operated by two of his sons, Albert C. and Val. Blatz, Jr., and John Kremer, a son-in-law. The United States Brewing Company, which purchased the brewery in 1891, owned and operated it until the onset of national prohibition in 1920.

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This lengthy article is from the Industrial History of Milwaukee, published in 1886.

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The Valetin Blatz home c. 1886.
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This 1946 ad features a plate with founder Valentin Blatz.

Here’s a history of Blatz, from the current Blatz beer website, which is currently owned by Pabst Brewing.

Blatz was one of the premier Milwaukee breweries. It was founded by John Braun in 1846, shortly before Wisconsin achieved statehood, and was originally called the City Brewery. Braun’s fledgling business produced about 150 barrels of beer annually – until 1851 when Valentine Blatz, a former employee, established a brewery of his own next door to the City Brewery. Braun died later that year and Blatz soon married his widow, thereby uniting the City Brewery and his own operation.

At the time of the marriage, the combined breweries produced only 350 barrels per year. However, by 1880 total annual production reached 125,000 barrels. The brewery’s growth continued, and in 1884 Blatz ranked as the third-largest beer producer in Milwaukee.

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Blatz was the first Milwaukee brewer to market beer nationally. He set up distribution centers in Chicago, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Memphis, Charleston, and Savannah. He was also the first of the Milwaukee brewers to include a bottling plant within his brewery. In addition, Blatz operated his own carpenter shop, railroad cars, cooper shop, machine shop and coal yard.

In 1890 Blatz sold his brewery to a group of London investors, who continued to operate the plant until Prohibition. Following the repeal of the eighteenth amendment, the Blatz brewery again flourished, producing over a million barrels annually during the 1940s and 1950s. Its labels included Blatz, Pilsener, Old Heidelberg, Private Stock, Milwaukee Dark, Culmbacher, Continental Special, Tempo, and English Style Ale.

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By 1955 only six Milwaukee breweries remained open. Of these six, Miller, Pabst and Schlitz were the biggest and most successful. Blatz was big, too, but stiff competition and skyrocketing production costs prevented it from growing further. In 1958 the brewery was finally sold to Pabst; however a federal court order at the time prevented Pabst from Brewing at the Blatz facilities. In 1959 this giant, Blatz, ceased all operations. Shortly there after, Pabst purchased the Blatz brands, and relaunched the brand as a craft-style beer, true to the high-quality style that Valetine Blatz espoused.

Today, Blatz continues to be recognized for it’s quality and tradition. While the Blatz Brewery is now home to some of Milwaukee’s Finest Citizens, Blatz Beer will always be Milwaukee’s Finest Beer.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Louis X, Duke of Bavaria

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Today is the birthday of Louis X, Duke of Bavaria (September 18, 1495-April 22, 1545). Louis X (or in German, German Ludwig X, Herzog von Bayern), “was Duke of Bavaria (1516–1545), together with his older brother William IV, Duke of Bavaria. His parents were Albert IV and Kunigunde of Austria, a daughter of Emperor Frederick III.”

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Here’s another short account of Louis X’s life:

Ludwig (Louis) X, Duke of Bavaria (Herzog von Bayern), was conjoint ruler of Bavaria with his brother Wilhelm IV (1493-1550) from 1516 to 1545. Louis was born 18 September 1495, son of Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria (1447-1508) and Kunigunde of Austria (1465-1520), a daughter of Emperor Frederick III. When his father Albert IV died in 1508, he was succeeded by his eldest son Wilhelm IV. It was Albert’s intention to not have Bavaria divided amongst his sons as had been the practice with previous successions. However, Louis became joint ruler in 1516, arguing that he had been born before his father’s edict of the everlasting succession of the firstborn prince of 1506.

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Although his brother, William IV, Duke of Bavaria, wrote and signed the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Bavarian Beer Purity Law, and later the German Beer Purity Law, Louis X as co-ruler of Bavaria also had a hand in it, and was co-signatory on the historic document.

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In the Bavarian town of Ingolstadt on April 23, 1516, William IV, Duke of Bavaria wrote and signed the law, along with his younger brother Louis X, Duke of Bavaria. That 1516 law was itself a variation of earlier laws, at least as early as 1447 and another in independent Munich in 1487. When Bavaria reunited, the new Reinheitsgebot applied to the entirety of the Bavarian duchy. It didn’t apply to all of Germany until 1906, and it wasn’t referred to as the Reinheitsgebot until 1918, when it was coined by a member of the Bavarian parliament.

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500th Anniversary Of The Reinheitsgebot

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It’s hard to believe it’s been 500 years since Bavaria signed what’s considered the first food purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Bavarian Beer Purity Law, and later the German Beer Purity Law. That’s because in 1516, when the law was decreed, Germany did not yet exist, and wouldn’t for nearly 300 years, with the formation of the German Confederation in 1815, longer if you go by the German Empire, founded in 1871. Modern Germany consists of sixteen federal states, called Bundesländers, of which Bavaria is one.
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And it was in Bavarian town of Ingolstadt on April 23, 1516, that William IV, Duke of Bavaria wrote and signed the law, along with his younger brother Louis X, Duke of Bavaria. That 1516 law was itself a variation of earlier laws, at least as early as 1447 and another in independent Munich in 1487. When Bavaria reunited, the new Reinheitsgebot applied to the entirety of the Bavarian duchy. It didn’t apply to all of Germany until 1906, and it wasn’t referred to as the Reinheitsgebot until 1918, when it was coined by a member of the Bavarian parliament. But while today most people think of it as all about food purity, that was in reality only a small part of it, and probably not even the most important.

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Here’s a translation of the Reinheitsgebot, from a 1993 issue of Zymurgy:

We hereby proclaim and decree, by Authority of our Province, that henceforth in the Duchy of Bavaria, in the country as well as in the cities and marketplaces, the following rules apply to the sale of beer:

From Michaelmas to Georgi [St. George’s Day], the price for one Mass [Bavarian Liter 1,069] or one Kopf [bowl-shaped container for fluids, not quite one Mass], is not to exceed one Pfennig Munich value, and

From Georgi to Michaelmas, the Mass shall not be sold for more than two Pfennig of the same value, the Kopf not more than three Heller [Heller usually one-half Pfennig].

If this not be adhered to, the punishment stated below shall be administered.

Should any person brew, or otherwise have, other beer than March beer, it is not to be sold any higher than one Pfennig per Mass.

Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities’ confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail.

Should, however, an innkeeper in the country, city or markets buy two or three pails of beer (containing 60 Mass) and sell it again to the common peasantry, he alone shall be permitted to charge one Heller more for the Mass or the Kopf, than mentioned above. Furthermore, should there arise a scarcity and subsequent price increase of the barley (also considering that the times of harvest differ, due to location), WE, the Bavarian Duchy, shall have the right to order curtailments for the good of all concerned.

Notice that the first two decrees have to do with pricing and when beer can be sold. It isn’t until paragraph six, the second last one, that the issue of what ingredients will be allowed comes up. If it had been the most important part, is seems more likely they would have led with it. Even then, it wasn’t about purity, but again commerce. Barley was designated as the only grain so that others, notably wheat and rye, were set aside to be used for baking bread.

Also, a lot of hay has been made about it not mentioning yeast, with the idea that it was because yeast wasn’t discovered until Louis Pasteur in the 19th century. But early brewers did know something about yeast, even if they didn’t have the full scientific understanding that came later. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to make consistent batches of beer. At the end of your brew, you’ll find a layer of billowing foam and other indeterminate matter at the bottom of the fermenter, which the Germans called “Zeug,” which means “stuff.” And early German brewers had a person, called a “hefener,” whose job it was to scoop out the Zeug, which was in effect the leftover yeast, and pitch it in the next batch of beer. So it’s hard to say they didn’t have some understanding of yeast.

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A German postage stamp celebrating the 450th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot in 1983.

The Germans, of course, have set up a website for the 500th anniversary, and so does the Bayerischer Brauerbund, which is a a Bavarian brewers trade group along with the German Brewers Group. They also created a 50-second film marking the anniversary.

And the media is covering the Reinheitsgebot’s Quincentenary. A few examples include the BBC, Food and Wine, NPR, Spiegel, and Wired. But by far the most thorough examination of the Reinheitsgebot was by Jeff Alworth in All About Beer magazine, Attempting to Understand the Reinheitsgebot.

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It’s great that it’s been 500 years, and that German brewers are justly proud of the Reinheitsgebot. It’s clearly helped create the unique German beer scene and their many native styles. But it’s also been used as a shameless marketing tool, been used as an exclusionary tactic, and has even had little-known exceptions to its rules for years, ones that most people are not even aware of, not to mention the use of other items in the brewing process that are also not mentioned by the law, but which because they’re not strictly “ingredients” more modern brewers have interpreted as not being prohibited.

Many people have voiced criticisms against it over the years. One that’s particularly thorough is The German Reinheitsgebot — Why it’s a Load of Old Bollocks. The German magazine Spiegel’s recent coverage is entitled Attacking Beer Purity: The Twilight of Germany’s Reinheitsgebot.

Back in 2001, Fred Eckhardt wrote an entertaining tale for All About Beer entitled The Spy who Saved the Reinheitsgebot, about how a brewer was able to prove Beck’s was using adjuncts and was not in adherence with the German law.

In another recent article in First We Feast, Sam Calagione, of the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, is quoted with an opinion I suspect many American brewers hold. “I hate the concept of the Reinheitsgebot, but I am essentially happy it exists.”

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Deutsche Post’s 2016 commemorative stamp.