Beer Birthday: Jonathan Cutler

Today is the 44th birthday of Jonathan Cutler, brewmaster/owner of Piece Brewing in Chicago. His brewpub makes great pizza and even better beer. Plus, he’s a terrific, fun person. He even got a shout-out at the Academy Awards a couple of years ago, when Quentin Tarantino said “Piece Out” during his acceptance speech. Join me in wishing Jonathan a very happy birthday.

Serving beer and pizza at the CBC Reception at the Field Museum.

At Stone Brewery during CBC in San Diego in 2008. From left: Peter Schell, Eric Rose (Hollister Brewing), Ian Ward (Brewers Supply Group), Jonathan Cutler (Piece Brewing), Chad Kennedy (Laurelwood Public House) and Fal Allen (now back at Anderson Valley).

Jonathan picking up another GABF award for Piece in 2007.

Jonathan Cutler always cries at weddings
Jonathan tearing up during Dave Keene and Jennifer Smith’s wedding during GABF a few years ago.

Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick Wacker

Today is the birthday of Frederick Wacker (September 30, 1830-July 8, 1884). Wacker was born in Württemberg Germany (though some sources claim he was from Switzerland) and founded the Chicago brewery Wacker & Birk in 1857 with business partner Jacob Birk. Shortly thereafter, Birk left to start a different brewery, and the name was changed to the Frederick Wacker Brewing Co. 1865. But Birk appears to have returned to the business, because the name became the Frederick Wacker & Jacob Birk Brewing & Malting Co., and it remained some form of the two men’s names until it was closed for good by prohibition. Frederick Wacker is also remembered as the father of his more famous son, Charles Wacker, for whom Wacker Drive in Chicago was named. And while there are plenty of photos of Charles, not a one could I find of his father.

Here’s a biography of Frederick Wacker, from the History of Chicago, Volume 3, by Alfred Theodore Andreas, published in 1886.



The Chicago brewery Frederick started was originally called Seidenschwanz & Wacker, and was located on Hinsdale, between Pine and Rush streets. It was founded in 1857, but the following year it became known as Wacker & Seidenschwanz, and was on N. Franklin Street. That version lasted until 1865. Beginning that same year, its name changed once again to the Frederick Wacker Brewery, and its address was listed as 848 N. Franklin Street, presumably in the same location as its predecessor. Sixteen years later, in 1882, it relocated to 171 N. Desplaines (now Indiana Street) and it became known as the Wacker & Birk Brewing & Malting Co. This is also when Charles joined his father’s business, when he would have been 26 years old. Just before prohibition the name was shortened to the Wacker & Birk Co., although it appears to have closed by 1920.



Historic Beer Birthday: Conrad Seipp

Today is the birthday of Conrad Seipp (September 27, 1825-January 28, 1890). Conrad Seipp immigrated to the United States from Hessen, Germany, in the 1840s. After moving to Chicago, he drove a beer wagon for Miller Brothers brewery. Eventually he started his own brewery. By the turn of the century, the Seipp Brewery expanded to become one of the largest in the United States.


Chicagology includes a short history of Conrad Seipp at the page about Chicago Breweries:

Conrad Seipp, the founder of the brewing company of that name, was born in 1825, near Frankfort on-the-Main, Germany, his early trade being that of a carpenter and joiner. In 1849 he came to this country, locating at Rochester, N. Y., but after a brief stay there, during which he followed his trade, removed to Chicago. For the succeeding five years he was proprietor of a hotel, but in 1854 rented a small plant, known as the M. Best Brewery, at the foot of Fourteenth street. In the following year his brewery was destroyed by fire, but in the fall he rebuilt on the site of the present plant of the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company.

The main building, of brick, had a frontage of about fifty feet, the beer cellars being underground, the malt floors on the ground, the living rooms for Mr. Seipp and his three children on the second floor, and the storage rooms for the barley and malt above. In 1858 Mr. Seipp formed a partnership with Frederick Lehmann, the firm of Seipp & Lehmann continuing until the death of the latter in July, 1872.

The surviving partner purchased the interest of the Lehmann heirs and in 1876 incorporated the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company, of which he remained president up to the time of his death, in January, 1890. During this period also Wm. C. Seipp, his son, served as vice-president, and T. J. Lefens as secretary and treasurer. From the founding of the business, in 1854, until its incorporation in 1876, the output increased from 1,000 barrels of lager beer to more than 100,000 barrels. The founder of the company was a man, not only of remarkable strength of character, but of rare domestic and philanthropic virtues. After his death different local charities received bequests from his estate which amounted to more than $100,000.

In April, 1890, a few months after the death of the founder of the business, the Conrad Seipp, the West Side, and the F. J. Dewes’ breweries, with the L. C. Huck and the George Bullen malt houses were amalgamated to form the City of Chicago Brewing and Malting Company. By this time the Conrad Seipp plant had expanded into one of the most extensive establishments in the country, with an annual output of 240,000 barrels of lager beer. It was one of the pioneers in the adoption of artificial refrigeration, the first of its machines being installed in 1881.


After the success of his brewery, Seipp built a large mansion on the south shore of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, which today is a tourist destination known as the Black Point Estate and Gardens. Their Facebook page includes …

Conrad Seipp’s Story

Conrad Seipp, the youngest of five brothers and sisters arrived alone in America at the age of 24 after fighting in the 1848 German Revolution as a protector of royalty. He was forced to fight against family & friends. Upon conclusion of the Revolution in he arrived in Rochester NY and moved to Lyons Illinois with his new wife Maria. His first job was driving a beer wagon. He soon set his sights on Chicago where he successfully managed a hotel on the corner of Washington & Fifth (Now Wells). In 1851 he staked claim on 80 acres of farmland (now 79th and Jeffery, SE side). In 1854 with the profits from the sale of his hotel he purchased a small brewery from Matthias Best on 14th street. It burned down within the year so he immediately built a new brick brewery at the foot of 27th and Lake Michigan with 50′ frontage, underground cellars, malt floor on ground level and 2nd floor living quarters for his growing family. By the end of the first year he had 6 employees and was producing over 1,000 barrels. In 1858 he formed a partnership with Frederick Lehmann and the name was changed to Seipp & Lehmann. The brewery expanded to 50 employees and began producing over 50,000 barrels annually. His wife Maria died of pneumonia at age 39 in 1866. Understanding the need to have a matriarch he met and married 26 year old Catharina Orb within the year. Disaster again struck in 1872 when Lehmann was killed in a buggy accident but the brewery continued to grow. Producing 103,697 barrels of beer during the period of May 1872-1873, it was now the leading brewery in the United States and Conrad was only 47 years old. He lost the US lead to a Milwaukee brewer but the Chicago Tribune article January 1, 1880 described the Seipp Brewery as the largest in Chicago with a barrelage in 1879 of 108,347. Since 1877 he had to purchase malt and barely from outside sources to keep up with production. (See 1877 Chicago News article attached) Seipp was one of the first to ship beer outside Chicago, his Salvator bottled beer was greatly appreciated in the developing Western states and Territories. According to another Tribune article, “Seipp’s bottled beer was often considered a temperance drink that has done more to reform the mining districts of the West then all the moral agencies that have ever been sent there. It has supplemented the use of stronger drinks.” Conrad’s extraordinary use of advertising helped make him one of the most successful brewers, using match boxes, coasters, trading cards, serving trays, and beer mugs. During the 1880’s a number of horse racing tracks were opening up in the Chicago area. He purchased property near Washington Park Race Track and other real estate surrounding the area tracks allowing him to build company saloons to accommodate thirsty customers attending the races. This period of growth in Chicago’s ran unchecked with sporting houses and brothels cropping up weekly and often protected by ward politicians and police alike. There were numerous Seipp Beer advertisements in “The Sporting House Directory of 1889, a Guide to Chicago Brothels” which just proved that Seipp knew and understood niche markets. In the early part of the 20th century, it was estimated that the annual consumption of beer in the Chicago bordellos was more than seven million bottles of beer and we can only assume many of those bottles were from the Conrad Seipp Brewery!

Conrad-Seipp-narrow In 1887 Chicago beer baron Conrad Seipp began construction for Black Point Estate & Gardens as a respite for his family. Owners like Seipp never envisioned their homes could ever be more than that since there were no roads nor access to utilities. The estate could be reached only by boat. The 20-room Queen Anne-style “cottage” was completed in 1888 for $20,000. It included 13 bedrooms and only one bathroom. It sat on nearly eight acres of beautiful grounds that included 620 feet of undisturbed Geneva Lake shoreline. While building Black Point, Seipp was simultaneously erecting a new mansion in Chicago. During this process he moved much of the family’s furniture from the previous Chicago home into Black Point.


A travel website, d-LIFE of @lm!ng, has an article entitled The Four Generations: Seipp Family

Conrad Seipp is a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1849 at the age of 25. He married Maria Teutsch and had three children. Before he became a Beer Baron in Chicago, he was a beer wagon driver for Miller Brothers brewery. Then he became an owner of a small hotel before he bought a small beer factory in 1854. A year after, his brewery was burned down. Conrad didn’t give up and rebuilt his company out of brick with underground cellars, a malt floor and family living quarters. After Maria died in 1866, he married Catherine Orb, and together they have five children.

Business seemed to be progressing which was producing 1000 barrels of beer in its first year. In 1858 he partnered with M. Frederick Lehmann to expand their business. In just ten years they produced 50,000 barrels of beers yearly. Seipp and Lehmann’s brewery grew to become one of the largest in the United States. But Lehmann died in an accident, so Seipp bought his partner’s shares and renamed his business to Conrad Seipp Brewing Company.

Seipp died in 1890, soon after Black Point was completed. His company was sold to British investors who merged with other brewing businesses in Chicago. Seipp family member continued to work at the brewery, but later their production exceeded by its competitors. The company was closed in 1933.


The Encyclopedia of Chicago has this entry for the Seipp (Conrad) Brewing Co.:

Conrad Seipp, an immigrant from Germany, started making beer in Chicago in 1854, after buying a small brewery from Mathias Best. By 1856, Seipp had six employees, who helped him produce about 1,100 barrels of beer each year. In 1858, Frederick Lehman joined the company, which became Seipp & Lehman. By the end of the 1860s, when Seipp & Lehman was one of Chicago’s leading brewers, about 50 employees made more than 50,000 barrels of beer (worth close to $500,000) per year. After Lehman died in 1872, Seipp organized the Conrad Seipp Brewing Co. Dominating the Chicago beer market by the late 1870s, Seipp was among the largest breweries in the United States, producing over 100,000 barrels a year. After Conrad Seipp died in 1890, the company merged with several smaller Chicago breweries to form the City of Chicago Consolidated Brewing & Malting Co., which was controlled by British investors, although Seipp was allowed to operate with considerable autonomy and under the Seipp name. At the turn of the century, the Seipp brewery was still active; annual output had reached about 250,000 barrels. The widespread establishment of neighborhood liquor stores around 1910 siphoned off sales from Seipp and other city breweries, but Seipp managed to stay afloat by introducing home beer deliveries. Grain and coal shortages during World War I stifled Seipp’s production before the enactment of Prohibition in 1919 dealt a devastating blow to the beer industry as a whole. The company limped along through the Prohibition years by producing low-alcohol “near bear” and distributing soda pop. Many speculated that Seipp also produced bootleg beer for the Torrio-Capone crime organization. Ironically, Seipp operations ceased in 1933, just before Prohibition was lifted. The brewery was destroyed that year to make room for a new hospital.


And here’s a curious artifact, a press release from the Conrad Seipp Brewery from May 4, 1879.

Only Lager Beer! Conrad Seipp’s Brewery Ships Genuine Lager Beer Only

Lager beer is the demand of the day! There was a time when the public preferred fresh beer, and brewers conformed to the fashion. There were also other factors involved: The tremendous increase in beer consumption and inadequate storage facilities which prevented an accumulation of what brewers considered an “adequately seasoned supply”. The public eventually became aware that fresh beer was not a particularly healthful beverage and thus public opinion clamored again for genuine Lager Beer.

Among those brewers who always have a large stock of well-seasoned beer on hand and need not substitute a hurried, artificially aged produce, is the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company. There has hardly been a period in the Company’s 2history when such a large supply for summer consumption has been available. According to official figures of the revenue collector, Seipp’s Brewery sold 108,000 barrels of beer between May 1, 1878 and April 30, 1879. Aside from this colossal amount the government report shows that a tremendous quantity was stored in the Brewery’s recently enlarged cellars–41,671 large barrels.

These figures are not mere estimates or exaggerations. They are accurate and are taken from official statements–showing the amount registered by the Revenue Department, and, quite aside from the fact that the Seipp Brewing Company has no intention of cheating the government, a falsification of these reports is not an easy matter, and if the Company claims to have a larger stock in storage than is actually available, then the Brewery would be faced with the problem of paying large additional sums for taxes.

The public can therefore rest assured that the Seipp Brewery had the above-mentioned quantity of beer in stock on May 1, this year, that is: 41,671 full 3barrels, and it is therefore quite evident that this large quantity was not brewed in a day or two; it required almost five months. Obviously, anyone seeing the sign “Seipp’s Beer” displayed by a saloon will be convinced that genuine, healthful Lager Beer is on tap.

That such a large concern as the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company makes special efforts to provide its customers with genuine Lager Beer augurs well and proves that even in this endeavor time-tried products will reassert themselves and make short shrift of “quick production processes”.

Ere long other breweries must emulate the good example–if they have not already done so–and the public can then drink confidently the usual morning, noon, or evening quota without harmful after effects resulting from a hurriedly mixed, artificially fermented concoction; a wholesome, slowly and properly seasoned brew is now available.



Beer In Ads #2044: La Salle Street, Chicago

Sunday’s ad is for Miller High Life, from 1945. In this ad, it’s very simple, showing a detailed view of La Salle Street in Chicago, Illinois, with no text apart from the location and then the name of the beer below. I don’t know if this was part of a series showing other locations or if there’s some special significance to this street in 1945. This would have been toward the end of the Second World War, so perhaps that has something to do with, but in the end there are more questions than answers, but it’s still an oddly comforting ad.


Historic Beer Birthday: Jacob Birk

wacker-and-birk birk-bros
Today is the birthday of Jacob Birk (September 21, 1835-March 2, 1920). Birk was born in Württemberg, Germany, but made his way to Chicago, Illinois when he was 19, in 1854. He first partnered with Frederick Wacker to form Wacker & Birk Brewing Co., then later purchased the Corper & Nocklin Brewery and set it up for his sons to run when he retired as the Birk Bros. Brewing Co. Birk & Water was closed by prohibition, but Birk Bros. reopened after repeal and continued on until 1950.


Here’s some biographical info from “Historical Review of Chicago and Cook County and Selected Biography,” by A.N. Waterman:

Birk, his father having been born in Germany and being in early manhood a harnessmaker. He came to Chicago in 1854, prospered in trade and business, and for many years conducted a hotel on West Lake street. In 1881 he became associated with Fred Wacker & Son, then engaged in the malting business, and in the following year became associated with the firm in brewing operations under the firm name of the Wacker & Birk Brewing Company. In 1891 the business was sold to the English corporation, the Chicago Breweries, Limited, and Jacob Birk and his two sons, William A. and Edward J., incorporated the Birk Brothers’ Brewing Company. Since the founding of the company, at that time, William A. has been president and Edward J. Birk, secretary and treasurer. The basis of the complete and extensive plant was the Corper & Nockin brewery, purchased in 1891, and since remodeled and enlarged. The elder Birk retired from his connection with the business in 1895.


And here’s another account, from the “History of Cook County, Illinois,” published in 1909:



The first brewery Birk was involved in was Wacker & Birk:

The Chicago brewery Frederick Wacker started was originally called Seidenschwanz & Wacker, and was located on Hinsdale, between Pine and Rush streets. It was founded in 1857, but the following year it became known as Wacker & Seidenschwanz, and was on N. Franklin Street. That version lasted until 1865. Beginning that same year, its name changed once again to the Frederick Wacker Brewery, and its address was listed as 848 N. Franklin Street, presumably in the same location as its predecessor. Sixteen years later, in 1882, it relocated to 171 N. Desplaines (now Indiana Street) and it became known as the Wacker & Birk Brewing & Malting Co. Just before prohibition the name was shortened to the Wacker & Birk Co., although it appears to have closed by 1920.



And the second was Birk Bros. Brewing, though most of its history I could find was in the above accounts.

Birk Brothers Brewing Company delivery wagon on Belmont Avenue, around 1895.



Beer Birthday: Keith Lemcke

Today is the 57th birthday of Keith Lemcke, who is Vice-President of the Siebel Institute of Technology, a position he’s held since 2000. He’s also the Marketing Manager for the World Brewing Academy and a founding member of the Draught Beer Guild. I’ve been running into Keith off and on for a number of years now, and it’s always a good time. Join me wishing a very happy birthday.

Nice portrait of Keith, taken by William Boyer.

Just before the school’s move to nearby Kendall College.

Keith getting his teach on.

Keith with Siebel president Lyn Kruger in Portugal.

Brewmaster Teri Fahrendorf, with Keith and a bunch of other Siebel folks during a trip to Chicago during her Road Brewer trip in 2007.

[Note: First four photos purloined from Facebook.]

Historic Beer Birthday: John Ewald Siebel

Today is the birthday of John Ewald Siebel (September 17, 1868-December 20, 1919). Siebel was born in Germany, but relocated to Chicago, Illinois as a young man. Trained as a chemist, in 1868 he founded the Zymotechnic Institute, which was later renamed the Siebel Institute of Technology.


Here’s his obituary from the Foreign Language Press Survey:

Professor John Ewald Siebel has died after an active life devoted to science. Besides his relatives, thousands of his admirers, including many men of science, mourn at the bier of the friendly old man. He died in his home at 960 Montana Avenue.

Professor Siebel was born September 18, 1845, in Hofkamp, administrative district of Dusseldorf [Germany], as the son of Peter and Lisette Siebel; he attended high school [Real-Gymnasium] at Hagen and studied chemistry at the Berlin University. He came to the United States in 1865 and shortly afterwards obtained employment as a chemist with the Belcher Sugar Refining Company in Chicago. Already in 1868, he established a laboratory of his own, and from 1869 until 1873 he was employed as official chemist for the city and county. In 1871 he also taught chemistry and physics at the German High School. From 1873 until 1880 he was official gas inspector and city chemist. During the following six years he edited the American Chemical Review, and from 1890 until 1900 he published the Original Communications of Zymotechnic Institute. He was also in charge of the Zymotechnic Institute, which he had founded in 1901. Until two years ago he belonged to its board of directors.

Among the many scientific works published by the deceased, which frequently won international reputation, and are highly valued by the entire world of chemical science are: Newton’s Axiom Developed; Preparation of Dialized Iron; New Methods of Manufacture of Soda; New Methods of Manufacture of Phosphates; Compendium of Mechanical Refrigeration; Thermo-and Electro-Dynamics of Energy Conversion; etc. The distilling industry considered him an expert of foremost achievement.

The deceased was a member of the Lincoln Club; the old Germania Club; the local Academy of Science; the Brauer and Braumeisterverein [Brewer and Brewmaster Association]; the American Institute for Brewing; and the American Society of Brewing Technology. Professor Siebel was also well known in German circles outside the city and state.

His wife Regina, whom he married in 1870….died before him. Five sons mourn his death: Gustav, Friedrich, Ewald, Emil and Dr. John Ewald Siebel, Jr. Funeral services will be held tomorrow afternoon at Graceland Cemetery.

Professor Siebel was truly a martyr of science. He overworked himself, until a year ago he suffered a nervous breakdown. About four months ago conditions became worse. His was an easy and gentle death.


The Siebel Institute’s webpage tells their early history:

Dr. John Ewald Siebel founded the Zymotechnic Institute in 1868. He was born on September 17, 1845, near Wermelskirchen in the district of Dusseldorf, Germany. He studied physics and chemistry and earned his doctorate at the University of Berlin before moving to Chicago 1866. In 1868 he opened John E. Siebel’s Chemical Laboratory which soon developed into a research station and school for the brewing sciences.

In 1872, as the company moved into new facilities on Belden Avenue on the north side of Chicago, the name was changed to the Siebel Institute of Technology. During the next two decades, Dr. Siebel conducted extensive brewing research and wrote most of his over 200 books and scientific articles. He was also the editor of a number of technical publications including the scientific section of The Western Brewer, 100 Years of Brewing and Ice and Refrigeration.

In 1882 he started a scientific school for brewers with another progressive brewer but the partnership was short lived. Dr. Siebel did, however, continue brewing instruction at his laboratory. The business expanded in the 1890’s when two of Dr. Siebel’s sons joined the company.

The company was incorporated in 1901 and conducted brewing courses in both English and German. By 1907 there were five regular courses: a six-month Brewers’ Course, a two-month Post Graduate Course, a three-month Engineers’ Course, a two-month Maltsters’ Course and a two-month Bottlers’ Course. In 1910, the school’s name, Siebel Institute of Technology, was formally adopted. With the approach of prohibition, the Institute diversified and added courses in baking, refrigeration, engineering, milling, carbonated beverages and other related topics. On December 20, 1919, just twenty-seven days before prohibition became effective, Dr. J. E. Siebel passed away.

With the repeal of prohibition in 1933 the focus of the Institute returned to brewing under the leadership of F. P. Siebel Sr., the eldest son of Dr. J. E. Siebel. His sons, Fred and Ray, soon joined the business and worked to expand its scope. The Diploma Course in Brewing Technology was offered and all other non-brewing courses were soon eliminated. Then in October 1952, the Institute moved to its brand new, custom built facilities on Peterson Avenue where we have remained for almost 50 years.

Siebel Brewers Academy c. 1902-04.

Here’s another short account from the journal Brewery History, in an article entitled “A History of Brewing Science in the United States of America,” by Charles W. Bamforth:

Dr John Ewald Siebel (1845-1919) was born on September 17th 1845 at Hofcamp, near Düsseldorf. Upon visiting an uncle in US after the completion of his doctorate in chemistry and physics he became chief chemist at Belcher’s sugar refinery in Chicago, aged 21, but that company soon folded. Siebel stayed in Chicago to start an analytical laboratory in 1868, which metamorphosed into the Zymotechnic Institute.

With Chicago brewer Michael Brand, Siebel started in 1882 the first Scientific School for practical brewers as a division of the Zymotechnic Institute. True life was not breathed into the initiative until 1901 with Siebel’s son (one of five) Fred P. Siebel as manager. This evolved to become the Siebel Institute of Technology, which was incorporated in 1901 and conducted brewing courses in both English and German. Within 6 years five regular courses had been developed: a six-month course for brewers, a twomonth post graduate course, a threemonth course for engineers, a two-month malting course and a two-month bottling course.

Amongst Siebel’s principal contributions were work on a counter pressure racker and artificial refrigeration systems. Altogether he published more than 200 articles on brewing, notably in the Western Brewer and original Communications of the Zymotechnic Institute. Brewing wasn’t his sole focus, for instance he did significant work on blood chemistry.

Son EA Siebel founded Siebel and Co and the Bureau of Bio-technology in 1917, the year that prohibition arrived. Emil Siebel focused then on a ‘temperance beer’ that he had been working on for nine years. Courses in baking, refrigeration, engineering, milling and nonalcoholic carbonated beverages were offered.


And here’s the entry for the Siebel Institute from the Oxford Companion to Beer, written by Randy Mosher:


Historic Beer Birthday: Charles H. Wacker

Today is the birthday of Charles H. Wacker (August 29, 1856-October 31, 1929). Wacker’s family came from Württemberg Germany (though some sources claim he was from Switzerland), and he was 2nd generation American, having been born in Chicago, Illinois. His father Frederick, also a brewer, founded the Wacker and Birk Brewing and Malting Co. In 1882 or 83, Charles joined his father in the family business, and rose to prominence in Chicago throughout his life.


Here’s his short biography from Find-a-Grave:

He was a “mover and shaker” in the early days of Chicago. He was part of the Chicago Plan Commission formed to win acceptance of the famous Burnham Plan of 1909. He was a contemporary of Daniel Burnham and helped him promote his plan for the development of the city’s lakefront and system of parks. Lower and Upper Wacker Drive (two roads one on top of the other) in Chicago is named for him.


Here’s his Wikipedia entry:

Charles Henry Wacker, born in Chicago, Illinois, was a second generation German American who was a businessman and philanthropist. His father was Frederick Wacker, a brewer, who was born in Württemberg Germany. He was Vice Chairman of the General Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, and in 1909 was appointed Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission by Mayor Busse. As Commission chairman from 1909 to 1926, he championed the Burnham Plan for improving Chicago. This work included addresses, obtaining wide publicity from newspapers, and publishing Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago (by Walter D. Moody) as a textbook for local schoolchildren.

Prior to serving on the Commission, Wacker was a Chicago brewer and the director of the 1893 Columbian Exposition held in Chicago.

As a businessman he was part of a consortium of Chicago brewers who underwrote the methods that facilitated the commercialization of refrigeration machines.

Wacker Drive, built as part of the Burnham Plan, and Charles H. Wacker Elementary School are named in his honor. The name Wacker is also attached to other institutions in Chicago, such as the Hotel Wacker.

Charles H. Wacker was educated at Lake Forest Academy (class of 1872) and thereafter at Switzerland’s University of Geneva.


The Chicago brewery his father started was originally called Seidenschwanz & Wacker, and was located on Hinsdale, between Pine and Rush streets. It was founded in 1857, but the following year it became known as Wacker & Seidenschwanz, and was on N. Franklin Street. That version lasted until 1865. Beginning that same year, its name changed once again to the Frederick Wacker Brewery, and its address was listed as 848 N. Franklin Street, presumably in the same location as its predecessor. Sixteen years later, in 1882, it relocated to 171 N. Desplaines (now Indiana Street) and it became known as the Wacker & Birk Brewing & Malting Co. This is also when Charles joined his father’s business, when he would have been 26 years old. Just before prohibition the name was shortened to the Wacker & Birk Co., although it appears to have closed by 1920.


Here’s one more biography, from the library at the University of Illinois at Chicago:

Wacker was born in 1856 to a German immigrant who owned a brewing and malting company. Although he worked as a real estate investor and bank director, Wacker eventually took over his father’s business. In civic affairs, Wacker was director of the Ways and Means Committee for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. In 1909, Mayor Fred Busse appointed Wacker to the Chicago Plan Commission, a committee designed to convince residents to issue bonds and spend money on widening streets, improving sidewalks, and redeveloping parts of the city. During his tenure on the Commission, Wacker urged voters to approve the forest preserves referenda. Later, he served on the Forest Preserve Plan Committee. Chicago leaders rewarded Wacker by renaming a double-decker roadway after him. First proposed in the Burnham Plan and completed in the 1920s, Wacker Drive runs along the Chicago River in the Loop.



Historic Beer Birthday: Fritz Goetz

Today is the birthday of Fritz Goetz (August 20, 1849-May 3, 1917). He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but moved to Chicago as a young man, eventually going into the copper business, which changed names a few times, but settled on the Goetz Company. In addition to copper brewing equipment, they also sold tanks, and general brewing and bottling equipment. The business was so successful that in his obituary, it was noted that “There is hardly any brewery, bottlery or malting plant in the United States or Mexico where there is not some machine or apparatus manufactured by the Goetz Company.”

Here is his obituary from the American Brewers’ Review for 1918:


Beer Birthday: Don Feinberg

Today is Don Feinberg’s 61st birthday, along with his wife Wendy Littlefield, ran the Belgian export company Vanberg & DeWulf. Their portfolio included such great beer lines as Dupont, Castelain and Dubuisson (Bush). They were also the original founders of Brewery Ommegang. Five years ago they celebrated their 30th anniversary of being involved in the beer industry and bringing great beer to America. Plus, they’re great fun to hang out and drink with. Unfortunately, a little over a year ago they sold Vanberg & DeWulf, and are taking some time off, before deciding on their next project. Hopefully, we’ll learn something soon. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

Don, along with the Dubuisson brewmaster, being poured Lambrucha in Chicago in 2010.

Wendy and Don at a dinner in Belgium last year.

Wendy Littlefield, Don and Greg Engert at a Vanberg & DeWulf tasting in Washington, D.C. (photo by Chuck Cook)

Wendy and Don in 1979.