Historic Beer Birthday: Max Henius

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Today is the birthday of Max Henius (June 16, 1859–November 15, 1935). He “was a Danish-American biochemist who specialized in the fermentation processes. Max Henius co-founded the American Academy of Brewing in Chicago.”

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Max Henius, at left, at Rebild, Denmark.

Here’s his biography, from Wikipedia:

Max Henius was born in Aalborg, Denmark. His parents were Isidor Henius (1820–1901) and Emilie (née Wasserzug) Henius (1839–1913), both Polish Jewish immigrants. His father, who was born in Thorn, West Prussia, now Torun, Poland, emigrated to Denmark in 1837 and continued his work for spirits distillers to improve and standardise production and later – 15 January 1846 – co-founded one distillery, Aalborg priviligerede Sirup- og Sprtitfabrik, that was later, together with several other distilleries, consolidated into De Danske Spritfabrikker in 1881, a Danish distillery which is now – since 2012 – part of the Norwegian Arcus Group, which closed the distillery in Aalborg in 2015, moving production to Norway instead. Isidor Henius also owned a small castle in Aalborg, now called Sohngaardsholm Slot. Since 2005, it has been the site of a gourmet restaurant.

Max Henius was educated at the Aalborg Latin School and went on to study at the Polytechnic Institute in Hanover, Germany He attended the University of Marburg, earning his Ph.D. degree in chemistry during 1881. His father sold the distillery that same year. Max Henius subsequently emigrated from Aalborg to the United States in 1881 at the age of 22, settling in Chicago. His younger brother, Erik S. Henius, (1863- 1926) remained in Denmark where he was Chairman of the Danish Export Association.

Initially he was employed by the Northern Pacific Railway on an assignment to test the waters between Fargo, North Dakota, and Bozeman, Montana. In 1886, he opened a drug store. Subsequently he formed Wahl & Henius, an institute for chemical and mechanical analysis, with his former schoolmate, Robert Wahl (1858-1937). Founded in 1891, the Chicago-based American Brewing Academy (later known as the Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology) was one of the premier brewing schools of the pre-prohibition era. This institute was later expanded with a brew master school that operated until 1921.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Max Henius became interested in Danish-American organizations in Chicago. Funds were being raised by Danish Americans to purchase 200 acres (0.81 km2) of heather-covered hills, located in part of Rold Forest (Danish: Rold Skov), Denmark’s largest forest. In 1912 Max Henius presented the deed to H.M. King Christian X as a permanent memorial from Danish Americans. Rebild National Park (Danish: Rebild Bakker) is today a Danish national park situated near the town of Skørping in Rebild municipality, Region Nordjylland in northern Jutland, Denmark. Every July 4 since 1912, except during the two world wars, large crowds have gathered in the heather-covered hills of Rebild to celebrate American Independence Day. On the slope north of Rebild, where the residence of Max Henius was once located, a bust was placed in his memory.

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And here’s Randy Mosher’s entry from the Oxford Companion to Beer of the Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology:

Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology
is a brewing research laboratory and school in Chicago that operated between 1886 and 1921.

Founded in 1886 by Dr Robert Wahl and Dr Max Henius as the Wahl & Henius, the name was changed to the Scientific Station for Brewing of Chicago and then to the Institute of Fermentology before becoming the Wahl-Henius Institute. Its educational division, the American Brewing Academy, was created in 1891.

The school and laboratory operated successfully until Prohibition, when the near dissolution of the brewing trade forced its closure and sale to the American Institute of Baking, which retains the nucleus of the Wahl-Henius library.

Wahl-Henius would perhaps be mostly forgotten today if it were not for its role as publisher of two important beer texts. The Wahl-Henius Handy Book of Brewing, Malting and the Auxillary Trades, coauthored by Wahl and Henius, is a comprehensive and wide-ranging view into American brewing in 1901. It also contains basic chemical analyses of many contemporary American and European beers, providing an unusually valuable window into the brewing past. J. P. Arnold’s 1911 Origin and History of Beer and Brewing is an exhaustive romp through thousands of years of beer history.

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And this bust of Henius is in the Rebild National Park in Denmark. Henius organized fund-raising and “in 1911, almost 200 acres of the hilly countryside were bought with funds raised by Danish Americans. In 1912, Max Henius presented the deed to the land to his Majesty King Christian X as a permanent memorial to Danish Americans. Later the Danish government added to the land, that now features a beautiful natural park.”

And this is from the Chicago Midwest Rebild Chapter:

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Rebild Society, I find it fascinating to look at the lives of its builders in the context of their times. It is hard to imagine a more dynamic time of porous borders and explosive growth than the late 19th century. Probably the name most closely associated with the founding of the Rebild Society is Max Henius. I had the good fortune to come across a biography of Henius written by his associates shortly after his death, and much of what I have written of Henius is largely based on that biography.

The first Europeans to come to Chicago were Pere Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673 when they claimed Midwestern North America for Nouvelle France. Marquette and Joliet traveled up the Illinois River and portaged to the Chicago River and down to Lake Michigan. Joliet called for a canal to be built to connect the Illinois and Chicago rivers to stimulate trade and help France establish an economic empire in the New World. It was a prescient recommendation. Such a canal would indeed be built almost 200 years later, and an economic empire was ignited. Chicago would become the transport hub for a new nation, and not for New France.

In 1838, ten years before the canal was built connecting the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds, Max Henius’ father immigrated to Denmark from an impoverished Jewish family in Torun, Poland, traveling on foot to Aarhus, where his brother Jacob lived. The journey took six weeks. The elder Henius rose quickly in the distillery business first in Aarhus and then in København. He launched his own his distillery, Spritfabrikken in Aalborg in 1846, with money loaned from partners. In 1854 he returned to Torun to find a bride.

Born in 1859, Max was educated at the Aalborg Latin School and went on to study at the Polytechnic Institute in Hanover before matriculating at the University of Marburg, Germany. 1881 was a pivotal year for Max Henius. His father sold the distillery that Max had hoped to take over, and he had fallen in love with Johanne Heiberg. Both families disapproved of the relationship and Max Henius decided to immigrate to the US and subsequently send for his fiancée to come and marry him. Interestingly, a contemporary who would also become a very famous Danish-American, Jens Jensen, would immigrate to the US three years later partly because his prospective partner also did not meet family approval. A fellow student from Hannover and Warburg, Robert Wahl, told Max of the multiple opportunities available in the US, and later would partner with Henius in a very successful business.

Already in 1870 immigrants made up a larger proportion of the city’s population (48 percent) than any other place in North America. Chicago was quickly rebuilding after its massive destruction by fire in 1871 and Danish immigration was beginning to swell. Max Henius arrived in Chicago in October of 1881. Although he was a well educated and degreed chemist, his first jobs were as a door to door book salesman, errand boy for a pharmacy, and as a coal trimmer. Two years later he was employed by the Northern Pacific Railway to test the waters between Fargo, North Dakota and Bozeman, Montana but returned to Chicago to marry Johanne on June 4, 1883. With his savings he opened a drug store and subsequently formed Wahl & Henius, Analytical and Consulting Chemists with a lab at the back of the store. They established themselves as authorities on yeast culture and brewing.

Chicago was at this time one of the most rapidly growing cities in the world, the Shanghai of the late 19th century. Population growth was meteoric, fueled by decade after decade of immigration. But it was a wide open and divided city and hardly immune to the controversies of its time. May 1, 1886 saw a massive demonstration by workers (well advertised in the immigrant press) in favor of the eight-hour working day. Three days later the conflict culminated in a violent confrontation. The 1886 Haymarket Massacre took place in Chicago when an unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they dispersed a public meeting. Chicago police fired on workers during a general strike for the eight-hour workday, killing several demonstrators and resulting in the deaths of several police officers. International Workers’ Day is the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre. Ironically this would become a holiday officially celebrated throughout the Soviet bloc in the next century.

Henius did become involved in some of the public issues of this time. In 1892 a typhoid epidemic broke out in Chicago. Sewage was discharged into the Chicago River and subsequently found it way into Lake Michigan where Chicago’s water supply was tapped. Henius examined milk samples that were watered down and publicly spoke out on his findings. The waters of Lake Michigan were mapped bacteriologically so the water cribs were moved farther out in Lake Michigan.

Henius was very active in various Danish immigrant organizations, including the Danish-American Association, formed in Chicago in 1906. The idea for a Danish-American festival to be held in Denmark actually came from Ivar Kirkegaard, a Danish-American poet and editor. The first Danish-American rally was held in 1908 at Krabbesholm Folk High School on Skive Fjord. En route to the Krabbesholm festival, Henius was visiting Aarhus, when he learned of the planning for a national exposition to be held in Aarhus the following summer. He proposed to his fellow association members that they organize a Danish-American meeting for July 4, 1909. They filled an auditorium and persuaded the crown prince, later King Christian X, Georg Brandes and other noted Danes to speak at the event. Three years later Rebild Park was purchased by Danish Americans and set aside as a park, with the understanding that the site would be used to celebrate the 4th of July. Rebild Park was dedicated in 1912, and the first festival in Rebild was held on August 5, 1912.

Later Henius would found and head the Jacob A. Riis League of Patriotic Service to act as a clearing house for patriotic activities for Danish Americans during the First World War. The League grew out of a committee that managed the 3rd Liberty Load drive in Chicago among Danish-Americans. It also had among its objectives the preservation of Danish culture in America. Its influence was used with President Woodrow Wilson to include the question of the Danish border with Germany in the post war peace settlement. Henius would also be instrumental in establishing and supporting the Danes Worldwide Archives in Aalborg, initially housed in his childhood home of Sohngårdsholm.

Immigration has always been a controversial subject and resisted with varying degrees of success throughout history. But looking backwards one can only conclude it has been to our good fortune, and that our societies have been quite enriched and rejuvenated by the dynamism that immigrants have brought to us.

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And Gary Gillman also has a nice overview of Henius’ life in a blog post last year, entitled Max Henius, Star of American Brewing Science.

Historic Beer Birthday: William Ogden

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Today is the birthday of William B. Ogden (June 15, 1805-August 3, 1877). Ogden’s biggest claim to fame is being the first mayor of the city of Chicago, elected in 1837. But he was also a businessman, and one of the businesses he was involved in was one of Chicago’s first breweries, Lill & Diversey.

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A portrait of William B. Ogden, painted by G.P.A. Healy in 1855.

Some sources say it was the very first brewery in Chicago, but either way, it was certainly one of the earliest. It was founded by William Lill, who was later joined by partner Michael Diversey

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Here’s the brewery’s story from One Hundred Years of Brewing, published in 1901:

The immense brewing interests of Chicago had their origin in the persons of William Lill and William Haas. In September, 1839, William B. Ogden, who, two years previously, had been elected mayor of the city, established Mr. Lill in business at the corner of Pine street and Chicago avenue, Mr. Haas being the latter’s assistant. The “plant” was installed in a small tenement building and the first year’s brew was about 450 barrels.

After a few years Michael Diversey formed a partnership with Mr. Lill, when Mr. Ogden withdrew his silent interest in the business. Under the management of Lill & Diversey the so-called Chicago Brewery developed into one of the most extensive establishments of the kind in the west, occupying a portion of the original site, but then covering an entire block. For many years “Lill‘s Cream Ale” was one of the most famous brands in the country. Besides being known as good business men, Lill and Diversey were noted for their benevolence and generosity, the latter being a large benefactor to the German Catholic churches of Chicago.

In 1841, Michael Diversey and William Lill bought the first commercial brewery in Chicago (Haas & Sulzer Brewery) and changed the name to the Lill & Diversey Brewery, also known as the Chicago Brewery. The two men saw huge success and by 1861 were producing 45,000 barrels of beer a year and employing over 75 men. Famous for “Lill’s Cream Ale,” by 1866 the brewery had sprawled to over two acres and four stories high. The Water Tower Pumping Station, which still stands today, was put in directly across the street.

Serving two terms as a Chicago Alderman (1844-45; 1856-1868), Michael Diversey also donated a small plot of land where a Catholic church for fellow German immigrants was built. St. Michael’s was the tallest building in Chicago until 1885 when The Old Chicago Board of Trade building was completed. Known as a great city leader and keeping company with the likes of Joseph Sheffield and William Ogden, Michael Diversey was integral in bringing great growth to Chicago.

However, Diversey died in 1869, and Lill continued to run the brewery. Till the Great Fire of 1871 wiped it out and Lill lost everything. The brewery never re-opened and Lill passed away in 1875.

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Most of Ogden’s biographies don’t even mention his affiliation with the brewery at all. See, for example his Wikipedia page, the WBEZ Chicago blog and the Encyclopedia of Chicago. His business with the brewery was apparently a pretty minor investment for him, and he was much more heavily involved in many other projects and businesses. Most accounts state that Ogden was a silent partner in the brewer. But in Gregg Smith’s “Beer In America: The Early Years—1587-1840,” he claims “that the mayor was very much involved in the business, and not just a silent partner: he wanted to ensure that the brewery’s hops came from New York’s Finger Lakes region.” Which makes some sense; Ogden was born in upstate New York.

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A photo of Ogden later in life.

Beer Birthday: Ray Daniels

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Today is the 59th birthday of Ray Daniels. Ray is the former director of Craft Beer Marketing for the Brewers Association and today runs the Cicerone program, which he founded, to certify beer professionals, similar to sommeliers in the wine industry. He also founded the Real Ale Festival that used to take place annually in Chicago. And he’s one of my favorite people in the beer industry. Join me in wishing Ray a very happy birthday.

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Julie Johson, from All About Beer, with Ray at Lagunitas during the Journalism Retreat when CBC was in San Francisco a few years ago.

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On the floor at GABF with Bob Pease, from the Brewers Association, Mark Dorber, publican extraordinaire, and John Mallet, from Bell’s Brewery.

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It’s hard not to love his Cicerone press photo.

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Ray with his former assistant Sarah Huska at the Cicerone booth at CBC in Chicago five years ago.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Theurer

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Today is the birthday of Joseph Theurer (May 24, 1852-May 14, 1912). Born in Philadelphia of German descent, who became a well-known brewer in both his native Pennsylvania and Illinois. After he married Emma Schoehofen, he became VP of his father-in-law’s Chicago brewery, the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Company in 1880. After Peter passed away in 1893, Theurer became president and remained at the helm until his own death in 1912.

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Here’s a biography from Find a Grave:

Joseph Theurer, who was of German descent, was born in Philadelphia in 1852. He became one of the most knowledgeable brewers of his day. He served as Treasurer of the Illinois State Brewers Association from 1898 to 1911 and he held title of President of the United States Brewing Association from 1903 to 1905.

Joseph arrived in Chicago in the Fall of 1869 and worked as an apprentice to brewers Adam Baierle and K.G. Schmidt. In 1871, he had been working at the Huck Brewery for less than a week when the brewery was destroyed in The Great Chicago Fire.

So he returned to Philadelphia for a year to work at the brewery of Bergdoll & Psotta. And then headed back to Chicago in 1872 to work at Bartholomae & Leicht brewery until 1874. He was also employed for one season at the Clybourn Avenue Malthouse of F. Wacker & Co. before returning to Philadelphia until his marriage to Peter Schoenhofen’s daughter, Emma Schoehofen, in 1880.

Upon his marriage to Emma, he became Vice President of Schoenhofen Brewing Company in Chicago until his father in law Peter’s death in 1893. Joseph took over as President of Schoenhofen Brewing from 1893 until 1911.

In 1896, Joseph commissioned what is now known as the Theurer-Wrigley Mansion. The Mansion, built in the late Italian Renaissance style, was designed by Richard Schmidt and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The 20,000+ square foot mansion features 11 bedrooms and 6 baths. Furnished with nearly all Tiffany light fixtures, many have been removed by previous owners or sold. An original Tiffany stained glass window from the Mansion is currently on display at the Chicago History Museum. Recent reports show the Mansion being listed for 9.5 million dollars as a foreclosure in 2011, but it has since been purchased and is currently occupied by a single owner.

On May 14, 1912 Joseph died from pneumonia and was laid to rest along with Peter Schoenhofen in the magnificent Egyptian revival style tomb in Graceland Cemetery. Services were conducted on May 17th in front of the tomb and conducted in both English and German. Attendees included members of the Illinois and Cook County Brewers Associations as well as a large number of charitable organizations, family and close friends.

Joseph was survived by his widow Emma, two sons, Peter S. and Joseph Jr., and two daughters Miss Margareta Theurer and Mrs. Marie (Richard) Ostenrieder.

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The Encyclopedia of Chicago has a concise history of the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Co.:

Peter Schoenhofen, a Prussian immigrant, was in Chicago working in the brewing trade by the 1850s. In 1861, he started a partnership with Matheus Gottfried; they were soon operating a brewery at Canalport Avenue and 18th Street where, during the early 1860s, they made about 600 barrels of lager beer a year. In 1867, Schoenhofen bought out his partner, and the company became the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Co. By 1868, annual output had increased to about 10,000 barrels. During the 1890s, when the business was owned by the City Contract Co. of London, England, annual output reached 180,000 barrels. Around 1900, the Schoenhofen family regained control of the company, which employed about 500 people at its brewery on West 12th Street by 1910. During this time, the company was also known as the National Brewing Co. The company’s “Edelweiss” brand of beer was a big seller. Operations shut down during Prohibition, but by 1933, after the national ban on alcohol production was lifted, the company was back in business as the Schoenhofen-Edelweiss Co. After being purchased by the Atlas Brewing Co. in the late 1940s, Schoenhofen became part of Dewery’s Ltd. of South Bend, Indiana, in 1951, and thereafter assumed the Dewery’s name. By the beginning of the 1970s, there was nothing left of its Chicago operations, although Dewery’s reintroduced the famous Edelweiss brand in 1972 after nearly a decade-long hiatus.

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Today, the land where the brewery was located is known as the Schoenhofen Brewery Historic District and to see earlier photos of that area, Forgotten Chicago has a short history, with lots of pictures.

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Historic Beer Birthday: William Leonard Hoerber

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Today is the birthday of William Leonard Hoerber (April 5, 1849-May 7, 1933). He was the son of German-born John L. Hoerber, who founded the John L. Hoerber Brewery in 1858, after emigrating to Chicago, Illinois. William was brought up in the family business and took over the brewery after his father passed away in 1898. After prohibition, it reopened as The Hoerber Brewing Co., and remained in business until 1941, when it closed for good.

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This short biography is from “The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago, edited by Albert Nelson Marquis, published in 1911:

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Chicago historian and beer writer Bob Skilnik had an article in the Chicago Tribune that mentioned the Hoerber Brewery in 1997:

A population increase from a few hundred in 1833 to more than 100,000 in 1860 opened the market and made success possible for scores of brewers. In 1857, the city council ordered the grades of all existing properties to be raised to a height that would ensure proper drainage. John Hoerber used this opportunity to raise his combination saloon, store and boardinghouse and install a small brewery underneath, pumping fresh beer to his customers. By doing so, Hoerber beat the now-defunct Siebens on West Ontario by about 150 years for the title of Chicago’s first brew pub.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Edward John Birk

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Today is the birthday of Edward John Birk (April 2, 1867-April 22, 1940). Edward was the son of Jacob Birk, who co-founded Chicago’s Wacker & Birk Brewing Co. When Jacob retired, he bought the Corper & Nocklin Brewery for his sons, renaming it the Birk Bros. Brewing Co. Edward and his brother William ran the brewery through Prohibition, and it successfully reopened after repeal, and continued until closing on September 15, 1950.

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That’s definitely famed Prohibition agent Eliot Ness in this photo (at the far end of the table, on our left) and it’s possible that the man next to him was Edward J. Birk during his trial in 1922, during prohibition.

The New York Times reported on the case in 1922:

FIRST BREWERY TRIAL ENDS IN AN ACQUITTAL

E.T. Birk of Chicago is Freed by a Jury of Charge of Transgressing Voltead Act.

A precedent was established in the Federal Court here today when a jury before Judge Wilkerson acquitted Edward J. Birk, president of Birk Brothers’ Brewery, who was accused of aiding in the manufacture and sale of beer of illegal alcoholic content.

The acquittal came after a four-day trial. When the case started F.J. Birk, Vice President of the brewery; F.J. Wetzel, shipping clerk, and Leonard Dressler, brewmaster, also were on trial. The cases against these defendants were dismissed because the Government found that its witnesses had vanished. [my emphasis]

This was the first case tried here before a jury in which officials of a brewery were accused of violating the law….

The jury reached a verdict after three and a half hours’ deliberation. When the verdict was read Birk walked up to the jury box and announced in a loud voice: “Gentlemen of the jury, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.” He then turned to the Judge and said, “And I want to thank you, too, Judge Wilkerson.”

While a controversy was pending over taxes claimed by the Internal Revenue Department a squad of prohibition agents sent from Washington in the Spring of 1921 raided loop saloons and seized twenty-five barrels of Birk Brothers beer.

The brewery was closed by the Government and remained closed until April of this year, when at a hearing of forfeiture proceedings instituted by the Government, it was turned back by Judge Carpenter to its owners.
Can’t you just hear the theme song from The Untouchables in the background?”

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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.

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

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

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Historic Beer Birthday: Bill Siebel

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Today is the birthday of Bill Siebel (March 26, 1946-November 8, 2015). Bill was the grand-grandson of John Ewald Siebel, who founded what would become the Siebel Institue of Technology. In the early 1970s, Bill became president of the brewing school his family founded, and held that post until his retirement in 2000. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill a couple of times judging at the Great American Beer Festival, when we sat at a few of the same judging tables. Talking in between flights, he had a great sense of humor and seemed like such a nice person. I was only sorry I had’t met him sooner. Join me in raising a toast to Bill tonight.

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This is Bill’s obituary from the Chicago Tribune:

Bill Siebel was the fourth generation of his family to head a Chicago beer-brewing school that has produced tens of thousands of alums with surnames such as Busch, Coors, Pabst, Stroh and Floyd — as in 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

It wouldn’t be exaggerating to call him a member of the “First Family” of beer education in the U.S., said Charlie Papazian, president and founder of Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest.

Bill Siebel was chairman and CEO of the Siebel Institute of Technology, established in Chicago in 1872 by his great-grandfather, Dusseldorf-born immigrant John Ewald Siebel. It bills itself as the oldest brewing school in the Americas. “There is one, based in Germany, established before us,” said Keith Lemcke, vice president of the institute, 900 N. Branch St.

“It’s been a continuous run,” Lemcke said, “except for this inconvenient time we call ‘Prohibition.’ ” During Prohibition, it kept going as a school of baking — which, like brewing, uses yeast.

Siebel Institute students, Lemcke said, have included August Busch III of Anheuser-Busch; John Mallett of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo; the father and grandfather of Samuel Adams brewer Jim Koch; and Greg Hall, a brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Company and son of Goose Island founder John Hall.

“The contributions that the Siebel Institute has made to brewing — and to training craft brewers — in its long history, are far too numerous to count,” said Koch of Samuel Adams. “I’m a sixth-generation brewer, and my father graduated from Siebel in 1948 and my grandfather in 1908. . . . The industry has lost a great one.”

Mr. Siebel, who had esophageal cancer, died on Nov. 8 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was 69.

The family school is “the longest-living institution that has served as an educational institution for brewers in the United States,” Papazian said. “They’ve gone through a lot of transitions, from the small breweries going out of business in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, to embracing the small craft brewers that were emerging in the ’70s and ’80s, welcoming them, and offering them educational opportunities. Bill was involved with that transition.”
“Many of our employees are graduates of Siebel Institute, and the impact the school has made on the beer community is impressive,” said Ken Stout, general manager of Goose Island Beer Company. “A great industry leader has been lost, and we’ll miss him dearly.”

Bill Siebel and his brother, Ron, grew up near Devon and Caldwell in Edgebrook, and at the Southwest edge of the Evanston Golf Club in Skokie, where one of the tees was behind their home. A highlight of their youth was spending summers with their mother, Mary, at Paradise Ranch near Colorado Springs, while their father, Raymond, commuted back and forth from the Siebel Institute in Chicago. The Siebel boys became accomplished horseback riders.

They attended grade school at the old Bishop Quarter Military Academy in Oak Park. Bill Siebel graduated from Florida’s Admiral Farragut Academy and the University of Miami. He served in the Navy, rising to lieutenant, before returning to Chicago — and the family beer school — in 1971, said his wife, Barbara Wright Siebel.

Both brothers attended the Siebel Institute, where a variety of classes, diplomas and certificates focus on yeast, malt, fermentation, biological science, quality control, engineering and packaging. “One of my classmates in 1967 was August Pabst, and August Busch III was a few years before,” Ron Siebel said.

For decades, the school and laboratory were located at 4055 W. Peterson, where the Siebels had a brewing library and a second-floor bierstube with heirloom steins.

After their father and uncle sold the business, “Bill and I were successful in getting it back,” Ron Siebel said. “We got it back in the family hands, and it stayed there until [Bill] retired and wanted to liquidate his holdings in the institute.” Today, the school is owned by Lallemand, a Canadian yeast company.

Ron Siebel focused on selling products such as stabilizers, which preserve clarity in beer. “Bill was ‘Mr. Inside.’ He was very good with numbers,” his brother said. Because of him, “The business was always on a steady course.”

Bill Siebel retired in 2000, Lemcke said.

He restored himself and reveled in nature, hiking, and watching birds and animals. For their honeymoon, Bill and Barbara Siebel canoed nine days on the U.S.-Canadian Boundary Waters. And for 20 years, they canoed in Ely, Minnesota, where he enjoyed spotting bear and moose. He also loved reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.

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And this is another obituary from website Beer Monopoly:

William (Bill) Siebel, philanthropist and former President of the Siebel Institute, died 8 November 2015, aged 69

In the classroom of the Siebel Institute in Chicago, there is a long wall featuring the graduating class photographs of students dating back to the year 1900. The year 1973 marked the first appearance of a young, moustachioed Bill Siebel in the faculty section of the Diploma Course photographs, and his image would appear in every class photo for the next 26 years.

Unless you knew Bill, visitors to Siebel could be forgiven for wondering who this prankster was, who, year after year, managed to blag his way into one of the world’s oldest brewing schools to have his photo taken with the brewing school’s graduates?

Certainly, Bill would have chuckled at the suggestion of him being a repeat gatecrasher at the school, which has borne his family’s name since the 19th century. He would have even taken delight in being awarded the nickname Zelig – the title character of a Woody Allen “mockumentary” from 1983 about a human chameleon that sneaked past guards at major events to rub shoulders with the high and mighty – because he would have known of the film or more probably would have even seen it.

Bill had a great sense of humour. When he attended the Munich trade fair Drinktec as an exhibitor for the first time in 1993, he came armed with only a poster, expecting to be given a tabletop for his brochures. To his surprise he had in fact rented a large booth. Bill being Bill made the best of this and immediately organised two dozen large trees in pots which he placed alongside the walls. If passers-by remarked that the Siebel Institute had obviously branched out into horticulture, Bill laughed his infectious and his eyes would sparkle behind his glasses as he repeated the story about his mishap over and over again.

Despite his self-effacing modesty, Bill represented the best of North American “beer royalty”. Being a fourth generation Siebel to run the business, whose passion for beer was undeniable – he was most inconsolable when he had to cancel being a judge at this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver due to his failing health – Bill felt equally strongly about his obligations as a citizen. He diligently and conscientiously gave his expertise to many good causes and probably even more in terms of financial support. However, you had to know him really well to discover this side of him.

Bill was a Chicago man: born and bred in the Windy City, which he loved but hated for its extreme weather. This may have been one reason why he chose to study in far-away Florida. He graduated from Florida’s Admiral Farragut Academy and the University of Miami. He served in the Navy, rising to lieutenant, before returning to Chicago — and the family beer business — in 1971.

The Siebel Institute of Technology was established in Chicago in 1872 by Bill’s great-grandfather, the German-born immigrant John Ewald Siebel. Unlike Bill, JE Siebel must have been a real sourpuss, judging from the dour-looking gentleman, whose bust Bill and his wife Barbara kept in their yard. On my last visit to Chicago this spring, we presented JE to the Siebel Institute – they already had the other of the two busts that JE had made – because Bill knew no one in his family would want such a stern character face them in the morning.

Bill did not bear his family’s heritage lightly. He would joke about how the Siebel Institute made it through this “inconvenient time” Americans call Prohibition. Officially, the Siebel Institute kept going as a school of baking – which, like brewing, uses yeast – and Bill would laughingly speculate that his ancestors probably were involved in all kinds of shenanigans. After all, Prohibition in Chicago gave rise to plenty of colourful gangsters whose empires were made with alcohol. In fact, reality was far bleaker than Bill liked to narrate it. When JE Siebel died in late 1919, Prohibition had already been ratified, which meant that the Siebel Institute could no longer teach brewing in America and several Siebel family members were left destitute, says Keith Lemcke, Vice-President of the Siebel Institute.

As we know, the Siebel Institute survived. But when Bill joined the Institute, his father and uncle had already sold the business. Fortunately, Bill and his older brother Ron succeeded in getting it back. “We got it back in the family hands, and it stayed there until Bill retired and wanted to liquidate his holdings in the institute,” Ron said. Today, the school is owned by Lallemand, a Canadian yeast company.

Both Bill and Ron attended the Institute to be taught all about yeast, malt, fermentation, biological science, quality control, engineering and packaging. “One of my classmates in 1967 was August Pabst, and August Busch III was a few years before,” Ron said. Over its long history, the Siebel Institute has produced tens of thousands of alumni with such illustrious surnames like Busch, Coors, Pabst and Stroh. But John Mallett of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo; the father and grandfather of Samuel Adams brewer Jim Koch; and Greg Hall, a brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Company, were also among them.

For decades, the school and laboratory were located at 4055 W. Peterson, where the Siebels had a brewing library and a second-floor Bierstube in mock-Germanic style. For parties they liked to serve brat and sauerkraut.

While Ron would focus on selling auxiliary products, Bill was Mr Inside. “He was very good with numbers,” his brother remembers. Because of Bill, the business was always on a steady course. This does not mean that things were easy. For decades, the U.S. beer industry has been in a state of transition. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s a lot of the smaller brewers went out of business followed by the remaining mid-tier brewers in the 1990s. Fortunately for the Siebel Institute and thanks to Bill’s tireless travelling and networking, international students and craft brewers began to fill seats as of the 1990s. Bill wholeheartedly welcomed them, offering them educational opportunities.

Until his retirement in 2000, Bill taught at the Siebel Institute and took on various roles, from registrar, to President, Chairman and CEO.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Michael Brand

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Today is the birthday of Michael Brand (March 23, 1826-October 26, 1897). Born in Gau-Odernheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, he was trained as a brewer and came to America and became a partner with Valentine Busch in 1852 and Busch and Brand Brewery continued until Busch passed away in 1872, when in became the Michael Brand Brewery in Chicago, Illinois, though many sources say that it was 1878 when the name change took place. In 1889, in became the United States Brewing Co., which it remained until in closed in 1955.

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Here’s a short biography from the “History of Chicago.”

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Here’s another short history of his brewery for “One Hundred Years of Brewing.”

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Beer Birthday: Grant Johnston

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Today is the 63rd birthday of Grant Johnston. Grant was the original brewer at Marin Brewing when it opened in 1989, and spent a number of years at Black Diamond Brewing in Concord, California. Grant was very influential in the early days of Bay Area brewing, and he’s an incredibly talented brewer. A few years ago he moved to the midwest, and these days can be found working a few days a week at the Argus Brewery in Chicago. A couple of years back, I was in Belgium at the Cantillon Brewery when in walked Grant, quite by chance, so you never know when you’re going to run into him. Join me in wishing Grant a very happy birthday.

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Grant and me at GABF in 2006.

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Grant (on the right) judging the 2006 Double IPA Festival in the cellar of The Bistro, with Tom Dalldorf, Vicky, our hard-working beer steward in the middle, and the Toronado’s Dave Keene in profile on the left.

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Brendan Moylan and Grant shortly before Marin Brewing opened in 1989.

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Grant and Arne Johnston brewing his Wild Rice Ale for Marin’s 25th Anniversary.

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Grant, bottom left, among the GABF judges for the 10th anniversary of the festival in 1992.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Junk

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Today is the birthday of German-born Joseph Junk (January 15, 1841-1887) who emigrated to the U.S. in 1868, and in 1883 opened the eponymous Joseph Junk Brewery in Chicago, Illinois. Unfortunately, he died just a few years later, in 1887, and his widow, Magdalena Junk, took over management of the brewery, renaming it Junk’s Brewery and then the Jos. Junk Brewery, which it remained until 1909. She increased production from around 4,000 barrels to 45,000 barrels of lager beer.

It then became the South Side Brewing Co. until prohibition, and afterwards reopened under that same name. But in 1937 in became the more fancifully named Ambrosia Brewing Co., then changed again one final time, to the Atlantic Brewing Co., before closing for good in 1965. It was located at 3700/3710 South Halstead and 37th Streets. According to Tavern Trove, “the brewery has been torn down. What was the Ambrosia Brewery is now the parking lot for Schaller’s Pump, a tavern located at 3714 S. Halsted, Chicago.”

Here’s a short article from the Western Brewer (Brewer’s Journal) from August 1909 reporting on the transition from Jos. Junk to South Side Brewing.

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I was unable to find any photos of any of the Junk family, and in fact very little of anything, which I guess makes sense since they were the Junk Brewery, or some variation, for a relatively short time a very long time ago. Here’s what I did find.

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A rare Junk bottle.

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This is a South Side delivery truck taken around 1936.

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The website where I found this claims it was from 1930, but American Breweries II states that it wasn’t called Ambrosia Brewing until 1937, so it’s probably from the late 1930s at the earliest. But another source says it’s from the 1950s, and indeed it as known as Ambrosia through 1959, so that’s perhaps more likely given the look of the postcard.

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This is in the collection of the Chicago History Museum, but they appear to have no idea when it was taken.

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This is the brewery around 1952, taken by Ernie Oest and featured at beer can history.

But by far, this is the most interesting bit of history on Joseph Junk I turned up. This is a newspaper article from the Chicago Tribune for March 29, 1902. It concerns what I can only assume is Joe and Magdalena’s son, since they refer to him as a “young man” and “member of the Chicago Brewery” rather then saying “owner.” Seems the young man went on a bender in San Francisco and ended up marrying some floozy he’d just met. But here’s the best bit. “The trouble began when the young man’s family learned that Lottie (is that not a floozy’s name?) had done a song-and-dance turn in abbreviated skirts.” Oh, the horror. It sounds like they could live with or tolerate the “song-and dance turn,” but not, I repeat not, if there were “abbreviated skirts” involved. That was the deal breaker, so they sent him off on “a Southern tour” and her packing back to Frisco, eventually settling on a payoff on $10,000, which in today’s money is over a quarter-million dollars, or roughly $276,150. It must have been the talk of polite society for months afterwards, bringing shame down on the Junk family.

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