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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
Wendy Littlefield, Don and Greg Engert at a Vanberg & DeWulf tasting in Washington, D.C. (photo by Chuck Cook)
Today is the 42nd birthday of Jonathan Surratt. Jonathan launched the Beer Mapping Project and also runs the website for DRAFT magazine. He also created National Growler Day, though its exact date from year to year is still fluid, and he’s a twitter diva, too. Join me in wishing Jonathan a very happy birthday.
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.
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
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.
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.
A photo of Ogden later in life.
Today is the 58th 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.