Historic Beer Birthday: Georg Schneider II

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Today is the birthday of Georg Schneider II (February 24, 1846-1890) who co-founded G. Schneider & Son along with his father Georg Schneider I in 1872. His dad leased the royal “Weisse Brauhuas’ Hofbräuhaus in Munich in 1855 and purchased from King Ludwig II the right to brew wheat beer in 1872. Georg II, along with his father acquired the so-called Maderbräu Im Tal 10″ in 1872.

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

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

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

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Beer In Ads #2196: Heineken Refreshes Joe Jordan


Thursday’s ad is for Heineken, from the 1970s. In the later 1970s, Heineken embarked on a series of ads with the tagline “Heineken Refreshes the Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach.” Many of the ads were in a sequential panel, or comic strip, format and they were intended to be humorous.

In this ad, a four-panel box format, featuring illustrations of Scottish football player, coach and manager Joe Jordan. “A former striker, he played for Leeds United, Manchester United, and Milan, among others at club level, as well making 52 appearances and scoring 11 goals for Scotland. As a player he gained a fearsome ‘Jaws’ persona due to having lost two front teeth early in his career.” And that’s the angle played in the ad, where in the first panel he’s holding a mug of Heineken, smiling broadly through two missing front teeth. In the second he’s downing the beer, while by the third panel his missing teeth are back, plus his teeth are gleaming white now. So that’s a pretty impressive beer.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Gottlieb Brekle

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Today is the birthday of Gottlieb Brekle (February 23, 1821-1888). He was born somewhere in Germany, most likely Württemberg, though possibly Ludwigsburg or Hamburg, arriving in America on July 31, 1852, along with his wife Marie and young son Frederick. In 1871, according to Anchor, “Brekle bought an old beer-and-billiards saloon on Pacific Street near Russian Hill for $3,500, transforming it into the American brewery that, twenty-five years later, would be renamed Anchor” when it it was bought by “German brewer Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr.” Given how long ago Brekle was born, not to mention all of the records lost due to the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, little is known about Brekle’s life, and I don’t know of any pictures of him. Even the spelling of his name seems uncertain, with records existing where it’s spelled Breckle, Breckel, and Breckels, too, making trying to find information a lot harder.

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After Gottlieb, or George, as he took calling himself later, died, his son Frederick took over the business. Since we know the brewery was sold in 1896, we can be pretty sure Gottlieb died before then, but it could have been in 1888, or some other year, nobody seems sure. Anchor wrote on their blog, in a piece entitled Under the Crown: A Brewery is Born, which I assume was written by Anchor’s historian Dave Burkhart (who I consider a friend) that Gottlieb Brekle’s naturalization papers indicate he became a citizen in 1854, and they display a small image of those papers.

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But as much as it pains me, I’m not sure that’s right. Look at the paper blown up a bit, so it’s a little easier to read.

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From what I can make out, he was a subject of the King of Württemberg on September 21, 1861, but became a U.S. citizen August 5, 1854, which I don’t quite understand, but then some of language is hard to read. But the name on that document appears to be “Carl Gottlieb Breckles,” so I’m wondering if it may be a different person?

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I found this document on Ancestory.com, which is a voter “Register 7th Precinct, 4th Ward, San Francisco County, 1880.” Line 34, the third from the bottom, lists a Gottlieb Brekle, age 59 (which would make his birth year 1821 if he was 59 in 1880). It also lists his occupation as “Brewer” and his address as “1431 Pacific,” in San Francisco. But more telling is that last column, which lists the date he was naturalized. And for Gottlieb, what’s listed is August 4, 1879. And more confirmation is in the line below, where it lists a Frederick Brekle, also listed as a “Brewer” and living at the same address. Since we know that was his son’s name, it seems pretty clear that this document is referring to our Gottlieb Brekle.

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The Anchor Brewery in the early 1900s.

Sadly, there isn’t much more known, though Anchor also has some more information they found in researching newspapers at the time.

Fortunately for researchers of San Francisco history, most of its early newspapers survived. In early 1874, San Francisco’s largest brewery—the Philadelphia Brewery—took out an ad in an SF paper to brag that it had sold more beer than any of SF’s other 33 breweries the previous year. Anchor, then called the Golden City Brewery, ranked 29th out of 34, with sales of just 585 barrels, the equivalent of about 8,000 cases of beer. If that seems like a lot of beer, our brewery’s sales in 1873 were just .33% (not 33%, not 3.3%, but .33% or 33/100 of 1%!) of total sales in barrels by all SF breweries!

In 2011, Anchor Brewing released a beer named after their first brewmaster, Brekle’s Brown.

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And here’s a short video Anchor released at the time.

Beer In Ads #2195: Heineken Refreshes Don Martin


Wednesday’s ad is for Heineken, from the 1970s. In the later 1970s, Heineken embarked on a series of ads with the tagline “Heineken Refreshes the Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach.” Many of the ads were in a sequential panel, or comic strip, format and they were intended to be humorous.

In this ad, a three-panel format, drawn by cartoonist Don Martin, who was best known for his work in MAD Magazine, a chef looks tired, as evidenced by his hat falling limp behind his head, so he’s drinking a mug of beer. Which — FWOT! — makes his hat stand up stiffly at attention. But in the last panel, once he’s removed his hat, his hair is standing up too, with a part down the center. So that’s where the changed text comes in: it’s not “parts,” but “partings” in this ad. Unfortunately, this was the best resolution of the ad I could find.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Samuel Charles Whitbread

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Today is the birthday of Samuel Charles Whitbread (February 22, 1937- ), an heir to the Whitbread Brewery, who was president of the brewery and Whitbread’s other businesses from 1972 to 2001, when he retired. There’s some basic biographical information from the Peerage:

Sir Samuel Charles Whitbread was born on 22 February 1937. He is the son of Major Simon Whitbread and Helen Beatrice Margaret Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis.3 He married Jane Mary Hayter, daughter of Charles William John Hugh Hayter, on 31 August 1961.

He was educated at Eton College, Windsor, Berkshire, England. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England. He held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Bedfordshire in 1969. He was a director of Whitbread plc between 1972 and 2001. He held the office of High Sheriff of Bedfordshire between 1973 and 1974. He was invested as a Knight, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (K.St.J.). He was invested as a Fellow, Linnean Society (F.L.S.). He was invested as a Fellow, Royal Society of Arts (F.R.S.A.). He was chairman of Whitbread & Company between 1984 and 1992. He held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire in 1991. He lived in 2003 at Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England. He was invested as a Dame Commander, Royal Victorian Order (D.C.V.O.) in 2010.

b12-246 Lord Samuel Whitbread, outgoing Lord Lieutenant in the comfort of his own home at Southill estate.

This is his entry from the International Who’s Who for 2004.

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b12-246 Lord Samuel Whitbread, outgoing Lord Lieutenant in the comfort of his own home at Southill estate.

Historic Beer Birthday: John Emmerling

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Today is the birthday of John Emmerling (February 21, 1851-May 24, 1912). He was born in Philadelphia, but moved to Johnston in Western Pennsylvania, where he founded the Empire Brewery in 1878. It was concurrently also known as the Emmerling Brewing Co. the entire time it was in business, until it was closed by Prohibition in 1920.

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Here’s a biography of Emmerling, written in 1896 from the Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Cambria County:

JOHN EMMERLING, proprietor of the Empire Brewery, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was born in Philadelphia, this State, February 22, 1851. His education was acquired in the public schools of his native city, upon the completion of which he learned the business of brewing. Subsequently, he traveled extensively, visiting many of the more important cities of the West, and finally, located in Pittsburg, where he married. In 1878 he came to Johnstown, and immediately embarked in the brewing business on his own account. Starting in the humble building now known as the Eintracht Hall, the brewery of John Emmerling prospered so well that in one year it was moved to the larger building now occupied by the bottling house of William Thomas. Six years more saw the business grow until it became necessary to build and remove to the large and commodious brick structure which occupies nearly half a square, fronting on Horner street. The plant is two hundred by one hundred and eighty feet, three stories high, and has an annual output of eight thousand barrels, and contains all the latest improved machinery known to the brewer’s art, including engines, two ten-ton refrigerators, seven pumps for various purposes, and bottling apparatus. A visit to the vault in which the beer is stored, gives to the uninitiated a genuine surprise. Following the guide, one wanders in and out among the huge hogsheads, some of which contain forty, and others as high as eighty barrels of the amber fluid, surrounded on all sides by pipes covered to the depth of several times their own thickness with white frost, produced by the intense cold of the ammonia and brine which they contain, one can but express astonishment at the wonderful advance made since the time when nature alone supplied the cooling substance. So large is the local demand for the beer brewed at this establishment, that very little is shipped out of the city. Two wagons are kept going constantly, and two others are used when the demand requires. The present force consists of fourteen men, to which several others are added when increased business makes demand. On September 26, 1872, Mr. Emmerling married Miss Phil. Houch, a daughter of Earnest Houch, a prominent citizen of Pittsburg, and to them have been born ten children. Mr. Emmerling was one of the organizers of the board of trade, in which he takes an active interest.

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And this is his obituary from the Western Brewer, June 1912

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John Emmerling at the wheel of a 1908 Maxwell that he drove round-trip between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in a race with a $20,000 prize at stake (around $532,258 today’s money). Emmerling (who owned Emmerling Brewery) came out on top.

This is John Emmerling’s brewery, also known as the Empire Brewery in Johnston, Pennsylvania, which also served as the family’s residence.
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Beer In Ads #2194: Heineken Refreshes Pirates


Tuesday’s ad is for Heineken, from the 1970s. In the later 1970s, Heineken embarked on a series of ads with the tagline “Heineken Refreshes the Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach.” Many of the ads were in a sequential panel, or comic strip, format and they were intended to be humorous.

In this ad, a three-panel format, a classical pirate, complete with eye-patch, parrot and peg leg, is holding a mug of Heineken. In the second panel, he drinks the beer, only to have lost the parrot and gain a vulture along with a second peg leg in the third panel. Not only that, but he’s now sporting a second eye-patch, meaning he’s completely blind. So you might be tempted to ask yourself what went wrong? Why didn’t something good happen to our pirate? A careful reading of the text provides the answer. For most of these ads, the tagline is “Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach,” but in this case it “refreshes the pirates other beers cannot reach.” So the beer made him more pirate-y, which explains what happened.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Philip Zorn

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

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This account is from the Indiana Bicentennial:

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

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

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Zorn beers.

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

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Historic Beer Birthday: William J. Lemp

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Today is the birthday of William J. Lemp (February 21, 1836-February 13, 1904). He was the son of Johann Adam Lemp, who founded the Lemp Brewery in 1840. When his father died in 1862, he and a grandson inherited the brewery, and it was renamed the William J. Lemp Brewing Co. Two years later, William bought out the grandson (who was not Lemp’s son) and carried on until 1904, when he committed suicide, most likely from depression after his favorite son Frederick died at age 28. His other son, William J. Lemp Jr., ran the brewery thereafter, until it was closed by prohibition in 1920.

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This short biography is from Find-a-Grave:

Son of Lemp Brewery founder Johann Adam Lemp, William built the brewery into an industrial giant. In 1870 it was the largest brewery in St. Louis and remained so until the start of Prohibition in 1919. At the time of William’s death, the Lemp brewery was the third largest in the United States. William shot himself through the right temple in his bedroom at the family mansion, apparently still grieving over the loss of his beloved son Frederick, the heir apparent to the family brewery, who died at the age of 28.

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In the March-April 1999 edition of the American Breweriana Journal, there’s a lengthy article about the Lemps, entitled “William J. Lemp Brewing Company: A Tale of Triumph and Tragedy in St. Louis, Missouri,” by Donald Roussin and Kevin Kious. While it starts with Adam, and through the then-present, the middle section is about William J. Lemp Sr.:

In his will, Adam bequeathed the Western Brewery in common to both his son William Jacob Lemp and grandson Charles Brauneck, along with “all of the equipment and stock.” There may have been friction between the two inheritors of the brewery, as the will contained the condition that if either contested the will, the other would receive the property. Charles Brauneck and William J. Lemp formed a partnership in October 1862, and agreed to run the business under the banner of the William J. Lemp & Co. This partnership, however, was destined to be short lived, as it was dissolved in February 1864 when William J. bought out Charles’ share for $3,000.

However, unlike many businesses that wilt when a strong leader dies, the Lemp Brewery actually grew and blossomed after William J. Lemp took control. The Western Brewery was then producing 12,000 barrels of beer annually, virtually all of the lager type.

William had been born in Germany in 1836, and spent his childhood there until brought to St. Louis by his father at age 12. William had struck out on his own as a brewer after working with his father, partnering with William Stumpf for a time in a St. Louis brewery established by the latter in 1852. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted into the Union Army, but was mustered out within a year. A short man at not quite five feet, one inch, he and his brewery would nonetheless both become giants in the brewing industry.

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MOVING TO CHEROKEE STREET

In 1864 William J. Lemp purchased a five block area around the storage house on 13th and Cherokee, and began construction of a complete new brewery. By putting the new facility over the storage caves, moving all the kegs by wagon from the Second Street brewery would no longer be necessary.

By the early 1870’s, Lemp’s Western Brewery was the largest brewery in St. Louis in a field of 30, with E. Anheuser & Company’s Bavarian Brewery coming in second. The brewery was the 19th largest in the country, producing 61,000 barrels in 1876. A bottling plant was added the following year. By the end of the decade, William Lemp, Sr. had risen to vice-president of the United States Brewer’s Association in addition to having overseen the tremendous expansion of the brewery.

Before the introduction of artificial refrigeration, the Lemp brewery had four ice-houses on the Mississippi River levee in south St. Louis, each having a storage capacity of five thousand tons each. These ice houses were cleverly built so as to be able to directly receive the cargoes of river barges, also owned by the Lemp brewery. 1878 marked the first artificial refrigeration machinery being added to the facility. It was also the year production reached 100,000 barrels.

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FIRST BEER COAST TO COAST

On November 1, 1892, William J. Lemp’s Western Brewery was incorporated under the title the William J. Lemp Brewing Company. The stockholders elected the following officers: William J. Lemp, Sr., president; William J. Lemp, Jr., vice-president; Charles Lemp, treasurer; Louis F. Lemp, superintendent; and Henry Vahlkamp, secretary. In addition to learning the business at their family’s brewery, all the Lemp sons had attended the brewing academy in New York.

By the mid-1890’s the Lemp brewery was well on its way to becoming a nationally known shipping brewery. In fact, Lemp was the first brewery to establish coast-to-coast distribution of its beers. Lemp beer was being transported in some 500 refrigerated railroad cars, averaging 10,000 shipments per year. The brewery proper employed 700 men. Over 100 horses were required to pull the 40 delivery wagons to make St. Louis City deliveries. The twenty-five beer cellars went down to a depth of fifty feet, and could store fifty thousand barrels at one time. The rated production capacity of the brewery was 500,000 barrels a year. It was the eighth largest beermaker in the nation.

Lemp was the first shipping brewery to establish a national shipping strategy, operating its own railroad, the Western Cable Railway Company, which connected all of the plant’s main buildings with its shipping yards near the Mississippi River, and then to the other major area railroads. The large shipping breweries of this time frequently formed their own trunk railroads to make shipments from their plants, due to battles with railroads over the way the brewers shipped their beer, in the years before artificial refrigeration in beer cars. That is, the breweries would cram the rail cars with as much ice as possible (overload them, according to many rail lines), to protect the unpasteurized beer from spoiling during transport. By running their own trunk lines, the major shipping breweries could gain more control of the conditions under which their golden product was transported to other markets.

Construction of new buildings, and the updating of old ones, was virtually continuous at the Lemp brewery. The entire complex was built (or remodeled) in the Italian Renaissance style, featuring arched windows, pilaster strips, and corbelled brick cornices (projecting architectural details, such as the rolling Lemp shields). Ultimately the giant facility covered five city blocks.

Having expanded their distribution network throughout the United States, Lemp continued to expand overseas. By the late 1890’s, Lemp beers were being shipped in large quantities to Canada, British Columbia, Mexico, Central and South America, the West Indies, the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, Japan, and Hong Kong. Lemp beer was even available in the cities of London and Berlin, both well known for their own local brews.

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AFTER THE FIRST SUICIDE

William J. Lemp Sr.’s death by suicide occurred in February 1904. By then the Lemp brewery had become the third largest in the country. The responsibility for leadership of the business fell on his son William J. Lemp, Jr., who was subsequently elected corporate president on November 7, 1904.

William J. Lemp, Jr. was aided in the management of the business by his brother Louis F. Lemp. Louis, who had been born in 1869, took advantage of the family fortune in his youth to explore his passion of sports. At 18, he admired the boxer John L. Sullivan to such a degree, that we went to New Orleans to bet $5,000 on one of his fights. Louis also said that if Sullivan didn’t win, he would ride all the way home in a hearse. Sullivan lost, but Louis reneged and took the train home! In later years, Louis would continue to enjoy his love of sports by being a pioneer supporter or automobile and airplane events.

The Lemp brewery was soon facing a much altered St. Louis landscape, when in 1906 nine large area breweries combined to form the Independent Breweries Company. This was the second huge merger in the local beer business, following the 1889 formation of the St. Louis Brewing Association. Initially controlled by an English syndicate, the SLBA absorbed eighteen breweries and like the IBC continued operating up to Prohibition. The formation of these two combines left only Lemp, Anheuser-Busch, the Louis Obert Brewing Company, and a handful of small neighborhood breweries as independent St. Louis beermakers. Of even more concern to a shipping brewery like Lemp was the growing clamor of the temperance movement. The first heyday of United States brewing was about to draw to an abrupt halt.

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CERVA, THE LAST HOPE

Like most of its competitors, the Lemp brewery limped on through the years of the World War. According to numerous accounts, the company’s equipment was allowed to deteriorate during this time as the Lemp family, their vast fortune already made, began to loose interest in the business. The last major capital improvement to the plant was the erection of the giant grain elevators on the south side of the complex in 1911. With the shadow of Prohibition falling across the land, Lemp, like many other breweries, introduced a non-intoxicating malt beverage, named Cerva. While Cerva did sell moderately well, revenues were no where near enough to cover the overhead of the plant.

The giant plant closed without notice. Employees learned of the closing of the brewery when they arrived for work one day, only to find the brewery doors and gates locked shut.

International Shoe Company purchased almost the entire brewery at auction on June 28, 1922 for $588,000, a small fraction of its estimated value of $7 million in the years immediately before Prohibition. Unfortunately for brewery historians, virtually all of the Lemp company records were pitched shortly after International Shoe moved its operations into the complex. International Shoe used the larger buildings, and even portions of the caves, as a warehouse.

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Apparently, William’s suicide in 1904 wasn’t the only one to occur in the Lemp Mansion, nor was it the only tragedy to befall the Lemp family. Here’s a good overview, Lemp Mansion: Tales of a Cursed Family and Their Haunted House, with the history involving William J. Lemp below:

William married Julia Feickert in 1861. In 1868, Julia’s father Jacob built what is known today as the Lemp Mansion, likely with financial help from William. In 1876, William bought Feickert’s mansion, at which time he began to renovate it in a grand style. William and Julia moved into the lavish home, outfitted with the most extravagant textiles and modern conveniences of the day.

In 1878, William Lemp was the first St. Louis brewer to install a refrigerated area in his facility. This new technology freed him from reliance on his lagering caves. In time, the caves were converted into private underground amusements such as a theater; a bowling alley and a concrete-lined swimming pool, complete with hot water piped in from the brewery.

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The Western Brewery was incorporated in 1892 under the name of William J. Lemp Brewing company. As his brewery had grown, so had William and Julia’s family. Between the years of 1862 and 1883, the couple had nine children, one of whom died in infancy. From oldest to youngest, the Lemp children were Anna, William Jr., Louis, Charles, Frederick, Hilda, Edwin and Elsa.

When the brewery was incorporated in 1892, William Lemp Sr. appointed his sons William Jr. and Louis as Vice President and Superintendent, respectively. Both were trained and college educated in managing business and the process of brewing Lemp’s lager. William Jr., called Billy, and Louis embraced their positions in the family business and as wealthy, powerful members of St. Louis society. Billy was active socially and had a reputation as a flamboyant playboy. Louis was an avid sportsman, horse breeder and racer.

Billy eventually married a young woman named Lillian Handlan, a wealthy socialite known for her beauty and exquisite wardrobe. Because of her fondness for wearing lavender clothing and outfitting her accessories and horse-drawn carriage in the color lavender, people called her the Lavender Lady.

Despite Billy being appointed Vice President of the brewery by his father, William Sr.’s son Frederick was said to be his favorite son and first choice to run the company after his death. Frederick immersed himself in his job at the brewery, evidently aware of his future as heir apparent. When Frederick began to have health problems in 1901, he took time off for an extended stay in California, hoping the warm climate would benefit his health. After a few months, just when it seemed as if he was improving, Frederick died at age 28. One primary source attributes Frederick’s death to “mysterious circumstances.” Another lists the cause of death as heart failure.

William Lemp took the death of his son exceptionally hard. His friends at the time said he never recovered from the tragic news, and seemed to lose interest in his business and his life. William went through the motions for three years, at which time he lost his best friend, Captain Frederick Pabst, a member of another beer brewing dynasty. William withdrew further and sank deeper into depression after the death of Pabst. He was observed going to work and sitting at his desk, staring off into space and making nervous motions with his hands. On the morning of February 13, 1904, William was alone at Lemp Mansion except for his servants. Lying in bed in his second floor bedroom, William shot himself in the head. He died later that day. At the time, his brewery was valued at $6 million and his personal assets at $10 million.

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This is a slideshow of Lemp breweriana and photos.

Historic Beer Birthday: Rudolph J. Schaefer

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Today is the birthday of Rudolph J. Schaefer (February 21, 1863-November 9, 1923). He was the son of Maximilian Schaefer, who along with his brother Frederick, founded the F&M Schaefer Brewing Company in 1848. Rudolph became the president of F&M Schaefer Brewing in 1912, and continued in that position until his death. He also bought out his uncles and their heirs, and controlled the entire company.

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This is what the brewery in Brooklyn looked like in 1916, shortly after Rudolph J. Schaefer took control of the company.

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Below is a chapter on the history of F&M Schaefer Brewing Co., from Will Anderson’s hard-to-find Breweries in Brooklyn.

Longest operating brewery in New York City, last operating brewery in New York City [as of 1976], and America’s oldest lager beer brewing company — these honors, plus many others, all belong to The F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Co.

“F. & M.”, as most breweriana buffs know, stands for Frederick and Maximilian, the brothers who founded Schaefer. Frederick Schaefer, a native of Wetzlar, Prussia, Germany, emigrated to the U.S. in 1838. When he arrived in New York City on October 23rd he was 21 years old and had exactly $1.00 to his name. There is some doubt as to whether or not he had been a practicing brewer in Germany, but there is no doubt that he was soon a practicing brewer in his adopted city. Within two weeks of his landing, Frederick took a job with Sebastian Sommers, who operated a small brewhouse on Broadway, between 18th and 19th Streets. Frederick obviously enjoyed both his job and life in America, and the next year his younger brother, Maximilian, decided to make the arduous trip across the Atlantic also. He arrived in June of 1839 and brought with him a formula for lager, a type of beer popular in Germany but unheard of in the United States. The brothers dreamed, and planned, and saved – and in the late summer of 1842 they were able to buy the small brewery from Sommers. The official, and historic, starting date was September, 1842.

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Sommers’ former facility was a start, but that’s all it was, as it was much too small. New York beer drinkers immediately took a liking to “the different beer” the brothers brewed, and in 1845 Frederick and Maximilian developed a new plant several blocks away, on 7th Avenue, between 16th and 17th Streets (7th Avenue and 17th Street is today, of course, well known as the home of Barney’s, the giant men’s clothing store). This, too, proved to be just a temporary move; the plant was almost immediately inadequate to meet demands and the brothers wisely decided to build yet another new plant, and to locate it in an area where they could expand as needed. Their search took them to what were then the “wilds” of uptown Manhattan. In 1849 the brewery, lock, stock and many barrels, was moved to Fourth Ave. (now Park Avenue) and 51st Street. Here, just north of Grand Central Station, the Schaefers brewed for the next 67 years, ever-expanding their plant. The only problem was that the brothers were not the only ones to locate “uptown.” The area in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s grew rapidly all during the last half of the 19th century, and especially after the opening of the original Grand Central Terminal in 1871. Frederick and Maximilian had wisely purchased numerous lots between 50th and 52nd Streets, and by the time they passed away (Frederick in 1897 and Maximilian in 1904) the brewery was, literally, sitting atop a small fortune. Maximilian’s son, Rudolph J. Schaefer, fully realized this when he assumed the Presidency of the brewery in 1912. In that same year Rudolph purchased the 50% of the company owned by his uncle Frederick’s heirs. He thus had complete control of the brewery, and one of the first matters he turned to was the suitable location for a new, and presumably everlasting, plant. In 1914, in anticipation of its move, Schaefer sold part of the Park Ave. site to St. Bartholomew’s Church. This sale, for a reputed $1,500,000, forced Rudolph to intensify his search for a new location. Finally, in June of 1915, it was announced that the brewery had decided on a large tract in Brooklyn, directly on the East River and bounded by Kent Avenue and South 9th and 10th Streets. Here, starting in 1915, Rudolph constructed the very best in pre-Prohibition breweries. The move across the river to their ultra-new and modern plant was made in 1916, just four years before the Volstead Act crimped the sails (and sales!) of all United States breweries, new or old alike.

While it must have seemed a real shame to brew “near beer” in his spanking new plant, Rudolph Schaefer obviously felt that near beer was better than no beer at all; consequently, the brewery remained in operation all during Prohibition, producing mostly near beer but also manufacturing dyes and artificial ice.

In 1923 Rudolph J. Schaefer passed away at the relatively young age of 60. Control of the company thus passed to his two sons, Frederick M.E. Schaefer and Rudolph J. Schaefer, Jr. Frederick guided the brewery for several years but was troubled by poor health, therefore, in 1927, only a few years after his graduation from Princeton University, Rudolph Jr. was elected President. Although he was by far the youngest brewery President in the United States, Rudy, Jr. provided excellent leadership. Several months before that magic Repeal date of April 7, 1933, when 3.2% beer became legalized, he beat most of his New York City competitors to the punch by launching an extensive advertising campaign, centered around the theme that “Our hand has never lost its skill.” Rudy, Jr. also personally outlined and designed many of the new buildings added to the brewery in expansion programs in the 1930’s and early 1940’s.

In 1938 Schaefer joined that exclusive group of brewers that sold 1,000,000 barrels in a year, and the 2,000,000 mark was passed in 1944, two years after the company celebrated its 100th birthday in 1842. Sales continued strong throughout the 1940’s and, to increase capacity, Schaefer purchased the former Beverwyck Brewery Co. in Albany, New York in 1950. They remained a two-plant company until 1961 when, with an eye toward expanding into large areas of the mid-west, Rudy Schaefer purchased the Standard Brewing Company, of Cleveland, Ohio. This, however, did not turn out to be a wise move; Schaefer beer just didn’t seem to catch on in Ohio, and within two years Schaefer sold the plant to C. Schmidt and Sons, which used it as their midwestern brewing arm. In what almost seems like musical breweries, however, Schaefer added a plant in Baltimore in the same year, 1963, that it disposed of its Cleveland facility. Ironically, Schaefer purchased the Baltimore plant from Theo. Hamm, a large St. Paul, Minn. brewer that had been attemping, with little success, to move into the east coast. The grass may always seem greener in the other brewer’s territory, but it certainly wasn’t so for both Schaefer and Hamm’s in the early 1960’s!

Schaefer’s most dramatic move with respect to plants was the decision, in 1971, to build a brand new, ultra-modern brewery just outside of Allentown, Pa. Realizing that all three of its plants at the time, Brooklyn, Albany, and Baltimore, were old and inefficient, Schaefer management decided it had to go the route being taken by Pabst, Schlitz, Anheuser-Busch and Miller – build a brand new and thoroughly modernized brewery rather than continue to try to upgrade old facilities. To construct a new brewery is extremely expensive, of course, but when it was opened in 1972 Schaefer could be justifiably proud – their Lehigh Valley plant was one of the most modern and efficient breweries in the world!

What does a company do, however, when it has one ultra-modern plant and three that appear very dated by comparison? The question is really rhetorical, of course; strive to add to the modern plant while phasing out the less efficient facilities. And that’s exactly what Schaefer did. The Albany plant was shut down almost immediately, on December 31st of 1972. In 1974 the Lehigh Valley plant was expanded from its original 1,100,000 barrels-per-year capacity to 2,500,000 and then, in 1975, it was decided to expand again – to 5,000,000 barrels plus. By 1975, therefore, it was obvious that one of the two less efficient plants should and would be closed, the only questions remaining was which plant, Brooklyn or Baltimore, and when. Both questions were answered on January 22, 1976 when Robert W. Lear, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The F. & M. Schaefer Corp., announced the closing of the Brooklyn plant. This announcement, only one week after Rheingold disclosed its plans to also shut down in Brooklyn, left Brooklyn and New York City without a single producing brewery. While both Frederick and Maximilian Schaefer, if they were alive today, would undoubtedly be proud of Schaefer’s history and many years of brewing, and would certainly be impressed with the modern brewing techniques reflected in the Lehigh Valley plant, I suspect they’d feel very badly about the closing of the company’s brewery in New York City, the city that’s had a love affair with Schaefer lager for over 134 years.

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A painting of Rudolph J. Schaefer.

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The Schaefers around 1895, with Rudolph Schaefer standing, with his father Maximilian Schaefer sitting down, holding F.M. Emile Schaefer, his grandson and Rudolph’s son on his lap.

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Three generations of Schaefers.