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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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: Kasper George Schmidt

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Today is the birthday of Kasper George Schmidt (February 20, 1833-December 10, 1898). He opened the William Siebert & Kaspar Schmidt Brewery in Chicago in 1860, but by 1866 it was known as the K.G. Schmidt Brewery.

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Here’s a biography from the Encyclopaedia of Biography of Illinois.

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And this is another one from A History of the City of Chicago.

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Although it’s unclear, it appears that the Chicago brewery bought the Columbia Brewery in Logansport, Indiana in 1893, renaming it K.G. Schmidt. Though by that time, Kaspar may have already been retired, and his son George K. Schmidt was running the company.

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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: John L. Hoerber Jr.

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Today is the birthday of John L. Hoerber Jr. (February 5, 1848-April 1, 1927). His father, John L. Hoerber, founded the John L. Hoerber Brewery in 1858 of Chicago, Illinois, located at 186 Griswold Street. There was very little information I could find about him or his son, not even a photo. But their brewery appears to have taken on a partner in 1864, and was renamed the Hoerber & Gastreich Brewery, but just one year later was hte John L. Hoerber Brewery again. But in 1865 it was sold. As far as I can tell, another John L. Hoerber Brewery was opened in 1864, located at 216/224 West 12th Street, but appears to also have been sold in 1882. Then in 1882, yet another brewery was opened at 646/662 Hinman & 22nd Streets, though it 1885 it changed its name again from brewery to the John L. Hoerber Brewing Co., which is stayed until prohibition. After prohibition, it reopened as The Hoerber Brewing Co., and remained in business until 1941, when it closed for good.

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There’s some information about junior in “The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago,” 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: Franz Sales Reisch

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Today is the birthday of Franz Sales Reisch (January 24, 1809-August 18, 1875), who founded the Reisch Brewing Co. in 1849, in the city of Springfield, Illinois. According to Wikipedia, “the brewery operated until 1920 when it was forced to close because of Prohibition. It reopened in 1933 and stayed open until it shut its doors permanently in 1966.” During that time it changed names seven times.

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The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Sangamon County has an entry for Franz Reisch:

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An early photograph of the original brewery.

The 1910 book 100 Years of Brewing has a short entry about the brewery:

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The letterhead for the company from shortly after they incorporated in 1903.

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A delivery truck of Reisch Beer (date unknown).

Lester Jones, of the Beer Institute & George Reisch, of Anheuser-Busch @ GABF Saturday
Lester Jones, currently with the NBWA, and George Reisch at GABF in 2009.

George Reisch is currently the Brewmaster and Director of Brewmaster Outreach at Anheuser-Busch, and has been there since 1979. He’s a fifth generation with Franz Sales Resich being first. His 96-year old father Edward is 4th generation (and will be 97 on March 1). His son Patrick Reisch brews for Goose Island and is 6th Generation.

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Reisch Hercules Malt, an interesting lower-alcohol label.

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And finally, Wiener-style Special. I hope they mean Vienna-style and not frankfurter.

There’s also some additional information and photos at the entry for his son’s birthday, Frank Reisch.

Historic Beer Birthday: Frank Reisch

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Today is the birthday of Frank Reisch (January 19, 1842-May 22, 1896), who at one time was involved in the management of the Reisch Brewing Co. He was the son of the founder, Franz Sales Reisch, who established the family brewery in 1849, in the city of Springfield, Illinois. According to Wikipedia, “the brewery operated until 1920 when it was forced to close because of Prohibition. It reopened in 1933 and stayed open until it shut its doors permanently in 1966.” During that time it changed names seven times.

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Find A Grave has a short biography, taken from the “Portrait & Biographical Album of Sangamon County, IL:

Son of Frank and Susannah Reisch. In 1863, he was admitted into partnership of the Reisch Brewery in Springfield, IL, founded by his father Frank. In 1868 they built a mammoth structure in which Frank carried on the business after the death of his father in 1875.

From the time that he entered into partnership with his father, the business steadily increased and was one of the leading industries of the city. The brewery was finely fitted up with all the best machinery for carrying on the manufacture of beer. The capacity of the brewery was one hundred barrels a day, and gave employment to fifty-five men and to eight teams.

Mr. Reisch was a thorough business man who took a keen interest in everything calculated to promote the growth and development of Springfield. He was a strong man in financial circles, was a Director in the Illinois National Bank and a stockholder in the street railway system.

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The brewery in Springfield (date unknown).

The 1910 book 100 Years of Brewing has a short entry about the brewery:

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Here’s the letterhead for the company from shortly after they incorporated in 1903.

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The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Sangamon County doesn’t have an entry for Frank Reisch though he is mentioned in his father’s entry.

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The brewery slightly closer (date unknown).

Tony White, who’s the great-great grandson of Reisch brewery founder Franz Sales Resich, is working on a book about his family’s brewing legacy. He also has a great webpage with lots of information about Reisch Brewing, including photographs and interviews with other family members.

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A stylized postcard of the brewery c. 1930s.

Here’s part of an entry of Frank Reisch from the Encyclopaedia of Biography of Illinois, though I clipped the second half, which discusses his involvement in local banking.

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A Resich Brewery delivery truck from around 1915. You can see many more photos from Springfield Breweries in a slideshow by the Reisch Brew Crew.

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Additional information can be found at the Springfield Journal Register and Manic Publishing’s Ghost of brewing past.

Lester Jones, of the Beer Institute & George Reisch, of Anheuser-Busch @ GABF Saturday
Lester Jones, currently with the NBWA, and George Reisch at GABF in 2009.

George Reisch is currently the Brewmaster and Director of Brewmaster Outreach at Anheuser-Busch, and has been there since 1979. He’s a fifth generation with Franz Sales Resich, Frank’s father, being first. His 96-year old father Edward is 4th generation (and will be 97 on March 1). His son Patrick Reisch brews for Goose Island and is 6th Generation.

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One of their best-selling beers, Gold Top.

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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Historic Beer Birthday: Henry Shlaudeman

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Today is the birthday of Henry Shlaudeman (January 13, 1834-February 24, 1923), who founded what would become the Decatur Brewing Co., in Decatur, Illinois. Shlaudeman was born in Wildeshausen, Grossherzogtum Oldenburg, in what today is part of Germany. He emigrated to America in 1846. After a short stint in the cigar trade, he joined the Edward Harpstrite Brewery (which was originally the John Koehler & Adam Keck Brewery when it opened in 1855). Within a few years, he’d made enough of an impact that it became the Harpstrite & Shlaudeman Brewery, and two years after that, in 1884, he bought out his partner and it became the Henry Shlaudeman Brewery. In 1888, it was again renamed, this time the Decatur Brewing Co. It reopened after prohibition in 1934 under the name Macon County Beverage Co., but closed for good the same year.

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Surprising, I was unable to turn up even one photograph of him, and very little even of the brewery he owned. The City of Decatur and Macon County, subtitled “A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement,” includes a biography of Henry Shlaudeman:

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And while there’s not much about him, his house has an entire webpage, all about the Henry Shlaudeman House

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He also held two patents related to brewing. One was for an Improvement in safety-valves for fermented-liquor casks from 1878 and the other for a Refrigerator-building for fermenting and storing beer.