Historic Beer Birthday: Edward W. Voigt

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Today is the birthday of Edward W. Voigt (April 5, 1844-May 14, 1920). His father was a brewer who founded a brewery, and also trained his son, and sent him to brewing school. He worke din other breweries and in completely different businesses, but eventually worked with his father and ran the family brewery, the Voigt Brewery, in Detroit, Michigan.

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Here’s a thorough biography by Burton (though I confess I don’t know who Burton might be):

EDWARD W. VOIGT was an outstanding figure in connection with the development of Detroit, where for more than fifty-five years he was identified with the city’s business interests. Mr. Voigt was born in Daebeln, Saxony, Germany, April 5, 1844, a son of Carl William and Pauline (Beck) Voigt, the latter of whom died in Germany. The father married again in that country and with his wife and only son, Edward W., sailed from Hamburg for Liverpool, England, the latter part of May, 1854. At the latter port they embarked on the ship Malabar and reached New York on the 1st of August. An epidemic of cholera was then raging in New York and, moreover, the father was not in robust health as a result of conditions which he had experienced during the ocean voyage. It seemed better that they leave New York at once, which they did, and went to College Paint, Long Island. When the father had sufficiently recovered to travel they went west, stopping in Toledo, Chicago and Milwaukee, but remained in those cities only a short time, after which they journeyed an to Madison, Wisconsin. In the latter city Carl William Voigt established a small ale brewery, which was converted into a lager beer brewery in 1857, and this business he conducted until 1863, when he removed to Milwaukee, where he soon afterward purchased the schooner Columbian that plied the lakes between Chicago and Buffalo in the grain trade. In 1864 Carl William Voigt removed to Detroit, retaining his vessel interest until December, 1865, when he disposed of same. It was really his intention at this time to return to Germany, but rumors of the possibility of war between that country and France caused him to defer the trip. In 1866 he established a brewery in Detroit and continued to conduct this until 1871, when he leased the plant to his son, Edward W., and returned to Germany, where he engaged in the milling business until his death in that country in 1889. Edward W. Voigt was about ten years of age when his parents brought him to America. His first schooling was received in his native land and after coming to this country he attended the public schools of Madison, Wisconsin, also a business college and for one term was a student at the University of Wisconsin. He had from boyhood worked in his father’s brewery at different periods and early in life had acquired a practical knowledge of the business. In those days it was impossible to brew lager beer during the summer months owing to the lack of familiarity with the theory of refrigeration, so that during those periods of inactivity Edward W. Voigt was able to attend classes. When the weather became cooler, so that the manufacture of beer could be resumed, he again took his place as a brewer in his father’s plant.

After his father disposed of the brewery at Madison in the fall of 1863, Edward W. Voigt concluded he would go to California and try his fortune in that new country. He went by the Isthmus of Panama but on reaching San Francisco found that work as a brewer was difficult to secure. He could not afford to remain idle indefinitely, so shipped before the mast on the barkentine Monitor, plying between San Francisco and north Pacific coast cities. Wages were law and the work not the most desirable. In writing home to his Vol. II-3 parents he had mentioned the character of his employment and his father replied that if Edward W. Voigt wanted to be a sailor he should come back home, as the father had bought the schooner Columbian. Edward W. Voigt returned east, again by the Isthmus route, and took the position of second mate on his father’s schooner. This was during the latter part of 1864. During the winter of 1864-65 Edward W. Voigt studied navigation in Boston, thus equipping himself to command his father’s schooner, and during the season of 1865 he was captain of the vessel, which was sold in December, 1865.

The following year Edward W. Voigt entered the employ of his father in the brewery which the latter had established in Detroit and continued in that capacity until 1871. At this time his father decided to return to Germany, so that the brewery equipment was disposed of to the son, who rented the plant for a term of four years, later renewing the lease for five more years. This was a downright business transaction and the fact that the father and only child were the principals made no difference whatever in the terms of the deal. The son had practically no capital at all and the father was secured by chattel mortgage on the stock and equipment. This was Edward W. Voigt’s beginning in business for himself and at a time when competition was keen, as there were no less than thirty plants in the ale and lager beer line in Detroit, but he was young, energetic and a hustler. Under his management the business began to grow from the very start and before long he was on the rapid road to success, so that in 1882 he purchased outright the entire interest of his father. The high class product that he turned out soon became one of the most popular in the city and the capacity of his brewery grew from three thousand barrels annually to more than forty-three thousand barrels, which was then a larger production than that of any brewery in the state. Mr. Voigt continued the business as sole owner and under his personal management until 1889, when he sold out to an English syndicate, retaining, however, a substantial interest in the new organization. In 1895 he bought back the business and organized the Voigt Brewery Company, of which he became president, and remained as such until the business was closed out on May 1, 1918, as a result of prohibition. Subsequently the plant passed into the hands of the Voigt Beverage Company, which now owns the plant.

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While Mr. Voigt was a most successful brewery operator and one of the most prominent men in that industry in Detroit, his activities in other lines were big and valuable factors in the city’s growth. As his business became profitable and his means began to accumulate, he invested in numerous projects that not only brought personal gain but great public benefit as well. He was one of the founders of the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit in 1886, in which undertaking he was associated with James Scripps, George Peck, Simon J. Murphy and several others. This company had a capital of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and for fifteen years Mr. Voigt was its vice president. It proved a profitable project from its inception and led to Mr. Voigt’s further connection with various public utilities. He helped in establishing branches of the Edison Illuminating Company at Grand Rapids, Jackson, Sault Ste. Marie and Petoskey, Michigan. Mr. Voigt was formerly the owner of a tract of about one hundred and fifty acres of land on Woodward avenue four miles from the city’s center that he operated as a farm for a number of years. Then as the city began to expand he developed the property into the Voigt Park subdivision, which was laid out in the ’90s. In connection with that project he donated the present Voigt Park to the city. He laid out Boston and Chicago boulevards, as well as Atkinson, Edison, Longfellow and Calvert avenues and Glynn Court, comprising some of the best residential property in the city. Years ago Mr. Voigt purchased what was then known as Moores Bay, a tract of land of about fourteen acres at the foot of Twenty-fourth street, which was covered by six feet of water. This was filled in to the harbor line after nearly forty years of effort and was transformed into a valuable property. In 1919 the same was condemned by the city for dockage purposes. He was an extensive owner of central property and his city realty included his residence on Second boulevard and Cass Park, which was completed in 1886 and was his home until his death. This fine old mansion was built in the days when every detail of material and construction was most carefully considered and everywhere gives evidence of the thorough manner in which such work was done. Mr. Voigt was also one of the founders of the Port Huron Sulphite & Paper Company, which was organized in 1888 and of which he was the president until his death. In 1898-1900 he built the North Western Electric Railway out Grand River road to Northville, Orchard Lake and Pontiac, which is a great feeder now to Detroit and is controlled by the Detroit United Railway. He was likewise the president of the bridge company that built the large bridge between Grosse Ile and Wyandotte in 1912. This bridge connected his large tract of valuable land with the mainland. He was also the president of the Miles Theatre Company. He readily recognized and utilized business opportunities and as the years passed by developed his interests to extensive proportions.

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In April, 1871, Mr. Voigt was married to Miss Bertha Dramburg, of Detroit, and they became the parents of four children: Augusta L. and Pauline M., both living at home; Anna Elsa, who is now Mrs. Otto Reinvaldt, of Detroit, and has three daughters; and one son, William F., who married Miss Caroline Halloran, of Detroit, by whom he has a son, Edward W. (II), and two daughters. William F. Voigt, who is the second of the family, and Otto Reinvaldt, his son in-law, were far a number of years associated with the father in business, largely looking after the Voigt interests. Mrs. Bertha (Dramburg) Voigt died in 1890 and for his second wife Mr. Voigt married in 1892 Miss Marion Randall, of Detroit, who passed away in December, 1911. There were no children by this marriage.

Years ago Henry Ford was in the employ of Mr. Voigt for a period of nine years as chief engineer of the Edison Illuminating Company. After prohibition went into effect the Voigt Brewery Company ceased to operate, but the outside interests of Mr. Voigt were extensive and important and made full claim upon his time and energy. In early manhood Mr. Voigt was a democrat, but the party’s stand upon the subject of free trade made him change his allegiance to the republican party, of which he became a warm supporter. He belonged to the Harmonie Society, to the Elks lodge and to the New Grosse Ile Golf Club. Mr. Voigt was one of the original founders of the Detroit Museum of Art. His success came from his own efforts and for many years he was included among Detroit’s strong, substantial business men. He was an unusually well preserved man for one of his years and took a keen interest in everything that pertained to the civic welfare and advancement of Detroit. His contributions to the development of the city were of a most substantial character, making him one of the foremost business men of Michigan’s metropolis. His death occurred May 14, 1920.

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Telling the Stories of Detroit Parks also tells Voigt’s story:

As a landowner, he turned his 150 acre farm off Woodward into Voigt Park Subdivision in the 1890’s. We can thank him for Boston Boulevard, Chicago Boulevard as well as several of the surrounding streets west of Woodward.

Raised in Germany, he traveled to America with his folks Carl William and Pauline in 1854 on the trans-Atlantic ship, the Malabar. The trio crisscrossed the Midwest settling in Madison, Wisconsin where his father started the Capitol Steam Brewery. Edward began his education and attended the University of Wisconsin. He achieved the status of Brew Master at age 17. In 1864, the family brewery was sold to Carl Hausmann, a local WI ale competitor. William Voigt moved to Detroit to start a new brewery; his son Edward went on an adventure to California. The Detroit Voigt Brewery was built on Grand River at High Street [today this is around Grand River and I-75 area). Eventually, its 150 ft. chimney would grace the Detroit skyline.

Edward did an apprenticeship as a sailor and became captain of his father’s schooner – the Columbian; a short-lived adventure running the Great Lakes. Father and son would reunite in Detroit in 1871. Nothing was handed to Edward. He rented the Detroit brewery from his father who moved back to Europe. His energy and work ethic resulted in the ability to purchase the entire brewery operation from Carl in 1882. In 1893, his Rheingold beer earned 4 medals in the Chicago World’s Fair.

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In 1889, British investors took great interest in purchasing or leasing American brewing facilities. Brewers such as the Stroh family and Anheuser Busch were vocally opposed to this practice. Edward Voigt negotiated the lease of his brewery for the period of 1890-1897. At the end of the contract, he received his business back but without a clean title. He enacted foreclosure proceedings to clear the title and stood in front of the old Detroit city hall to rebid on his business at auction. His creative business practices increased his fortune. He amassed extensive land holdings and was a principal founder of the Edison Illuminating Company which employed Henry Ford.

Around 1902, Voigt donated a rectangular parcel of land at 2nd and 3rd Avenues, Longfellow and Edison Avenues to the city on the condition it would be converted to a park and named for him.

Edward Voigt died at home on May 14, 1920 of a stroke. In 1922, the Voigt estate sold the brewery to a demolition firm who pulled down the chimney with a chain and a truck. The tumbling brick marked the end of Voigt reign in Detroit and the beginning of prohibition.

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He was also very involved in the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge. There’s quite a bit more at Find a Grave, not for him, but for his first wife, Bertha Dramburg Voigt, who believe it or not was the family maid.

Beer Birthday: Fred Bueltmann

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Today is Fred Bueltmann’s 48th birthday. Fred is a partner in New Holland Brewing, and works their sales and distribution side. He’s also a self-styled Beervangelist and will soon be publishing the “Beervangelist’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which was successfully funded on Kickstarter. I’ve met Fred several times over the years but got to know him a lot better at GABF a couple of years ago, when it seemed like we judged together on every other session, and had a marvelous time in between rounds. Join me in wishing Fred a very happy birthday.

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Fred’s promo shot for his Beervangelist book.

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With Carolyn Smagalski at Wynkoop during GABF a couple of years ago. (“borrowed” from her Facebook page, thanks Carolyn).

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Fred, with Jeff Mendel, at GABF in 2013.

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John Mallet, from Bell’s, with Fred at Red Horse Ranch in Michigan (photo purloined from Facebook).

Historic Beer Birthday: John Weidenfeller

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Today is the birthday of John Weidenfeller (February 11, 1867-1929). He was born in Germany, but came to America with his family, who settled in Michigan and owned a farm. Weidenfeller though, defying his father’s wishes, became a brewer, working first with “Frey Bros. and Kusterer Brewing Companies. In 1892, these two breweries joined three others to form the Grand Rapids Brewing Co.” He later worked in Montana for the Centennial Brewery, before accepting a position as brewmaster of Olympia Brewing in Washington.

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There’s less about brewmasters, as opposed to brewers who were also brewery founders or owners, when you go back this far, but there’s a pretty thorough biography of Weidenfeller by Gary Flynn at his wonderful Brewery Gems.

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Weidenfeller around 1901, with his workers in Montana.

Historic Beer Birthday: Julius Stroh

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Today is the birthday of Julius Stroh (February 3, 1856-June 2, 1939). He was born in Michigan, the son of Bernard Stroh, who founded the Stroh Brewery in Detroit, Michigan in 1850. After his father died, his brother Bernard Jr. took over the brewery, but in 1908 he assumed control of the family brewery.

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Julius Stroh in 1933, pouring the first glass of beer after Michigan repealed prohibition.

Given the time he was at the helm of the Stroh Brewery, there’s surprisingly little biographical information or images of him.

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The Stroh family around 1871, with Julius on the far left.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Stroh’s early days through Julius Stroh’s tenure:

The Stroh family began brewing beer in a family-owned inn during the 18th century in Kirn, Germany. In 1849, during the German Revolution, Bernhard Stroh (1822-1882), who had learned the brewing trade from his father, emigrated to the United States. Bernhard Stroh established his brewery in Detroit in 1850 when he was 28 and immediately started producing Bohemian-style pilsner, which had been developed at the municipal brewery of Pilsen, Bohemia in 1842. In 1865, he purchased additional land and expanded his business and adopted the heraldic lion emblem from the Kyrburg Castle in Germany and named his operation the Lion’s Head Brewery. (The lion emblem is still visible in its advertising and product labels.)

Bernhard Stroh’s original beer selling operation consisted of a basement brewing operation and was then sold door-to-door in a wheelbarrow. The new beer (Stroh’s) sold door-to-door was a lighter-lager beer, brewed in copper kettles.

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The Stroh Brewery around 1864.

Bernhard Stroh Jr. took charge of the brewery on the death of his father. He changed the brewery’s name to the B. Stroh Brewing Company. With the introduction of pasteurization and refrigerated rail cars, Stroh was able to ship some of his beer as far as Florida and Massachusetts. In 1893 Stroh Bohemian Beer won a blue ribbon at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The company’s name was changed to The Stroh Brewery Company in 1902. In 1908, Bernhard Stroh’s brother Julius Stroh took over the brewery. After a tour of famous European breweries, he introduced the European fire-brewing method in the Stroh brewery. Common in Europe before World War I, the fire-brewing process uses a direct flame rather than steam to heat beer-filled copper kettles. The company claims that the resulting higher temperatures bring out more of the beer’s flavor.

During Prohibition, Julius Stroh operated the business under the name The Stroh Products Company, producing near beer (beer with its alcohol extracted), birch beer, soft drinks, malt products, ice cream, and ice. Though production of most of these items ceased when Prohibition ended in 1933, a special unit of the brewery continued to make Stroh’s Ice Cream (this facility remained in Detroit until February 2007, when the operation was moved to Belvidere, Illinois, though the distribution facility in Detroit still remains).

Upon Julius Stroh’s death in 1939, his son Gari Stroh assumed the presidency.

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Stroh employees around 1885, with Julius Stroh sitting behind the barrel.

Historic Beer Birthday: John G. Schemm

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Today is the birthday of John G. Schemm (January 7, 1834-March 1899). He was born in Germany, but when he was 22, in 1852, he and his father moved to the U.S., settling on a farm near Detroit. Unfortunately, after a short time, John’s Dad passed away, and he moved to Saginaw, Michigan in 1864. With business partner Christian Grueler, he started a brewery, the Schemm & Gruhler Brewery, in 1866. Three years later, Gruhler passed away and he brought on another partner, renaming the brewery the Schemm & Schoenheit Brewery in 1874. But by 1881, he bought him out, and it became the John G. Schemm Brewery. When he passed away, his son George C. Schemm took over, and incorporated it in 1899 as the J. G. Schemm Brewing Co. Inc. It closed in 1919 due to prohibition, and was sold to another business who tried reopening it as the Schemm Brewing Co. Inc., but it closed for good in 1938. While I found some information on the brewery, there was very little about Schemm himself, not even a picture of him.

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This account of the brewery is from the “Industries of the Saginaws: Historical, Descriptive and Statistical,” by John W. Leonard, published in 1887.

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This short account is from “100 Years of Brewing,” published in 1903.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Peter Stroh

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Today is the birthday of Peter Stroh (December 18, 1927-September 17, 2002). He was the great-grandson of Bernhard Stroh, who founded Stroh’s Brewing Co. in 1850. When he became president of Stroh’s in 1968, he was the sixth family member to run the business.

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Here’s Stroh’s obituary from Find-a-Grave:

Peter Stroh, former chief executive of the Stroh Brewery Co., died of brain cancer on September 17th at his home in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI.

Mr. Stroh is remembered as a gracious elder statesman in the brewing industry. “Peter Stroh was truly a gentlemen’s gentleman,” said Mac Brighton, chairman and COO of Business Journals, Inc., publisher of Modern Brewery Age. “He was admired and respected by everyone in the brewing industry, friends and competitors alike.”

Stroh also made his mark as a tireless civic booster for the city of Detroit. “He never gave up on the city,” former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer told the Detroit Free Press after learning that Stroh had died. “He was a ‘laboring oar.'”

Stroh was the sixth family member to head the Stroh Brewery Co., which his great-grandfather, Bernhard Stroh, founded in 1850 on Detroit’s east side. Before coming to the United States, the Strohs had been brewers in Rhineland Palatinate since 1755.

Under Peter Stroh’s leadership in the 1980s, the company made a play to become a national brewer, but found itself outmatched by deep-pocketed competitors. Peter Stroh stepped down as chairman in 1997, and the Stroh Brewery Co. was out of the beer business by 1999.

Peter Stroh talked very little to the press, but friends said that the decline of the company’s position in the brewing industry was very painful to him.

Despite the Stroh Brewery Co.’s misfortunes, Stroh is remembered with respect in Detroit due to his remarkable civic commitment. Family members have reported that the 1967 Detroit riots forever changed his out- look on personal and corporate responsibility. Mr. Stroh had stood on the roof of the brewery and watched fires consume the city. “As a result of that sad experience, I began to wonder about the company’s and the family’s historic role in our community,” Stroh wrote in a family newsletter in 1997. “And quickly discovered that there really hadn’t been one for either.”

Stroh became active in the Urban League and the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He also worked with former Mayor Coleman Young on a variety of projects. “He and the mayor had a very strong, personal friendship,” said Bob Berg, Young’s longtime aide.

The Stroh clan used personal and corporate money to develop Stroh River Place, the renovation of the old Parke-Davis pharmaceutical complex at the foot of Jos. Campau.

The UAW-GM International Training Center is located on former Stroh land nearby. Stroh also was active with the Detroit Medical Center, the Detroit Symphony, the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Arts? He served on the boards of more than half a dozen local organizations, including Detroit Renaissance, Detroit Economic GrowthCorp., and New Detroit Incorporated.

Stroh also helped finance projects in genetic engineering and molecular biology, including helping a British company produce recombinant human serum albumin from brewer’s yeast.

Son of Gari and Suzanne Stroh. He graduated from Princeton in 1951 with a degree in international affairs, and planned a career with the Central Intelligence Agency. But in 1952 a runaway truck in Washington, D.C., crushed him against a building and put an end to his nascent career in espionage. He was hospitalized for a year.

As a college student, Stroh had worked in the brewery as a janitor. After recovering from his accident, he spent time in the brewing and laboratory departments and quickly became skilled at the technical side of brewing.

He was elected to the Stroh board in 1955 and became director of operations in 1966. Named president of Stroh’s in 1968, Stroh teamed with his uncle, John Stroh, who was chairman and chief executive officer.

Stroh guided the family company from its regional roots to become a quasi-national brewery. Stroh’s shipped 3 million barrels in 1970 and 24 million in 1985.

Stroh bought F. & M Schaefer in 1980, and in 1982 purchased the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. At that time, Stroh was the number three brewer behind Anheuser-Busch and Miller.

But the acquisitions bred over-capacity, and Stroh chose to close its flagship brewery in downtown Detroit in 1985. “This was one of the most difficult decisions we ever made,” Stroh told the Detroit Free Press at the time.

The battle for market share against the top two brewers gradually drained the company’s coffers, although Stroh tried various imaginative strategies to survive. In 1989, Stroh and Coors came close to a deal in which the Golden, CO-based Coors would purchase Stroh. Unfortunately, the deal came unwound, and Stroh was forced to go it alone. In the mid-1990s, Stroh bought the troubled G. Heileman Brewing Co. The deal brought the company a handful of strong brands, but also more capacity than it could ever use.

Over the years, the Stroh brands were consistently rated tops among the major brands, but the brewery could never muster the marketing muscle to compete with A-B and Miller. In 1999, the company announced it would exit the brewing business, and it sold its breweries and brands to the Miller and Pabst Brewing Companies.

Outside his work in the beer business and the city of Detroit, Stroh made his mark as an outdoorsman and conservationist. He served as a member of the National Audubon Society board, did fund-raising for Ducks Unlimited, was a trustee for Conservation International, which specializes in Latin American issues, and sat on the board of actor Robert Redford’s Institute for Resource Management, which tries to settle environmental disputes without lawyers. He traveled the world, hunting birds and fishing.

“To have a sense of our outdoor past–our biological past–is as important as a sense of our historical and cultural past, and sometimes a lot more fun. I say that even as a former board member of the Detroit Institute of Arts and a current board member for the Guggenheim,” he once told the Detroit Free Press. “Wading through a cypress swamp is every bit as much fun as treading through the galleries.”

Stroh is survived by his wife, Nicole; two sons, Pierre and Frederic; one grandchild, and a brother, Eric.

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“Members of Detroit’s onetime leading beer family at the Stroh brewhaus, 1974: (from left) Chairman John Sr., President Peter, Eric, Gari Jr., John Jr.”

This is an “In Memoriam” from Crain’s Detroit Business:

Stroh shunned the limelight, but he took seriously his commitment to the family company and his community.

When Stroh became chairman and CEO of the brewery in 1968, it was still trying to recover market share lost in a 1958 strike, and it was clear national brands were squeezing out local ones.

Stroh began introducing products and acquiring other brands until by 1982 it was the third-largest U.S. brewer. But with acquisitions came crippling debt. In 1985, Stroh closed the Detroit brewery on Gratiot Avenue near Eastern Market where the Brewery Park development now sits; it is the headquarters of Crain Communications Inc., parent of Crain’s Detroit Business. Stroh attempted unsuccessfully to sell the company to Coors in 1989. He stepped down in 1995, and in 1999 the Stroh brands were sold to Pabst and Miller.

Despite his unsuccessful efforts to save the company, Stroh and other family members have made lasting contributions to the city of Detroit.

He led a $150 million redevelopment that became Stroh River Place at the site of the former Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company. An ardent hunter, fly fisherman and conservationist, he long advocated for opening the Detroit riverfront to the public and also was a driving force behind the federal designation of the Detroit River as one of 14 American Heritage Rivers.
He died in 2002 at age 74 from brain cancer.

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A postcard of Stroh’s Brewery in Detroit.

And this is the portion of Wikipedia‘s page for Stroh’s that includes Peter’s employment with the family brewery:

Upon Julius Stroh’s death in 1939, his son Gari Stroh assumed the presidency. Gari’s brother John succeeded him in 1950 and became Stroh’s chairman in 1967. Gari’s son Peter, who had joined the company following his graduation from Princeton University in 1951, became president in 1968.

In 1964, the company made its first move toward expansion when it bought the Goebel Brewing Company, a rival across the street. The company had decided it could no longer compete as a local brewer and was about to move into the national scene. One reason was a costly statewide strike in 1958 that halted Michigan beer production and allowed national brands to gain a foothold. When Peter Stroh took over the company in 1968, it still had not regained the market share lost in the strike ten years earlier.

Stroh ended a 40-year relationship with a local advertising agency for a large national agency and began targeting the larger national market. Led by creative director Murray Page, Stroh’s came up with the slogan “The One Beer…”, and by 1971, Stroh Brewery had moved from 15th to 13th place nationally. In 1972, it entered the top 10 for the first time. A year later it hit eighth place. Peter Stroh’s willingness to depart from years of tradition enabled Stroh’s to survive, but the changes were hard to swallow for many Stroh’s employees. Stroh broke the company’s tradition of family management and recruited managers from companies such as Procter & Gamble and Pepsico. He also introduced a light beer, Stroh’s Light.

By 1978, Stroh’s served 17 states when it produced 6.4 million barrels of beer. By this time, the original Detroit facility was 128 years old and had a capacity of seven million barrels annually. As it became difficult to make efficient shipments to new markets in the East, the company recognized that it required a new brewery. The F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company had fallen victim to the Miller beer wars and Stroh’s purchased all of Schaefer’s stock. In 1981, the combined breweries ranked seventh in beer sales. In addition, Stroh was able to take advantage of Schaefer’s distributors in the northeastern part of the country. The acquisition also brought Stroh three new brands: Schaefer and Piels beers, and Schaefer’s Cream Ale. The company now had a volume of over 40,000,000 barrels (6,400,000 m3) and 400 distributors in 28 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands.

Stroh’s head office used to be located at Grand Park Centre near Grand Circus Park and Woodward Avenue.
In 1982, Stroh bid for 67 percent of the Schlitz Brewing Company. By spring of that year, Stroh had purchased the entire company, making Stroh’s the third largest brewing enterprise in America: it owned seven brewing plants and reached the market value of $700 million in 1988 (according to Forbes). During the takeover, Schlitz fought a fierce battle in the courts trying to remain independent. Schlitz finally accepted the takeover when Stroh raised its offer from an initial $16 per share to $17, and the U.S. Justice Department approved the acquisition once Stroh agreed to sell either Schlitz’s Memphis or Winston-Salem breweries.

Forbes has an interesting article about the Stroh’s family business’ fall from grace, entitled How To Blow $9 Billion: The Fallen Stroh Family.

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Beer Birthday: Pete Reid

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Today is Pete Reid’s 53rd birthday. Pete is the publisher of Modern Brewery Age. I first met Pete a number of years ago at a Craft Brewers Conference but finally got to know him much better during a trip to Bavaria a few years back, where the two of us took a side trip to Salzburg to visit the Austrian Trumer Brauerei. Join me in wishing Pete a very happy birthday.

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At the Zotler Brauerei in Germany.

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At the Bavarian Hop Museum, that’s Pete in the back row in the baseball cap.

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Pete, me and Chris Rice, from All About Beer magazine, during a trip to Belgium last year.

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Peter Reid, with Gary Ettelman, of Ettelman & Hochheiser at the NBWA convention in 2008.

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Toasting with Horst Dornbusch at the Bamberg Brewing Museum.

Beer Birthday: John Mallett

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Today is John Mallett’s 52nd birthday, John is the production manager at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a post he’s held since 2001. John has a great sense of humor and I recall a particularly side-splitting kvetching evening-long conversation with him and Fal Allen at CBC in San Diego a number of years ago (not the most recent one) and a couple of years we judged together in Japan, which was great fun. In addition, John also recently published the Brewers’ Publications book on Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse. John me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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Mugging for the camera at GABF in 2007, with Bob Pease, Ray Daniels and Mark Dorber.

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At Bruce Paton’s “Tion” Beer Dinner. That’s John in orange trying to smooch with Peter Bouckaert from New Belgium.

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John, me and other judges in Tokyo to judge at the Japanese Craft Beer competition in 2013.

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John with Fred Bueltmann of New Holland Brewing, at Red Horse Ranch in Michigan (photo purloined from Facebook).

If you’d like to see John wearing lederhosen, click here.

Beer Birthday: Larry Bell

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Today is the 58th birthday of brewing legend, Larry Bell, the iconoclastic owner of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Last year, Larry was on a quest to attend every Chicago Cubs home game. This year, there’s the Bell’s 30th Anniversary. Bell’s doesn’t often get the credit it deserves for being the spark for craft beer in the midwest, having started in 1985, well before almost everybody else inside the two coasts. Join me in wishing Larry a very happy birthday.

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Larry with Alan Sprints, from Hair of the Dog at the Full Sail Smoker during the Oregon Brewers Festival a few years ago.

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Larry, with Ed and Carol Stoudt, from Stoudt Brewing, and Ken Allen, from Anderson Valley Brewing at the Craft Brewers Conference in Austin, Texas, in 2007.

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Larry accepting the BA Recognition Award at CBC recently.

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At OBF in 2008.

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Last year in Portland for CBC, wearing the Belmont Crown for a Bell’s event there.

Beer Birthday: Brian Stechschulte

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Today is also the birthday of Brian Stechschulte, former executive director of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, who is now working for Speakeasy Ales & Lagers as their Public Relations & Media Director. I’m just guessing at Brian’s age, but by my reckoning he’s got to be about 38 this year. In addition to his paying work with the guild and SF Beer Week, he also writes online at All Over Beer and Bygone Beer. Brian’s a terrific ambassador for beer and a great addition to the industry now that’s a working stiff. I think of him as a kindred spirit. Please join me in wishing Brian a very happy birthday.

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Brian’s profile picture, used without permission but begged for here in the hopes that in the spirit of its use will be granted magnanimously.

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Brian and me with San Francisco mayor Ed Lee at this year;s SF Beer Week opening gala.

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Bob Brewer, from Anchor Brewing, with Brian at GABF a couple of years ago.

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Brian after grad school graduation in 2003. Notice the can of beer he’s drinking.
[Note: The last two photos purloined from Brian’s Facebook friends, blame them.]