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.

John-Weidenfeller

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: Nicholas Kessler

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Today is the birthday of Nicholas Kessler (May 26, 1833-December 11, 1902). Kessler was born in Luxembourg, but came to the U.S. in 1854, eventually settling in Montana, where he bought into a brewery there, which was eventually known as the Kessler Brewery.

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From “A Luxembourg Pioneer in Montana,” by Fausto Gardini:

Nic(h)olas Kessler, originally the name was spelled Kesseler, is born, the youngest of a family of six children. He arrives in New York on January 10, 1854, continues on to Sandusky, Ohio and settles for a while at Detroit, Michigan. Later, he removes to Chicago, Illinois and is active in the feed business. Like many other immigrants, he succumbs to the gold fever and heads west prospecting in Colorado before heading to Montana in August of 1863. In Virginia City, Nick starts a bakery, restaurant and liquor business. In 1864, Nick travels back to Luxembourg to visit with family and friends. When returning to America, according to a contemporary, he had learned that back in Luxembourg men had to relax and when they relaxed many of them found solace and entertainment with friends over a stein of brew. So rather than continuing panning for gold in 1865 he acquires a brewery at Helena, Montana. Over the years, he grows the Kessler Brewery into one of the most prosperous breweries far and wide. His Lorelei beer is a favorite for many decades. Nicholas Kessler, dies on December 11, 1902, in Helena, Montana.

Fausto has more about Kessler, the Montana Pioneer from Luxembourg, and there’s a lot of great information at Helena As She Was.

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Their most popular beer was called Lorelei Beer.

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And this account is from the “History of Montana,” by Joaquin Miller, 1894:

Nicholas Kessler, one of the prominent and enterprising businessmen of Helena Montana, is a native of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Germany, born May 26, 1833. His youth and early manhood were spent in Germany and in 1854 he emigrated to America, landing there in January of that year and locating in Sandusky Ohio. In 1856 he removed from Sandusky to Chicago, where he was engaged in the commission business until the winter of 1859-60, then starting for Pikes Peak, Colorado. He arrived in Colorado in time to aid in the elections of the first Recorder of California Gulch, where Leadville is now located. During the summer and fall of 1860 he was engaged in mining there, then mined in Montgomery, Colorado until 1862 and from that time until August 1863 he landed in Virginia City Montana and for one year was engaged in the liquor business at that place. In 1864 he made a visit to his old friends in Germany but returned to America the following year, and gain took up his abode in Montana, this time in Helena. Since April 1865 he has been identified with the interests of this city.

Mr. Kessler built and is the proprietor of the largest brewing establishment in Montana. He owns and operates the
brickyards which have furnished nearly all the brick that have been used in the buildings in Helena. He is also largely interested in Helena real estate and lands in Lewis and Clarke and Cascade counties and has extensive stock interests besides. With the various commercial and fraternal organizations of the city he is prominently connected.

Mr. Kessler was married in New York, April 2, 1873 to Louisa Ebert, who died December 18, 1880 leaving three children, two sons and one daughter. Both sons are now efficient help to their father in the management of his extensive business while the other children are attending school.

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An etching of the Kessler Brewery around 1892.

And here’s Kessler’s obituary from the Anaconda Standard:

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Montana Beer

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Today in 1889, Montana became the 41st state.

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Montana Breweries

Montana Brewery Guides

Guild: Montana Brewers Association

State Agency: Montana Department of Revenue Liquor Control

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  • Capital: Helena
  • Largest Cities: Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, Butte, Bozeman
  • Population: 902,195; 44th
  • Area: 147046 sq.mi., 4th
  • Nickname: Treasure State
  • Statehood: 41st, November 8, 1889

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  • Alcohol Legalized: December 5, 1933
  • Number of Breweries: 30
  • Rank: 21st
  • Beer Production: 993,496
  • Production Rank: 43rd
  • Beer Per Capita: 31.8 Gallons

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Package Mix:

  • Bottles: 34.6%
  • Cans: 53%
  • Kegs: 12.3%

Beer Taxes:

  • Per Gallon: $0.14
  • Per Case: $0.31
  • Tax Per Barrel (24/12 Case): $4.30
  • Draught Tax Per Barrel (in Kegs): $4.30

Economic Impact (2010):

  • From Brewing: $41,418,747
  • Direct Impact: $307,661,400
  • Supplier Impact: $129,447,052
  • Induced Economic Impact: $178,191,531
  • Total Impact: $615,299,983

Legal Restrictions:

  • Control State: No
  • Sale Hours: On Premises: Closing 2am
    Off Premises:
  • Grocery Store Sales: Yes
  • Notes: ABV > 16% wine sold in state-contracted stores, ABV < 16% may be sold in grocery stores.
    Brewery tasting rooms cannot serve beer after 8 pm (10am-8pm) and can only sell 48 oz. per customer per day.

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Data complied, in part, from the Beer Institute’s Brewer’s Almanac 2010, Beer Serves America, the Brewers Association, Wikipedia and my World Factbook. If you see I’m missing a brewery link, please be so kind as to drop me a note or simply comment on this post. Thanks.

For the remaining states, see Brewing Links: United States.

Montana’s Victory & More

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There’s a nice round-up on Charlie Papazian’s blog about some current state legislation around the country, for example some good news out of Montana, similar to Alabama’s news two weeks ago:

Montana just passed a law which will allow beer to be up to 14% alcohol by volume (before it was max at 7% by weight, about 8.75 % by volume), effective in October. That new limit is conditional.The beer must be built 75% from malted cereal grains, if above 8.75% by volume. If over the 8.75% and less than 75% from malted cereal grains, the beer must be sold in liquor stores.

That’s followed by a summary of pending issues at various states and some interesting tax information, too.