Historic Beer Birthday: Gustave Pabst

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Today is the birthday of Gustave Philip Gottlieb “Colonel” Pabst (November 25, 1866-May 29, 1943). He was the oldest son of Frederick Pabst, who founded the Pabst Brewing Co.. Along with his younger brother, Fred Jr., he was educated at a military academy and trained as a brewer at Arnold Schwarz’s United States Brewers’ Academy in New York. When his father dies in 1904, he assumed control of the brewery, becoming president of Pabst Brewing Co.

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Here’s his obituary, from the Chicago Tribune, published May 30, 1943:

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Colonel Pabst riding a horse with his granddaughter Elsa in 1937.

“Wisconsin, Its Story and Biography 1848-1913,” by Ellis Baker Usher, is mostly about Frederick Pabst, but includes a couple of paragraphs on his son Gustave:

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Frederick, his son Gustave and an unnamed infant.

Pabst Brewery

Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick Miller

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Today is the birthday of Frederick Edward John Miller (November 24, 1824-May 11, 1888). He was originally born as Friedrich Eduard Johannes Müller in Württemberg, Germany. He learned the brewing business in Germany at Sigmaringen, and moved the U.S. to found the Miller Brewing Company by buying the Plank Road Brewery in 1855, when he was 31. For a time it was known as the Fred Miller Brewing Co., but later dropped Fred’s name to become the Miller Brewing Co.

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Here’s a short biography of Miller:

Born in Germany in 1824, Frederick Miller learned the art of brewing from his uncle in France. After working through the ranks of his uncle’s brewery, Miller leased the royal Hohenzollern brewery at Sigmaringen, Germany, and brewed beer under a royal license until political unrest caused him to emigrate to the United States in 1854. Miller arrived in Milwaukee in 1855 and purchased the Plank-Road Brewery, located several miles west of the city. Miller led the company for thirty-five years, pursuing a policy of aggressive expansion and modernization. After his death in 1888, Miller’s sons took over management of the company.

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The Plank Road Brewery around 1870.

Here’s his obituary, from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries:

Miller, Fredrick Edward John, November 24, 1824 – June 11,1888, Began Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee, WI, the second largest brewer in the United States. Fredrick Miller came from a family composed of German politicians, scholars and business owners. He began to learn the craft of brewing beer in Germany. At the age of 14, Miller was sent to France for seven years to study Latin, French and English. While residing in Europe, he visited his uncle in Nancy, France. His uncle was a brewer and Fredrick Miller decided to continue to learn the business of brewing.
Fredrick Miller came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1855. He brought his passion for beer and business expertise with him. With $8,000 in gold from Germany, Miller opened the Plank Road Brewery, a brewery originally started by Fredrick Charles Best that was abandoned in 1854.

Fredrick Miller was married to Josephine Miller on June 7, 1853, before they immigrated to America. Josephine and Fredrick Miller had six children together. Most of the children died during infancy. In April 1860, Josephine died. She left Fredrick with 2-year-old daughter, Louisa. When Louisa was 16, she too died of tuberculosis.

Miller was remarried in 1860 to Lisette Gross and they had several children who also died during infancy and five who survived: Ernst, Emil, Fred, Clara and Elise.

When Fredrick Miller brewed his first barrel of beer in America, he spoke passionately about “Quality, Uncompromising and Unchanging.” It was his slogan, mission and vision for the company. His statement and vision still lives on today.

Through the Great Depression, Prohibition, and two World Wars, Miller Brewing Company has preserved and grown.

Fredrick Miller died of cancer on June 11, 1888; interment in Cavalry Cemetery, Wauwatosa, WI.

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This account of the early Miller brewery is from Encyclopedia.com:

Between the establishment of the Miller Brewing Company in 1855 and the death of its founder in 1888, the firm’s annual productive capacity increased from 300 barrels to 80,000 barrels of beer. This impressive growth has continued to the present day: Miller now operates six breweries, five can manufacturing plants, four distributorships, a glass bottle production facility, a label and fiberboard factory, and numerous gas wells. Beginning with a staff of 25, Miller now employs about 9,500 people. The company currently produces more than 40 million barrels of beer per year and is the second largest brewery in the United States.

The founder of the Miller Brewing Company, Frederick Miller, was born in Germany in 1824. As a young man he worked in the Royal Brewing Company at Sigmaringen, Hohenzollern. In 1850, at the age of 26, he emigrated to the United States. Miller wanted to start his own brewery and regarded Milwaukee as the most promising site, probably because of the large number of beer-drinking Germans living there.

In 1855 Miller bought the Plank Road Brewery from Charles Lorenz Best and his father. These two men had been slow to modernize their operation, but Miller’s innovative techniques made him successful, indeed famous, in the brewing industry. The Bests had started a “cave-system” which provided storage for beer in a cool undisturbed place for several months after brewing. Yet these caves were small and in poor condition. Miller improved upon the Best’s system: his caves were built of brick, totaled 600 feet of tunnel, and had a capacity of 12,000 barrels. Miller used these until 1906 when, due to the company’s expansion and the availability of more modern technology, refrigerator facilities were built.

After his death, Miller’s sons Ernest, Emil, and Frederick A., along with their brother-in-law Carl, assumed control of the operation which was incorporated as the Frederick Miller Brewing Company. By 1919 production had increased to 500,000 barrels, but it was halted shortly thereafter by the enactment of Prohibition. The company managed to survive by producing cereal beverages, soft drinks, and malt-related products.

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Finally, this account is from a brochure prepared by the Communications Department, Corporate Affairs Division, Miller Brewing Co., in the Fall of 1991:

When Frederick Miller brewed his first barrel of beer in America in 1855, he spoke empassionately about “Quality, Uncompromising and Unchanging.” It became his slogan, his vision, his mission for the company. The statement lived then as now in the dedicated commitment of employees.

Miller did more than speak his vision. He lived it. Both in the way he operated his business and in the way he handled his personal triumphs and tragedies, Miller was steadfast in his zeal for true excellence.

A glimpse into the life of Frederick Miller is presented in this brief history, which also includes some highlights of the company over the years. While this presentation is by no means comprehensive, it provides a good overview of the founder’s life and the heritage of the Miller Brewing Company.

He dressed and acted like a Frenchman, but his “confoundedly good glass of beer” won the respect of the German community of early Milwaukee. Tall and spare, Frederick Edward John Miller had a long face with a high forehead and short, Parisian beard. Born November 24, 1824, the man destined to found the Miler Brewing Company hailed from a family of German politicians, scholars and business owners and reportedly received $3,000 annually from an ancestral estate in Riedlingen, Germany.

At the age of 14, he was sent to France for seven years of study, including Latin, French and English. After his graduation, he toured France, Italy, Switzerland and Algiers. On his way back to Germany, he visited his uncle — a brewer — in Nancy, France. He decided to stay and learn the business.

MillerFrederick

Working through the various departments of his uncle’s brewery, and supplementing the experience thus gained with the fruits of observation during visits to various beer-producing cities of Germany, he leased the royal brewery (of the Hohenzollerns) at Sigmaringen, Germany,” according to the 1914 edition of the Evening Wisconsin Newspaper Reference Book. Miller brewed beer under a royal license that read, “By gracious permission of his highness.”

On June 7, 1853, he married Josephine Miller at Friedrichshafen. About a year later, their first son, Joseph Edward, was born. In 1854, with Germany in the throes of political unrest and growing restrictions, the Millers and their infant son emigrated to the United States. They brought with them $9,000 in gold — believed to be partially gifts from Miller’s mother and his wife’s dowry, but “mostly from the fruits of his own labor,” a 1955 research account indicated. An undocumented story said the money was from a royal gift, but the 1955 researcher deemed that account unlikely because of the lack of records to prove it.

After spending a year based in New York City and inspecting various parts of the country by river and lake steamer, Miller traveled up the Mississippi to Prairie du Chien and traveled overland to Milwaukee. According to another old tale, Miller slept on a sack of meal on deck while waiting for a berth to open on the riverboat.

“He found out in the morning that the place had been vacated by a man who had just died of cholera. Miller rushed to the steward, got a bottle of whiskey and swallowed it at a single tilt. He lived in fear for a week, but he didn’t get cholera,” according to a story found in the Milwaukee County Historical Society archives. The same story said that, upon arriving in Milwaukee, Miller remarked: “A town with a magnificent harbor like that has a great future in store.”

Shortly after he arrived in Milwaukee, Frederick Miller paid $8,000 for the Plank-Road Brewery — a five-year — old brewery started by Frederick Charles Best and abandoned in 1854. Miller became a brewery owner in an era when beer sold for about $5 per barrel in the Milwaukee area and for three to five cents a glass at the city’s taverns. The Plank-Road Brewery — now the Milwaukee Brewery — was several miles west of Milwaukee in the Menomonee Valley. It proved ideal for its nearness to a good water source and to raw materials grown on surrounding farms.

Another story said that, on his first day at the plant, Miller “took a brief interlude from work and killed a black bear that had poked its nose out of the bushes across the road from the brewery.”

Because the brewery site was so far from town, Miller opened a boarding house next to the brew house for his unmarried employees. The workers ate their meals in the family house, at the top of the hill overlooking the brewery. Their annual wages ranged from $480 to $1,300, plus meals and lodging.

In an 1879 letter to relatives in Germany, Miller described the meals of the employees, who began work at 4 a.m.: “Breakfast for single men (married men eat with their families) at 6 o’clock in the morning consists of coffee and bread, beef steak or some other roasted meat, potatoes, eggs and butter. Lunch at 9 o’clock consists of a meat portion, cheese, bread and pickles. The 12 o’clock midday meal consists of soup, a choice of two meats, vegetables, cake, etc. The evening meal at 6 o’clock consists of meat, salad, eggs, tea and cakes.”

The day included a rest period from noon until 1 p.m. with work concluding at 6 p.m. Miller himself arose between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. each day during the summer to “energetically tour the brewery and write a few letters.” After a 7 a.m. breakfast of Swiss cheese with rye bread and fresh butter and a large cup of coffee with cream, Miller devoted the rest of his morning to correspondence.

He spent his afternoons attending to business outside of the office, including trips to the post office, bank, railroad office and to make purchases. He went to bed at 8 p.m. in winter and 9 p.m. in the summer.

Miller was a resourceful businessman, establishing a beautiful beer garden that attracted weekend crowds for bowling, dancing, fine lunches and old-fashioned gemuetlichkeit. “You can perceive that people in America, especially where Germans are located, also know how to live,” Miller wrote. “When one plods through the week and has dealt with all sorts of problems, one is entitled to enjoy his life on Sundays and holidays and should not complain about spending a few dollars mote or less.”

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An April 24, 1857, newspaper account heralded the opening of a new beer hall by Miller on Milwaukee’s East Water Street where he dispensed “an excellent article of ‘lager’ to all thirsty visitors.”

When sales dropped during the Civil War, Miller is said to have traveled with a shipment of beer directly to St. Louis, and made deliveries himself, by horse and wagon.

In June 1884, he constructed a new brewery on two acres of land he purchased near Bismark in the Dakota Territory. Unfortunately, the state went dry the day the brewery was to open, according to one account. However, the Dakota brewery was listed among Miller’s assets when he died of cancer in 1888.

Records do not indicate the cause of Josephine’s death in April 1860, leaving Miller to care for Louisa, age 2. One family story states that Josephine died from an influenza outbreak while on a ship traveling back to Germany for a visit. Another speculated that she might have died in childbirth. At the time of her death, Milwaukee was issuing burial certificates at a rate of about 60 to 70 per week, with deaths mostly because of cholera.

Whatever the reason, Josephine’s death, and the deaths of their children, would haunt Miller throughout his life. The couple had six children, most of whom did not survive infancy, and Louisa who died of tuberculosis at the age of 16.

Miller married Lisette Gross later in 1860, and they, too, had several children who died in infancy and five who survived: Ernst, Emil, Fred, Clara and Elise.

In the 1879 letter, Miller offered a glimpse of his personal torments: “Think of me and what I had to endure – I have lost several children and a wife in the flower of their youth. I myself was at death’s door several times and still God did not foresake me. Instead I was manifestly blessed in the autumn of my life.

“Whenever I think of all of them, how they were taken away from me so quickly and unexpectedly, then I become sad and melancholy…

“In spite of all the misfortunes and fateful blows, I never lost my head. After every blow, just as a bull, I jumped back higher and higher…

“Whenever I think about it, I realize we must submit ourselves without murmur or complaint to the unexplainable wisdom of God and that such wisdom transcends human understanding.”

Miller’s children with Lisette provided the descendents who, with their spouses, later led Miller Brewing Company through the purchase of most of their stock by W.R. Grace Co. in 1966. Philip Morris Inc. purchased the company in 1969 and the rest of the family’s stock in 1970.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Henry F. Hagemeister

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Today is the birthday of Henry Frank Hagemeister (November 18, 1855-June 27, 1915). He “was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and the Wisconsin State Senate.” His father founded the Hagemeister Brewery in 1866, calling it the Union Brewery. Henry joined the brewery at the bottom, and worked his way up, and ran it with his father, and the changed the name to Hagemeister & Son. After his father passed away, Henry took over, and incorporated it as the Hagemeister Brewing Co. in 1890. Hagemeister stayed open through prohibition, and in 1934 changed its name to the Valley Brewing & Refrigerating Co. but closed for good the same year. Here’s his basics, from Wikipedia:

He was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1855, [the son of German immigrants] and educated in the parochial and public schools of Green Bay. He would go on to work in brewing and banking, as the president of the Hagemeister Brewing Company, and president of Kellogg’s National Bank.

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Here’s a biography of Hagermeister from the “Commemorative Biographical Record of the West Shore of Green Bay, Wisconsin,” published in 1896.

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And here’s a longer biography from “Wisconsin: Its Story and Biography, 1848-1913, Volume VIII,” written by Ellis Baker Usher, and published in 1914:

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Schnitzelbank

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Several weeks ago, while researching the birthday of Pennsylvania brewer Henry Fink, I happened upon the advertising poster below. Intrigued, because I’m fascinated with symbols, I couldn’t make out what they were because the largest image I could find is this one. All I could figure out at the time was that it had something to do with a song.

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Eventually I gave up, and moved on, because if I’m not careful I’ll keep going off on tangents and down rabbit holes until I’ve gotten myself well and truly lost, not to mention wasted hours of unproductive time. But I kept coming back to it, and eventually, I had to figure out what exactly it was or go crazy. So I started taking a closer look into the poster and figured out that they’re all over the place and it’s a famous German song called the “Schnitzelbank.” And the Fink’s ad poster, or versions of it, is everywhere and has been used by breweries, restaurants and others for years. Which makes sense because, although it’s a “German-language ditty for children and popular among German Americans with an interest in learning or teaching German to their offspring,” it’s also commonly sung by adults for entertainment and nostalgia, and usually while they’re drinking beer.

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In German, Schnitzelbank apparently “literally means ‘scrap bench’ or ‘chip bench’ (from Schnitzel ‘scraps / clips / cuttings (from carving)’ or the colloquial verb schnitzeln “to make scraps” or “to carve” and Bank “bench”); like the Bank, it is feminine and takes the article “die”. It is a woodworking tool used in Germany prior to the industrial revolution. It was in regular use in colonial New England, and in the Appalachian region until early in the 20th century; it is still in use by specialist artisans today. In America it is known as a shaving horse. It uses the mechanical advantage of a foot-operated lever to securely clamp the object to be carved. The shaving horse is used in combination with the drawknife or spokeshave to cut down green or seasoned wood, to accomplish jobs such as handling an ax; creating wooden rakes, hay forks, walking sticks, etc. The shaving horse was used by various trades, from farmer to basketmaker and wheelwright.”

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A traditional shaving horse around 200 years old.

And that’s also why the posters always include a Schnitzelbank, because in addition to it being the title, it’s also how the song begins.

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Here’s one description of the Schnitzelbank song:

A Schnitzelbank is also a short rhyming verse or song with humorous content, often but not always sung with instrumental accompaniment. Each verse in a Schnitzelbank introduces a topic and ends with a comedic twist. This meaning of the word is mainly used in Switzerland and southwestern Germany; it is masculine and takes the article “der”. It is a main element of the Fasnacht celebrations in the city of Basel, where it is also written Schnitzelbangg. Schnitzelbänke (pl.) are also sung at weddings and other festivities by the Schitzelbänkler, a single person or small group. Often the Schnitzelbänkler will display posters called Helgen [which is “hello” in German] during some verses that depict the topic but do not give away the joke.

Often the songleader uses the poster to lead people in the song, pointing to the symbols as they come up in the lyrics, as this photo from the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Lodge illustrates.

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The song uses call and response, with the leader singing one lyric, and the chorus repeating it back as it goes along. So here’s what the traditional version of the song sounds like:

Some Sauerkraut with Your Schnitzelbank? has an interesting reminiscence of a visit to a Fasching Sonntag in the St. Louis area around 1982, and includes his experience taking part in the singing of the Schnitzelbank song.

In the evening, everyone moved upstairs to the parish hall, which was the typical multipurpose gymnasium with a stage at one end. Set up with long tables in parallel rows on both sides, the band in place on the stage, and the large crowd ready for the music to begin, the hall had lost its bland, bare, everyday atmosphere. On the stage, off to one side, was a large easel with a poster on it. I didn’t pay much attention to it, thinking it was for announcements later in the evening. The band started, and the dancing began in the clear space down the middle of the hall, mostly polkas and waltzes, with a few variety numbers like the dreaded Duck Dance, which explained the need for pitchers of beer. Finally, when the crowd was well exercised and well lubricated, someone approached the easel with a pointer in his hand. People started shouting “Schnitzelbank! Schnitzelbank!” The music began, and the person with the pointer called “Ist das nicht ein Schnitzelbank?” and the crowd heartily responded “Ja, das ist ein Schnitzelbank!” Then came a chorus of music, to which everyone sang, “O Die Schoenheit un der Vand, da das ist ein Schnitzelbank.” And so it continued for several verses, the person on stage pointing to another object on the poster with “Ist das nicht ein.…?” and the crowd responding at the top of their voices. I was puzzled at first, but eventually joined in and didn’t think much more about it. I’m pretty sure that only a few people knew all the German words, and that some had memorized it over the years, while the ones in front were close enough to the poster to read the words under the pictures—everyone else just shouted a cheerful approximation of what they thought their neighbor was saying.

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The Schnitzelbank, or Schnitzel Bank, is a song with short verses, meant to be sung the way it was at the Fasching Sonntag, with a leader and group response. It is sung in some areas of Germany for Fasching, Fastnacht, or Karnival, and also during Oktoberfest, and other occasions where there is a happy, celebratory crowd. In America, the posters are displayed at a few German restaurants and some tourist attractions with a German American heritage, such as the Amana Colonies in Iowa and some Pennsylvania Dutch locations. Singing the Schnitzelbank in America dates at least to the turn of the 20th century, which is when the John Bardenheier Wine and Liquor Company printed its version on an advertising poster.

According to “The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk,” first published in 1966, the melody first appeared in 1761 by a French composer and lyrics were written a few years later, n 1765, and it was known as “Ah! Vous Dirai-Je, Maman,” but it became far more well-known as “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” in subsequent years. Apparently it first appeared as “Schnitzelbank” in 1830.

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This is the most common version of the poster, and as far as I can tell the symbols have become more or less fixed sometime in the mid-20th century. Perhaps it’s because one company is licensing the imagery to various purposes, or the song has simply evolved to its modern form, made easier by recordings and a growing number of shared experiences.

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So let’s break down the most common version of the song:

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            Symbol Translation
schnitzelbank1 Is this not a Schnitzelbank?

(“Yes this is a Schnitzelbank”)

schnitzelbank17 Short and Long
schnitzelbank2 Him and Her
schnitzelbank3 Criss and Cross
schnitzelbank6 Shooting Gun
schnitzelbank18 Wagon Wheel
schnitzelbank4 Crooked and Straight
schnitzelbank5 Big Glass
schnitzelbank7 Oxen Bladder
schnitzelbank19 Heap of Manure
schnitzelbank9 Cantankerous Boy
schnitzelbank10 Heavy Woman
schnitzelbank8 Fat Sow
schnitzelbank11 Tall Man
schnitzelbank12 Fir Tree
schnitzelbank14 Wedding Ring
schnitzelbank15 Dangerous Thing

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schnitzelbank-frankenmuth-clockFrom Mader’s Famous Restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Here’s another band performing the song. This is the Gootman Sauerkraut Band at the Bravarian Pretzel Factory 2014.

As I mentioned, this all started because a brewery used the Schnitzelbank poster as an advertisement. Apparently that was not unique, and I’ve find a number of others who did likewise. Here’s a few of them:

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The Eastside Brewery of Los Angeles, California, from the 1930s.

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Drewery’s, the Canadian brewery, from the 1940s.

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The Huebner Brewery of Toldeo, Ohio, from sometime prior to prohibition.

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This one, though not for a specific brewery, was for Sitter’s Beverages, a distributor of beer, wine, liquor and cordials in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It’s undated, but given that the telephone number is “1917” (yes, just those four numbers) I suspect it’s pre-prohibition. One source puts the date between 1912 and 1919.

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A promotional towel, from Koerber’s Brewery, also from Toledo, Ohio.

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The Pearl Brewery of San Antonio, Texas

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Jacob Ruppert’s Brewery of New York City, 1907. Though notice that the almost uniform symbols were changed for Ruppert’s ad, substituting his own beer and brewery, along with other more beer-friendly items into the song list.

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Although it’s possible that the symbols weren’t quite as settled in the early 20th century, as this postcard, also from 1907, has several that deviate from the standard symbols, including some also in the Ruppert’s poster, but also some that are not in that one.

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Yuengling Brewery also apparently had their own Schnitzelbank poster, based on the Ruppert’s design. This one is a linen towel being used as a window shade, though it’s too small for me to read the date.

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Though the Ruppert’s design appears to be copyrighted again in 1934, based on this generic one found by someone in an antique store.

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Likewise, this one for Falstaff Beer uses the traditional symbols, but adds two more, one for “Gutes Bier” (good beer) and “Falstaff Here.”

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This one’s also not from a brewery, but the Alpine Village Inn in Las Vegas, Nevada. This one’s newer, as it opened in 1950, became somewhat famous, but then closed in 1970.

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This one is labeled as being a “Pennsylvania Dutch Schnitzelbank” and has 20 symbols rather than the standard sixteen. And only eight of those are the usual ones. I don’t know how I missed it growing up (I grew up near Pennsylvania Dutch country in Pennsylvania, and in fact my grandparents grew up on Mennonite farms, but were the first generation to leave them).

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Apparently it’s also a big deal in Amana, Iowa, where there’s a gift and toy store called the “Schnitzelbank” and where, in 1973, the Amana Society created this Schnitzelbank poster.

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The Schnitzelbank Restaurant in Jasper, Indiana, uses the poster as their placemats.

This random German poster, which translates as “Oh you beautiful Schnitzelbank” has only about half of the standard symbols on it. I’m not sure when this one was created but it’s available on Polka Time as an “Oktoberfest Poster.”

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Also more modern, the New Paltz Band has their own version of the song using non-standard symbols.

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And speaking of music, Marv Herzog used the poster on an album cover. The album, of course, included the Schnitzelbank song.

And lastly, the Animanics did their own version of the Schnitzelbank song in episode 56 entitled “Schnitzelbank,” which aired in 1994. It’s described as “a traditional German song that the Warners learn in German from Prof. Otto von Schnitzelpusskrankengescheitmeyer. The lyrics were adapted by Randy Rogel.”

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From Henry Sticht’s “Schnitzelbank Two-Step,” 1907.

Beer Birthday: Lucy Saunders

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because beer is food: in cooking, at the table, and by the glass …

So begins the website of beer cook Lucy Saunders, whose birthday is today. Lucy has done much to promote both cooking with beer and enjoying food with beer through her books and other writings. She’s a treasure, in more ways than one. Join me in wishing Lucy a very happy birthday Lucy.

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At the beer bistro in Toronto for Stephen Beaumont and Maggie’s wedding reception.

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Lucy with Stacy Williams, Brand Manager for Gambrinus, at the Hot Brands reception at the NBWA Convention, when it was in San Francisco a few years ago.

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During CBC in Austin, Texas in 2007, at the Moonshine bar for an event with Lucy for her book, Grilling with Beer. Here, Lucy with three contributors to her book, myself included.

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Lucy with Vinnie Cilurzo at the GABF brewers reception in Denver in 2006.

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Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment, Fergie Carey, co-owner of Monk’s, Lucy Saunders, the beer cook, and Tom Peters, also co-owner of Monk’s at the Canned Beer Dinner several Junes ago.

Historic Beer Birthday: John Gund

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Today is the birthday of John Gund (October 3, 1830-May 7, 1910). Gund co-founded what would become the The G. Heileman Brewing Company with Gottlieb Heileman. They formed a partnership in November 1858 to operate the City Brewery in La Crosse, but “after nearly fifteen years in business together, Heileman and Gund dissolved their partnership in 1872.” After leaving City Brewing, Gund immediately “established a new brewery on the southern edge of La Crosse that he named the Empire Brewery, and which was incorporated in 1880 as the John Gund Brewing Company.” Gund employed all three of his sons in his new venture, and eventually his son Henry became president of the brewery after his father’s death in 1910.

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Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:

Came to America in 1848 and settled in LaCrosse in 1854. He began his own brewery until in 1858 he and Gottlieb Heileman formed the City Brewery. John later left and founded the Empire Brewery in 1872 but — due to the fact there were 14 breweries in LaCrosse at the time — his business failed.

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And here’s a lengthy history of the brewery from The Peerless Beer Legacy:

The John Gund Brewery (1854-1920)

The story of the John Gund Brewery is a story of the American Dream. Many immigrants came to the US in search of a new and better life. John Gund accomplished this goal and became one of the forefathers of the modern beer industry.

John Gund was born in Schwetzingen, Germany in 1830. He was the second of eight children. After finishing this education at the common schools he began an apprenticeship working at a brewery in the winter.

John Gund arrived in New York on May 16, 1848. Shortly after arriving in New York the family moved to Freeport, Illinois. After his fathers and mothers death in 1850 of cholera, Gund married Louise Hottman and in1852 moved to Dubuque, Iowa. Gund added to his earlier knowledge by working at the brewery of Anton Heeb.

In 1854 Gund pack up and left the brewery and Iowa to move to LaCrosse, WI. John Gund’s first Brewery was a far cry from what was to come of this legend. His first brewery was in a log cabin he built at the corner of Front and Division Street. In just 4 years Gund sold the cabin and entered into a partnership with Gottlieb Heileman. These two men built and opened the City Brewery in 1854.

In 1872, Gund sold his share of City Brewery to Heileman and began building the Empire Brewery on South Ave. When opened the brewery had 9 buildings: Main Building, Storage Cellars, Brew house, Icehouse, office, Malt House, Dry Kiln, Engine House, and across the street the Bottle House. Later, a second Bottle house was built. The total cost of the brewery was $250,000. Empire Brewery had a staff of 25 people and was able to produce 30 thousand barrels per year. Much of the beer was exported, but much was used to supply the city’s bars.

The John Gund Brewing Company opened May 1, 1880 with only $100,000 capital. John appointed his family member to officer positions. These included: John Gund- President, Henry – Traveling Agent, George Gund – Manager, and John Gund Jr.- Bookkeeper. (Wife Died 1880 of severe cold.)

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The John Gund Brewing Company was booming. The brewery covered 5 acres and produced 60 thousand barrels of beer in 1897. Many of the neighboring states benefited from this fine brew. Gund Beer was shipped all over Wisconsin, Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Everything John Gund has built almost came crashing down the night of September 25, 1897. This night the city of LaCrosse witnessed a “one of the most destructive fires in the history of LaCrosse”(Baier, 1976). The fire was reported at 1:00am and was finally put out by noon the next day. The fire destroyed much of the Gund Brewery. The estimated damage of the fire totaled $200,000. Only the Engine house and cold storage could be saved. Insurance only covered $125,000. Fortunately enough beer was saved to allow for the brewery to fill orders and continue operation until the brewery was rebuilt. Clean up and rebuilding began the next day.

The new brewery was finished on April 16, 1898. The new brewery was larger, consisting of 8 buildings: Brew house, bottling house (now next to Brew house), mill house, dry house, hop storage, and malt house. It was also improved. New modern machinery and equipment was added. The new brewery even contained an elevator. Gund even prepared for another catastrophe by making the new brewery fireproof.

Business was again booming for the Gund Brewery. Capital stock for the company climbed to two million dollars. Unfortunately tragedy again strikes the Gund Brewery. This time the tragedy goes to the top. After fighting apoplexy for many months John Gund dies of the disease on May 7, 1901. In honor of a great man the brewery shut down for the day. Leadership of the John Gund Brewery now rests in the hands of Henry Gund and rumors spread like wildfire that the brewery would be moved to Omaha, Nebraska.

The John Gund Brewery survived and thrived after, yet another devastating disaster. By 1900 Gund Brewery became the “largest brewery in the old Northwest, outside of Milwaukee” (Baier, 1976). The World was beginning to take notice of Gund’s Peerless Beer. This became evident when in 1900 it won a metal at the Paris Exposition and in 1904 won the Gold metal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World Fair in 1904). The explosion in popularity caused for an increase in production. This need caused the increase of works to 450 in 1910. This year the brewery produced over 600,000 barrels of beer.

Soon the final blow would come to the brewery. In 1919 the 18th amendment was enacted. So began the years of Prohibition. The Brewery closed its doors. Luckily, on May 27th a law was passed making it legal to produce “war time” beer. Wartime beer was beer that was limited to 2.3%-4% alcohol content. The doors to the John Gund Brewery opened again to produce this beer. Still struggling, the brewery was it with another problem. The Brewery Workers Union in Lacrosse went on strike. The brewery was hit hard, offering jobs to men, woman, and children to help fill the void created by the strike.

The straw that finally breaks the John Gund Brewery’s back was the complete Prohibition. The Gund Brewery closed its doors for good later that year just as many other breweries throughout the US were doing.

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Immigrant Entrepreneurship, under German-American Business Biographies, has a lengthy tale of both John Gund and Gottlieb Heileman I pulled out the passages about Gund:

John Gund (born October 3, 1830, in Schwetzingen, Grand Duchy of Baden; died May 7, 1910, in La Crosse, Wisconsin), the firm’s co-founder, eventually decided that Heileman’s business practices were too restrictive and ended the partnership in 1872 in order to build a new brewery in La Crosse that could compete with cross-state rivals such as Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller. The G. Heileman Brewing Company and the John Gund Brewing Company continued to pursue separate business strategies until national Prohibition was implemented fully in 1920. Gund’s large brewery collapsed, whereas Heileman’s smaller firm subsisted by producing non-alcoholic beer and malt products until the Twenty-First Amendment was passed in 1933.

John Gund, on the other hand, was born approximately seventy-five miles northwest of Kirchheim in the community of Schwetzingen in the Grand Duchy of Baden on October 3, 1830. Schwetzingen lay in the rich, alluvial farmland between the Rhine and Neckar Rivers approximately six miles southwest of Heidelberg. Gund was the second of eight children born to Georg Michael and Sophia Elizabeth Gund (née Eder or Edes).

John Gund found employment sixty miles to the west in Dubuque, Iowa, a commercial center situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River. He worked in a brewery operated by a German named Anton Heeb for two years. In June 1850, he relocated to nearby Galena, Illinois, to operate a brewery with a German named Witzel, possibly twenty-year-old Sebastian Witzel, who may have been an old friend. John Gund’s parents died of cholera the following month. After less than a year, he sold his share in the Galena brewery operation and rented another brewery in the community, known as the Cedar Brewery. About this time, he married fellow German immigrant Louise Hottman, a resident of Galena, with whom he eventually had five children. Two years after renting the Cedar Brewery, Gund decided to relocate to a larger and more prosperous community that would provide a better market for his beer. He and his wife moved approximately 180 miles northwest to the Mississippi River settlement of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

La Crosse had a population of approximately 2,000 residents in the mid-1850s. Situated on the east bank of the Mississippi River, the community had experienced rapid growth during the 1850s as settlers arrived to take advantage of the surrounding farmland and forests. The lumber industry flourished, facilitated by the community’s access to steamboats that plied the Mississippi River from St. Paul down to St. Louis and New Orleans. The city was incorporated in 1856 and benefitted further when a cross-state railroad connection was completed between La Crosse and Milwaukee in 1858.

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John Gund founded a brewery in La Crosse in August 1854. The small operation was located in a log cabin near the community’s waterfront. A number of other German immigrants founded breweries in the city in the months and years that followed. Gustavus Nicolai and Jacob Franz founded the Nicolai Brewery shortly after Gund founded his brewery. Due to production problems with Gund’s initial batch of beer, Nicolai and Franz were first to bring their beer to market. Charles and John Michel founded the La Crosse Brewery in 1857 after a failed attempt to strike it rich in the California gold fields in the early 1850s. After returning from the West Coast, they attempted to settle in Chicago but soon grew to dislike the community and made their way north to St. Paul. Ice on the Mississippi delayed their river journey and they eventually settled in La Crosse instead. After noting that existing breweries in the community could not meet local demand, they founded their own brewery.

After nearly fifteen years in business together, Heileman and Gund dissolved their partnership in 1872. Heileman seems to have been content brewing beer primarily for the local market and this was reflected in the brewery’s modest output of approximately 3,000 barrels per year by the 1870s. By comparison, Eberhardt Anheuser and Adolphus Busch’s Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis produced approximately 100,000 barrels of beer per year during the same decade and the Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee produced 121,000 barrels annually.[10] John Gund was far more ambitious than his partner and wished to establish La Crosse as a major center of brewing that would rival Milwaukee and St. Louis. Supposedly, the partners flipped a coin to determine which partner would receive the brewery and which would receive the International Hotel. Heileman won the City Brewery and Gund gained control of the hotel.

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Gund immediately established a new brewery on the southern edge of La Crosse that he named the Empire Brewery, and which was incorporated in 1880 as the John Gund Brewing Company. A bottling house was included in the new brewery, which indicated that Gund intended to distribute the beer regionally. At the time, federal law required that excise taxes be paid on kegged beer. Only after the tax stamp had been applied to the keg could brewers then bottle the beer for sale. Bottling beer was also labor intensive since employees had to fill and cork individual bottles by hand during this era and then pasteurize each lot. Consequently, bottling beer was more time consuming and expensive than distributing it in kegs. Bottled beer’s key advantage lay in the fact that it could be shipped more easily and thus could reach more distant markets than kegged beer.

Gund’s decision to end his partnership with Heileman in 1872 may had been attributable, at least in small part, to the 1871 conflagration in Chicago. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed the city’s nascent brewing industry and opened the door to brewers in nearby cities with railroad connections to Chicago. Gund along with brewers from Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati began shipping beer to Chicago and established a presence in the taverns and other drinking establishments of the city.

Gund and his three sons, George, Henry, and John Jr., continued to expand their brewery’s operations during the 1870s and 1880s. After John Gund incorporated the brewery in May 1880, he assumed the title of brewery president and his sons took other positions in the firm. The firm was capitalized at $100,000 (approximately $2.3 million dollars in 2011$) with the stock remaining in family hands. By 1887, the facility covered five acres and produced 45,000 barrels of beer annually. While this output still lagged behind the volume produced by major shipping breweries of the era such as Pabst, Schlitz, and Anheuser-Busch, when combined with the other breweries of La Crosse, the city’s beer production briefly surpassed the quantity produced by any other city in Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, in 1884. Given that La Crosse’s population was ten percent of Milwaukee’s population during this decade, such an output is impressive to say the least. Gund took advantage of La Crosse’s rail and river connection to the Upper Midwest and the Chicagoland area to distribute beer to the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois. Henry Gund served as a traveling agent for the firm and established a distribution center in Minneapolis in 1882.

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A major fire at the Gund brewery in 1897 destroyed the original 1872 structure but also enabled Gund to reconstruct the brewery with expanded capacity the following year. The new facility was designed by prominent Chicago architect Louis William Lehle, a German immigrant University of Stuttgart graduate who was responsible for designing breweries throughout the United States for a number of major firms including Blatz, Grain Belt, and Dixie. Gund’s focus on bottled beer was reflected in the new design of the brewery. The bottling plant was relocated from a building across the street from the brewing complex to a new building next to the brew house. This arrangement allowed beer to be pumped directly from holding tanks to the bottling line. Improvements in bottling technology, such as the development of crown caps in 1892, made the production process less labor intensive. Gund’s bottling line was capable of producing twenty-five million bottles per year.[ By 1900, production at the new brewery grew to 200,000 barrels per year and tripled to 600,000 a decade later. Nevertheless, the Gund Brewing Company was still a middle-tier producer in comparison to other major regional breweries such as Pabst or Schlitz, whose output exceeded one million and one-and-a-half million barrels, respectively, during the same period.

In conjunction with its focus on bottled beer production, the firm began to develop a specific branded beer, which it called Peerless. The brewery invested great effort into promoting the brand and entered Peerless into a variety of international competitions including the 1900 Paris Exposition and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Peerless won a medal at both expositions and the Gund Brewery used the publicity generated by the beer’s performance in its advertising.

Generational transition in brewery management took place gradually from the 1880s through the first decade of the twentieth century. Gund’s three sons served in various roles at the brewery. George Gund worked as brewery manager. Henry served as a traveling agent for the firm and later as bookkeeper after his younger brother, John Jr., left the firm in 1887 to pursue other interests. His elder brother also left the firm in the 1890s and established a brewery in Seattle and later purchased an existing brewery in Cleveland. With the departure of his brothers, Henry gradually assumed greater responsibilities at the brewery despite health problems. By the early 1900s, he was in his forties and was well respected within the local and regional brewing communities. He was elected vice president of Wisconsin’s Brewer’s Association in 1901 and by 1904 had assumed the position of vice president and treasurer of the John Gund Brewing Company. In May 1910, John Gund passed away a few months shy of his eightieth birthday.

Politically, John Gund’s party affiliation reflected broader shifts in German immigrant political participation during the second half of the nineteenth century. He supported the Whig ticket shortly after his arrival in the United States and voted Republican in the 1860s and 1870s, but his allegiance shifted to the Democratic Party in his later years. This may have been linked to the Democrats’ opposition to the growing prohibitionist movement in the United States and the support they enjoyed from populist, agrarian elements in Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Valentin Blatz

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Today is the birthday of Valentin Blatz (October 1, 1826-May 26, 1894). Blatz was a German-American brewer and banker. He was born in Miltenberg, Bavaria and worked at his father’s brewery in his youth. In August 1848 Blatz immigrated to America and by 1849 had moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Blatz established a brewery next to Johann Braun’s City Brewery in 1850 and merged both breweries upon Braun’s death in 1852. He also married Braun’s widow. The brewery produced Milwaukee’s first individually bottled beer in 1874. It incorporated as the Valentin Blatz Brewing Company in 1889 and by the 1900s was the city’s third largest brewer.

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Here’s a biography of Blatz from Find-a-Grave:

Businessman, Beer Magnate. Valentin Blatz, born to Casper Blatz, a brewer, in Miltenberg am Main, Bavaria, Germany, attended municipal schools until age 14 when he began an apprenticeship in his father’s brewery. He began in 1844, to acquire additional experience at breweries in Augusburg, Wurzburg and Munich until 1848 when he emigrated from Bavaria to Buffalo, New York, where he worked for a year at Philip Born’s brewery. Arriving in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1849, he became brewmaster at John Braun’s Cedar Brewery producing 150 barrels annually. He boarded at Braun’s home until 1851 when, after having saved $500, he established his own brewery. Shortly thereafter, Braun was fatally thrown from his horse-drawn beer wagon and Blatz eventually married Braun’s widow. Subsequently he combined Braun’s small brewery and his own into a new company, City Brewery; with output of 500 barrels annually it would eventually become one of the largest breweries in Milwaukee. Blatz was widely acknowledged to be the first of the great Milwaukee brewers to establish a reputation outside of Wisconsin, the first to begin developing a national distribution network, and the first to establish a bottling plant in connection with his brewery. During its early years of development, he operated the brewery as a sole proprietorship and reportedly out-paced both the Pabst and Schlitz operations. With production exceeding 200,000 barrels in 1889, he incorporated it as the Val. Blatz Brewing Company with capital stock of $2,000,000 and sold it in 1891 to a group of British and American investors, United States Brewing Company, reportedly netting himself (also a member of the syndicate) and his family $3,000,000 and full control of the Milwaukee operation. Blatz was the only beer available on tap in German restaurants at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

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A year later he died unexpectedly at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, Minnesota, returning from a trip to California, where he had vacationed and attended a midwinter exposition. Ironically, he had postponed the trip several times because of a premonition he would not return to Milwaukee alive, but made the trip because of his wife’s deteriorating health so they could spend part of the winter in California’s milder climate. At his death, he was one of Milwaukee’s wealthiest men, with an estate estimated at between $6,000,000 and $8,000,000. Throughout his life he had been active in community affairs and belonged to the Milwuakee Old Settlers Society and a host of other organizations. In 1866 he became the first president of the Merchants National Bank, and in 1868 he was elected President of the Second Ward Savings Bank, a position held until his death. A member of the Milwaukee Brewers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, he belonged to an influential group of local businessmen who organized the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition in 1879. Also served a single term as a Milwaukee city alderman in 1882. His company survived prohibition with “near beer” and other non-alcoholic products until 1933, when it resumed producing beer, until 1958 when it was purchased by Pabst. The Blatz label was sold to G. Heileman brewing in 1959, which was acquired by Stroh Brewery in 1996, which was sold to Pabst in 1999 who now owns it.

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And here’s a biography of both Valentin and his Blatz Brewery, from the Blatz Brewing Company Records, 1862-1944, housed in the University of Wisconsin Library:

Valentin Blatz was born on October 1, 1826, in Miltenberg am Main, Bavaria. The son of a local brewer, Caspar Blatz and his wife Barbara, he attended school until age fourteen at which time he began an apprenticeship in his father’s business. In 1844 Blatz began an extended tour of some of Europe’s greatest breweries where he spent his time learning new techniques and the latest in brewing technology until, at age twenty-one, he was forced to return home in order to fulfill his military obligation in the army. However, his father, a prominent community leader, obtained a substitute to serve in his place and shortly thereafter, like thousands of his countrymen, Valentin Blatz left Bavaria for the United States. Landing in New York City in August 1848, Blatz found work almost immediately at the Born Brewery in Buffalo, New York.

Blatz remained in Buffalo for approximately one year after which time he journeyed west to Milwaukee. Arriving in 1849, he found work as the foreman (some sources say brewmaster) at John Braun’s Cedar Brewery that had been established in 1846. It was a small operation, employing only a few workmen and capable of producing approximately 150 barrels of beer annually. The brewery’s storage capacity was said to be only 80 barrels. Blatz worked for Braun and boarded at his home until 1851, when, after having saved $500, he purchased half of a city lot and began his own brewing business.

Around the time that Blatz was establishing his own brewery, John Braun was killed suddenly after being thrown from his horse-drawn wagon while on a trip selling beer. He left a son, John, and a wife, Louise, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child. In December of 1851 Blatz married Braun’s widow and adopted her infant child (also named Louise) who was born after Braun’s death. Blatz also raised his late employer’s son John as his own. Although he was never formally adopted, John Braun became known generally around Milwaukee as “John Blatz.” Valentin and Louise (Braun) Blatz also had five children of their own: four sons; Albert, Emil, Valentin Jr., and Louis (who died at a young age); and one daughter, Alma.

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The marriage allowed Blatz to acquire Braun’s small brewery and combine it with his own operation, which he named City Brewery. This formed the basis of what would eventually become one of the largest and most prominent breweries in Milwaukee. Blatz was widely acknowledged to be the first of the great Milwaukee brewers to establish a reputation outside Wisconsin, the first to begin developing a national distribution network, and the first to establish a bottling plant in connection with his brewery. During its early years of development, the Blatz brewery reportedly out-paced both the Pabst and Schlitz operations.

Blatz operated his business as a single proprietorship until 1889 when it was incorporated as the Val. Blatz Brewing Company with a capital stock of 21 $2,000,000. Officers of the new corporation were Valentin Blatz, president; Albert C. Blatz, vice president; John Kremer (a son-in-law), secretary; and Val. Blatz, Jr., superintendent. The company was quietly sold in 1891 to a group of British and American investors incorporated as the United States Brewing Company and known variously as the “English Syndicate” or the “Chicago Syndicate.” The sale reportedly netted Blatz (who was himself a member of the syndicate) and his family $3,000,000 and left them in full control of the local operation.

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Three years later, on May 26, 1894, Valentin Blatz died suddenly while staying at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, Minnesota, on his return from a trip to California, where he vacationed and attended a midwinter exposition. Ironically, it was a journey that he had reportedly postponed several times because of a premonition that he would not return to Milwaukee alive. A newspaper reported at the time that it was only because of his wife’s deteriorating health that he agreed to go to California where they could spend part of the winter in a milder climate. At the time of his death at age sixty-eight, Blatz was regarded as one of Milwaukee’s wealthiest men, with an estate estimated at between $6,000,000 and $8,000,000. Throughout his life Blatz was a generous man. In his will he not only left thousands of dollars to more than a dozen local charities, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged, but also provided for the four children (Cora, Selma, Elsie, and John) of his late step-son “John Blatz.” He was survived by his wife, Louise, who was with him in St. Paul; three sons, Albert, Emil, and Valentin, Jr.; and two daughters, Louise (Mrs. John) Kremer and Alma (Mrs. Gustav) Kletzsch. He was interred in Milwaukee’s Forest Home Cemetery.

Throughout his life, Blatz had been active in community affairs. He was a lifelong member of the Milwaukee Musical Society and belonged to a host of other groups, including the Milwaukee Old Settlers Society, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.), the Aurora Lodge of Freemasons, The Arion Club, the Frei Gemeinde, the Liederkranz Society, the Germania Maennerchor of Chicago, the Eichenkranz Maennerchor of New York, several local Turnverein Societies, and–reportedly one of his favorite haunts–the West Side Old Settlers Bowling Club. In 1866 he became the first president of the Merchants National Bank, and in 1868 he was elected President of the Second Ward Savings Bank, a position he held until his death. Blatz was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and also belonged to an influential committee of local businessmen who organized the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition in 1879. Blatz, who became an American citizen in 1855, was elected for a single term as a Milwaukee city alderman in 1882

After Blatz’s death, the brewery was operated by two of his sons, Albert C. and Val. Blatz, Jr., and John Kremer, a son-in-law. The United States Brewing Company, which purchased the brewery in 1891, owned and operated it until the onset of national prohibition in 1920.

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This lengthy article is from the Industrial History of Milwaukee, published in 1886.

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The Valetin Blatz home c. 1886.
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This 1946 ad features a plate with founder Valentin Blatz.

Here’s a history of Blatz, from the current Blatz beer website, which is currently owned by Pabst Brewing.

Blatz was one of the premier Milwaukee breweries. It was founded by John Braun in 1846, shortly before Wisconsin achieved statehood, and was originally called the City Brewery. Braun’s fledgling business produced about 150 barrels of beer annually – until 1851 when Valentine Blatz, a former employee, established a brewery of his own next door to the City Brewery. Braun died later that year and Blatz soon married his widow, thereby uniting the City Brewery and his own operation.

At the time of the marriage, the combined breweries produced only 350 barrels per year. However, by 1880 total annual production reached 125,000 barrels. The brewery’s growth continued, and in 1884 Blatz ranked as the third-largest beer producer in Milwaukee.

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Blatz was the first Milwaukee brewer to market beer nationally. He set up distribution centers in Chicago, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Memphis, Charleston, and Savannah. He was also the first of the Milwaukee brewers to include a bottling plant within his brewery. In addition, Blatz operated his own carpenter shop, railroad cars, cooper shop, machine shop and coal yard.

In 1890 Blatz sold his brewery to a group of London investors, who continued to operate the plant until Prohibition. Following the repeal of the eighteenth amendment, the Blatz brewery again flourished, producing over a million barrels annually during the 1940s and 1950s. Its labels included Blatz, Pilsener, Old Heidelberg, Private Stock, Milwaukee Dark, Culmbacher, Continental Special, Tempo, and English Style Ale.

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By 1955 only six Milwaukee breweries remained open. Of these six, Miller, Pabst and Schlitz were the biggest and most successful. Blatz was big, too, but stiff competition and skyrocketing production costs prevented it from growing further. In 1958 the brewery was finally sold to Pabst; however a federal court order at the time prevented Pabst from Brewing at the Blatz facilities. In 1959 this giant, Blatz, ceased all operations. Shortly there after, Pabst purchased the Blatz brands, and relaunched the brand as a craft-style beer, true to the high-quality style that Valetine Blatz espoused.

Today, Blatz continues to be recognized for it’s quality and tradition. While the Blatz Brewery is now home to some of Milwaukee’s Finest Citizens, Blatz Beer will always be Milwaukee’s Finest Beer.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Phillip Best

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Today is the birthday of Phillip Best (September 26, 1814-July 17, 1869) Phillip Best was the son of Jacob Best, who founded the brewery that eventually became Pabst Brewing Co., with his four sons in 1844. The Best family’s business was originally called “The Empire Brewery,” and then it was “Jacob Best & Sons Brewery” until 1859 when Phillip Best took over the firm and renamed it the “Phillip Best Brewing Company.” Upon Phillip’s retirement Frederick Pabst and Emil Schandein became the company’s president and vice-president in the mid-1860s and the brewery’s name was amended to Phillip Best & Company. After Schandein died, the company was renamed the Pabst Brewing Company in 1889.

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Immigrant Entrepreneurship has a lengthy article about the Bests, centered around Frederick Pabst, but with background that includes Phillip and the rest of the Best family:

In 1844, Phillip Best (born September 26, 1814, in Mettenheim, Grand Duchy of Hesse; died July 17, 1869, in Altenglan, Kingdom of Bavaria), together with his father and three brothers, opened the Jacob Best & Sons Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Twenty years later, Phillip’s son-in-law Frederick Pabst (born March 28, 1836, in Nikolausrieth, Kingdom of Prussia; died January 1, 1904, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) joined the company and helped to transform it into the nation’s leading beer producer – first in 1874 and then again in 1879, a position that was maintained until the turn of the twentieth century. As the company’s president, the former ship captain led the firm through a remarkable period of growth and the Pabst Brewing Company (as it came to be called from 1889 onwards) became the epitome of a successful national shipping brewery. Pabst not only contributed to the firm’s (and Milwaukee’s) economic growth, he also left a permanent cultural and social mark both on the German-American community and on the public at large. A decade after the height of his success, Pabst died on New Year’s Eve of 1904, passing on his commercial and cultural legacy to his sons.

The Best family’s relocation from Mettenheim to Milwaukee went relatively smoothly. After spending a few weeks in the summer of 1844 looking for a suitable location, Jacob Sr. purchased two lots on Chestnut Street (today West Juneau Avenue) on September 10 and founded the Empire Brewery. Jacob Sr.’s sons, Charles and Lorenz, soon went on to establish independent brewing ventures, so Jacob Sr. formed a new partnership with his other two sons, Phillip and Jacob Jr., in 1851, which stayed in place until Jacob Sr. retired two years later. After several arguments about the expansion of the firm, Jacob Jr. sold out to Phillip on October 1, 1859, who continued the business as its sole proprietor under the name of the Phillip Best Brewing Company.

In its inaugural year, the Best brewery produced 300 barrels (one barrel equaling 31 US gallons). The firm initially produced ale and porter, but added German-style lager on February 22, 1845. In 1847, Phillip reported in a letter to his wife’s family that the business was developing well and selling 28-30 barrels of beer weekly for $4.50 per barrel ($5 if delivered). The brewery owned three horses for the malt grinding mill, as well as for deliveries in the city and county, and planned to buy another. By 1850, the company’s 2,500-barrel annual production classified it as a medium-sized producer, ranking fourth out of the twelve largest reported breweries in Wisconsin.

As production increased, the company acquired and built new facilities. In 1850, the family purchased a lot on Market Street between Biddle and Martin Streets (today East Kilbourn Avenue and East State Street). Five years later, the company built a new brick house on Market Street with a beer hall on the ground floor, and in 1857 it erected a new main brewery on the north side of Chestnut Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets with large storage cellars. The Milwaukee Sentinel reported on October 9, 1857, that the brewery had the “deepest cellars in the city” and it may be seen from almost any part of the city. The building is a fine looking one, and were it not for a life-sized figure of a sturdy Teuton which is perched on top, in the act of sipping a glass of lager, one would never suspect its being a brewery. It has much more the appearance of a public building of some sort.

The article went on to explain that demand for Best beer was not only “constantly increasing” locally but also across the whole nation: “Everybody has tasted Best’s beer, and it’s very generally acknowledged to be the best in the country.” Although the article certainly exaggerated the national impact of Best’s beer at mid-century, the company had begun to sell their brands outside Wisconsin in the early 1850s when it established a sales office in Chicago, Illinois. While Milwaukee and the surrounding region provided the main market for Best products throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, this early effort to serve the national and – beginning in the 1860s – international market was a distinctive feature of the company’s development.

Best’s production and profits increased during the nationwide economic boom of the 1850s, but the panic of 1857 and the economic disruption of the Civil War slowed the firm’s growth rate. At the height of its early prosperity in 1857, the brewery employed steam power to produce nearly 40,000 barrels a year and was valued at $50,000 (approximately $1.4 million in 2014$). It employed eight men and used ten horses for delivery. Not until after the Civil War would these production levels be reached again. But as the expansion of the family business began to stall, Phillip made his two sons-in-law, Frederick Pabst and Emil Schandein, equal partners in 1864 and 1866 – a decision which turned out to have a lasting impact on the future development of the company.

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The Best’s South Side brewery in 1880, a few years after Jacob died and it became the Philip Best Brewing Co.

Here’s a shorter account from “American Breweries of the Past” by David G. Moyer:

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And this is the main Best brewery, the original Empire Brewery.

A biography of Phillip Best from the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, published in 1893.

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A stock certificate for the Phillip Best Brewing Company from 1874.

This history is from A Spirited History of Milwaukee Brews & Booze by Martin Hintz:

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The Best brewery workers in 1859.

And finally there’s this from the Industrial History of Milwaukee, published in 1886.

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Beer Birthday: Dan Carey

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Today is the 56th birthday of Dan Carey, the mad alchemist brewer of New Glarus Brewing. I first met Dan at Hop School in Yakima, Washington many years ago, but I’ve been enjoying his beers far longer than that. He’s a fellow lover of brewing history and a terrific person, as well as one of the industry’s finest brewers. Join me in wishing Dan a very happy birthday.

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Dan and me at GABF in 2010.

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Two Dans: Daniel Bradford and Dan Carey at the Rare Beer Tasting 2009 at Wynkoop.

Historic Beer Birthday: Stephen Weber

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Today is the birthday of Stephen Weber (May 11, 1822-September 2, 1901). He was born in Bavaria, but settled in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he founded the Weber Brewing Co. in 1862. There’s not much I could fund about Weber, and also I could not find a portrait of him.

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Here’s a short biography of Stephen Weber from “The History of Waukesha County, Wisconsin.”

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Here’s Weber’s obituary from the Waukesha Freeman, Thursday, September 12, 1901.

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