Archives for December 6, 2018
Today is the birthday of Henry Rahr Jr. (December 6, 1865-September 24, 1909). He was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the son of Henry Rahr, who founded the East River Brewery in Green Bay. When his sons were old enough, he brought them into the business, and in 1891, when Henry Sr. died, Henry Jr. became president and his brother Frederick also worked for the brewery. They re-named it Henry Rahr’s Sons Brewing Co., but later shortened it to Rahr Brewing Co. It survived prohibition, finally closing in 1966.
This obituary is from the American Brewers Review from 1909:
And this lengthier obituary is from the Green Bay Press-Gazette on September 24, 1909:
This short history of the brewery is from The Neville Public Museum:
One hundred fifty years ago, Henry Rahr established a brew house on the corner of Main Street and N. Irwin Avenue in Green Bay known as the East River Brewery. It would become the largest and most well-known historic brewery in Green Bay. Following the death of Henry Rahr in 1891 the business was passed to his sons Henry Jr. and Frederick and became Henry Rahr & Sons Co. Prior to Prohibition (pre 1920) Rahr’s was producing 60,000 barrels of beer per year. After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the brewery was back in business and began pumping out “Standard,” “Special,” “Belgian” and “Old Imperial Pale Beer.” In 1966 the company was sold to Oshkosh Brewing Co. Exactly 100 years after opening, Rahr’s Brewery was shut down. The brewery buildings were demolished, leaving no trace behind except for Rahr’s merchandise, barrels, and bottles.
And this brewery history is from “Breweries of Wisconsin,” by Jerold W. Apps and Jerry Apps:
Today is the birthday of Henry Liebmann (December 6, 1836-March 27, 1915). He was born Heinrich Liebmann in Schmiedelfeld, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. His father owned the Castle Schmiedelfeld, but when Henry was four, the family moved to Ludwigsburg and operated the Zum Stern Inn there, which also included a brewery. For political reasons, some of the family moved to America around 1850 to build a home, and the rest followed in 1854. Initially he ran the old Maasche Brewery, but later built a new brewery in Bushwick. Originally, it was called the Samuel Liebmann Brewery, but when his sons joined the brewery, it was called the S. Liebmann’s Sons Brewery. When Henry’s father died in 1872, Henry and his brothers took over the family brewery, and Henry became brewmaster. After prohibition ended, the brothers’ six sons re-opened the brewery as the simpler Liebmann Breweries, but in 1964 they changed the name again to Rheingold Breweries, after their most popular beer. The brewery closed in 1976.
Here’s his obituary from the Brewers Journal, in July of 1915:
This is from “The Originators of Rheingold Beer: From Ludwigsburg to Brooklyn – A Dynasty of German-Jewish Brewers,” by Rolf Hofmann, originally published in Aufbau, June 21, 2001:
New Yorkers over the age of fifty will remember the brand name Rheingold Beer and the company’s brilliant publicity stunt in which a bevy of attractive young women competed annually for the privilege of being elected that year’s Miss Rheingold and appearing in ads on billboards and in the subways throughout the New York area.
The beer’s evocative name with its allusion to Germany’s great river, was the culmination of a German-Jewish family enterprise that had its beginnings in 1840 in the town of Ludwigsburg, north of Stuttgart, in what was then the Kingdom of Württemberg. One Samuel Liebmann, a member of a prominent Jewish family in the region, settled there and bought the inn and brewery “Zum Stern.” A liberal and staunch supporter of Republican ideals, Liebmann encouraged other like-minded citizens, including some soldiers from the garrison, to meet in his hospitable surroundings. The ideas fomented there contributed to the local revolution of 1848. It brought the opprobrium of the King down upon Liebmann’s enterprise, and “Zum Stern” was declared off limits to the soldiers. Soon thereafter, in 1850, Samuel Liebmann emigrated to the U.S.
The family settled in Brooklyn and Samuel, together with his three sons, Joseph, Henry, and Charles, opened a brewery once again at the corner of Forest and Bremen Streets. With the responsibilities divided among the family – Henry became the brewing expert, Charles. the engineer and architect, Joseph, finance manager – the company was already flourishing by the time of Samuel’s death in 1872. Success also led to a concern for the company’s Brooklyn surroundings, and the Liebmanns became involved in local welfare – focusing on housing and drainage systems.
Each of the three brothers had two sons, and when the older Liebmanns retired in 1903, the six members of the third generation took over. Other members of the family also contributed to the gradual expansion of the company. In 1895 Sadie Liebmann (Joseph’s daughter), married Samuel Simon Steiner, a trader in high quality hop, an essential ingredient for good beer. Steiner’s father had begun merchandising hop in Laupheim in 1845 and still today, S.S. Steiner, with its headquarters in New York, is one of the leading hop merchants. Under these fortuitous family circumstances, beer production grew constantly. In the early years, the brewery had produced 1000 barrels per year, by 1914 its output stood at 700,000 barrels.
Henry Liebmann (center with white beard) and family.
Unfortunately, political developments in the U.S. between 1914 and 1933 were extremely disadvantageous for the Liebmann brewery. The resentment against Germany and anything German during World War I led to an informal boycott of German beers. Following close upon the lean wartime years, was the implementation of Prohibition in 1920 forbidding the manufacturing and trading of alcohol. The Liebmann enterprise managed to survive by producing lemonade and a product they called “Near Beer.”
With the reinstatement of legal alcohol production under President Roosevelt in 1933, opportunities for the brewery opened up, abetted by the anti-Semitic policies of Hitler’s Germany. The pressures on Jewish businessmen there, brought Dr. Hermann Schülein, general manager of the world-renowned LšwenbrŠu brewery, to America. Schulein’s father, Joseph, had acquired two of Munich’s leading breweries at the end of the nineteenth century–Union and Münchner Kindl–and his son had managed the 1920 merger with Löwenbrau. Arriving in New York with this experience behind him, Hermann Schülein became one of the top managers of the Liebmann brewery and was instrumental in its spectacular growth after World War II.
Working with Philip Liebmann (great-grandson of Samuel), Schülein developed a dry lager beer with a European character to be marketed under the brand name “Rheingold.” According to company legend, the name was created in 1883 at a brewery dinner following a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. When the conductor took up his glass, he was so taken with the shade of the beer, that he declared it to be the color of “Rheingold.” For New Yorkers, however, the name Rheingold did not bring to mind the Nibelungen fables, but the pretty young ladies who participated in Schülein’s most brilliant marketing strategy – the selection of each year’s Miss Rheingold by the beer-drinking public of greater New York
At the height of the campaign’s success in the 1950’s and 60’s, the Liebmann Brewery had an output of beer ten times that of Löwenbrau at the same time in Munich.
For thirty years, Rheingold Beer reigned supreme in the New York area, but by 1976, as a local brewery, it could no longer compete with nationwide companies such as Anheuser & Busch, Miller, and Schlitz, and its doors were closed. Only recently, using the same brewmaster, Rheingold is once again being sold in the tri-state area.
Here’s an “Origin of Liebmann Brewery” posted by a relative on Ancestry.com:
On May 12 1833 (Sulzbach-Laufen Archive) Samuel and his older brother Heinrich bought a castle/inn Schmiedelfeld, Sulzbach-Laufen, Schwaebisch Hall District that dated from 1739. They renovated the place and created a prosperous farm/estate and in 1837 began a brewery in the cellar. In 1840, he moved to Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart and purchased the gasthaus [guest house or inn] “Zum Stern” on Seestrasse 9 (later Zum Rebstock) which included a brewery. (source: Translation extract from Dr. Joacim Hahn’s book, History of the Jewish Community of Ludwigsburg)
After supporting a movement to oust King William I of Wurttemberg, and sensing the wavering tolerance of Jewish businessmen, Samuel sent his eldest son Joseph to the US in 1854 to scout out a location to establish a brewery.
Samuel retired in 1868 and turned the family business over to his sons Joseph, Charles, and Henry under the name S. Liebmann’s Sons Brewery.
While St. Nicholas is best known — in America, at least — for wearing red and white and giving presents to Children each December 25, he’s actually the patron saint for a number of professions, places and afflictions. His feast day is not actually Christmas Day, but almost three weeks earlier on December 6. That’s the reason why the holiday beer Samichlaus is brewed each year on this day. The person we associate with Christmas, Santa Claus, was based on Saint Nicholas, who was originally known (and still is in some places) as Bishop Nicholas of Myra.
Nicholas is the patron saint of brewers, among many others. He’s also the patron saint against imprisonment, against robberies, against robbers. And Nick’s the patron for apothecaries, bakers, barrel makers, boatmen, boot blacks, boys, brewers, brides, captives, children, coopers, dock workers, druggists, fishermen, Greek Catholic Church in America, Greek Catholic Union, grooms, judges, lawsuits lost unjustly, longshoremen, maidens, mariners, merchants, penitent murderers, newlyweds, old maids, parish clerks, paupers, pawnbrokers, perfumeries, perfumers, pharmacists, pilgrims, poor people, prisoners, sailors, scholars, schoolchildren, shoe shiners, spinsters, students, penitent thieves, travellers, University of Paris, unmarried girls, and watermen. Places he’s the patron for are Apulia, Italy; Avolasca, Italy; Bardolino, Italy; Bari, Italy; Cammarata, Sicily, Italy; Cardinale, Italy; Cas Concos, Spain; Creazzo, Italy; Duronia, Italy; Fossalto, Italy; Gagliato, Italy; Greece; La Thuile, Italy; Lecco, Italy; Limerick, Ireland; Liptovský Mikulás, Slovakia; Lorraine; Mazzano Romano, Italy; Mentana, Italy; Miklavž na Dravskem polju, Slovenia; Naples, Italy; Portsmouth, England; Russia; Sassari, Italy; Sicily; Is-Siggiewi, and Malta.
He also has many names around the world, such as Baba Chaghaloo, Father Christmas, Joulupukki, Kanakaloka, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Papa Noël, Santa Claus, and Weihnachtsmann (“Christmas Man” or “Nikolaus”), to name just a few.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Saint Nicholas (March 15, 270 – December 6, 346) is the common name for Nicholas of Myra, a saint and Bishop of Myra (in Lycia, part of modern-day Turkey). Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and is now commonly identified with Santa Claus. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was the custom in his time. In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nicholas of Bari.
The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He is also honoured by various Anglican and Lutheran churches. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, and children, and students in Greece, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro. He is also the patron saint of Barranquilla, Bari, Amsterdam, Beit Jala, and Liverpool. In 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari. So beloved is Saint Nicholas by Russians, one commonly heard saying is that “if God dies, at least we’ll still have St. Nicholas.”
The American image of Santa Claus in red and white has more to do with marketing than anything else. I wrote about this in The Santa Hypocrisy a couple of years ago when the Shelton Brothers were in hot water from several states who tried to tell them Santa Claus on a beer label threatened the American way of life and especially the impressionable young kiddies who would all be led down the path to underage drinking and alcoholism because Santa was depicted on a beer label. It was an utterly ridiculous position and they ultimately backed down, but it’s indicative of our puritan hang-ups as a culture and our general paternalism where we believe everyone needs to be protected. And in retrospect I can now see how the “institutionalized demonization of alcohol” creates the conditions for such decisions. Remember the message? “Alcohol is evil. No one can be trusted with it.” When that’s the underlying assumption, you create rules for what can and can’t be displayed on a label that are way beyond reason; standards no other products have to follow because they’re not seen as inherently evil.
But before the 20th century and in other parts of the world, Santa Claus was and still is depicted in many different ways and in various colors. Father Christmas, for example, is often seen wearing a green robe, as in the British Isles he’s more associated with nature and the old Celtic religions. The yule log, Christmas tree, wreaths, mistletoe and many other features we take for granted during the holidays do not have direct Christian origins, but were appropriated from pagan religions in order to make the transition to Christianity easier for the masses to make. Personally, I love a green Santa Claus because it reminds me of hops, and a Santa that stands for hops is one I can get behind.
Few American beer labels show Santa precisely because of our peculiar brand of paternalism and the label laws spawned by our institutionalized demonization of alcohol. Santa’s Private Reserve, from Rogue in Oregon, is one of the few I can think of year after year. Most, not surprisingly, come from abroad, where people take a more reasonable approach to both the holidays and alcohol. There’s the famous Santa’s Butt from Ridgeway Brewing in England, but also Pickled Santa from the Hop Back Brewery and Austria’s Samichlaus is translated as “Santa Claus.”
Why does it seem like we’re the only uptight nation on Earth when it comes to this silly issue. In Hong Kong, a giant Santa Claus is shown with a mug of beer, and no one seems to be that concerned. Try putting something like that up here, and all hell would break loose. We’re the only country complaining that there’s a “War on Christmas,” as stupid a notion as ever there was one, especially in a nation where those who celebrate Christmas constitute the vast majority.
The point is if the church can have a patron saint of brewing, why do religious people object to St. Nicholas being on beer labels? Wouldn’t it make perfect sense for brewers to want to place their patron saint on their beer?
Throughout Europe, Monks not only kept alive the method of brewing beer but improved techniques for making it. A Benedictine nun in Germany, Hildegard von Bingen, is most likely responsible for the introduction of hops in beer. Religion and brewing are intertwined throughout history and, in every place except the United States, that continues to be the case. Why? What about our particular religiosity makes us incapable of seeing that and reconciling it? Why is it seemingly acceptable for Santa Claus to be used to sell everything under the sun … except alcohol. Santa sells cigarettes, soda pop, fast food and pretty much everything else with capitalistic glee yet alcohol is the corrupting influence? That’s going too far somehow? Please.
That Santa Claus only appeals to children is usually the rallying cry of the buffoons who complain about this sort of thing, but a survey of pop culture will reveal that St. Nick is used in all manner of adult contexts. Kris Kringle, like the spirit of Christmas itself, belongs to all of us, not just children. There’s no doubt that I love seeing Christmas through the fresh eyes of my children, their innocence and wonder adds a new dimension to my enjoyment of the season. But I loved the holidays as much before I was a father and after I was an adult, too.
That St. Nicholas appeals to wide array of people should be obvious from the huge number of groups and places that consider him their patron. When so many look to him for comfort in such a varied number of ways, how can anyone say what he is or what he isn’t, where he’s appropriate or where he’s not? They can’t of course, despite neo-prohibitionists and our government’s attempts to the contrary. As the patron saint of brewers, Santa Claus is, and ought to be, perfectly at home on a bottle of beer.
There’s also a wealth of information about the real Santa Claus at the Saint Nicholas Center online.
Today is the 50th birthday — The Big 5-O — of Natalie Cilurzo, co-founder of Russian River Brewing, and the woman who makes everything run smoothly at both the brewpub and the new production brewery. You’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer person in the beer world, and though she spent many years working with wine, the brewing industry is all the richer now that she’s left that all behind her. Join me in wishing Natalie a very happy birthday.