Today is the birthday of Jacob Birk (September 21, 1835-March 2, 1920). Birk was born in Württemberg, Germany, but made his way to Chicago, Illinois when he was 19, in 1854. He first partnered with Frederick Wacker to form Wacker & Birk Brewing Co., then later purchased the Corper & Nocklin Brewery and set it up for his sons to run when he retired as the Birk Bros. Brewing Co. Birk & Water was closed by prohibition, but Birk Bros. reopened after repeal and continued on until 1950.
Here’s some biographical info from “Historical Review of Chicago and Cook County and Selected Biography,” by A.N. Waterman:
Birk, his father having been born in Germany and being in early manhood a harnessmaker. He came to Chicago in 1854, prospered in trade and business, and for many years conducted a hotel on West Lake street. In 1881 he became associated with Fred Wacker & Son, then engaged in the malting business, and in the following year became associated with the firm in brewing operations under the firm name of the Wacker & Birk Brewing Company. In 1891 the business was sold to the English corporation, the Chicago Breweries, Limited, and Jacob Birk and his two sons, William A. and Edward J., incorporated the Birk Brothers’ Brewing Company. Since the founding of the company, at that time, William A. has been president and Edward J. Birk, secretary and treasurer. The basis of the complete and extensive plant was the Corper & Nockin brewery, purchased in 1891, and since remodeled and enlarged. The elder Birk retired from his connection with the business in 1895.
And here’s another account, from the “History of Cook County, Illinois,” published in 1909:
The first brewery Birk was involved in was Wacker & Birk:
The Chicago brewery Frederick Wacker started was originally called Seidenschwanz & Wacker, and was located on Hinsdale, between Pine and Rush streets. It was founded in 1857, but the following year it became known as Wacker & Seidenschwanz, and was on N. Franklin Street. That version lasted until 1865. Beginning that same year, its name changed once again to the Frederick Wacker Brewery, and its address was listed as 848 N. Franklin Street, presumably in the same location as its predecessor. Sixteen years later, in 1882, it relocated to 171 N. Desplaines (now Indiana Street) and it became known as the Wacker & Birk Brewing & Malting Co. Just before prohibition the name was shortened to the Wacker & Birk Co., although it appears to have closed by 1920.
And the second was Birk Bros. Brewing, though most of its history I could find was in the above accounts.
Birk Brothers Brewing Company delivery wagon on Belmont Avenue, around 1895.