Today is the 61st birthday of beer writer Marty Nachel, author of Beer For Dummies and Homebrewing For Dummies. I’ve gotten to know Marty better over the last few years, judging the finals of the Longshot Homebrew competition and the World Beer Awards, and he’s a great person to share a pint with. Join me in wishing Marty a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of William Leonard Hoerber (April 5, 1849-May 7, 1933). He was the son of German-born John L. Hoerber, who founded the John L. Hoerber Brewery in 1858, after emigrating to Chicago, Illinois. William was brought up in the family business and took over the brewery after his father passed away in 1898. After prohibition, it reopened as The Hoerber Brewing Co., and remained in business until 1941, when it closed for good.
This short biography is from “The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago, edited by Albert Nelson Marquis, published in 1911:
Chicago historian and beer writer Bob Skilnik had an article in the Chicago Tribune that mentioned the Hoerber Brewery in 1997:
A population increase from a few hundred in 1833 to more than 100,000 in 1860 opened the market and made success possible for scores of brewers. In 1857, the city council ordered the grades of all existing properties to be raised to a height that would ensure proper drainage. John Hoerber used this opportunity to raise his combination saloon, store and boardinghouse and install a small brewery underneath, pumping fresh beer to his customers. By doing so, Hoerber beat the now-defunct Siebens on West Ontario by about 150 years for the title of Chicago’s first brew pub.
Today is the birthday of Edward John Birk (April 2, 1867-April 22, 1940). Edward was the son of Jacob Birk, who co-founded Chicago’s Wacker & Birk Brewing Co. When Jacob retired, he bought the Corper & Nocklin Brewery for his sons, renaming it the Birk Bros. Brewing Co. Edward and his brother William ran the brewery through Prohibition, and it successfully reopened after repeal, and continued until closing on September 15, 1950.
That’s definitely famed Prohibition agent Eliot Ness in this photo (at the far end of the table, on our left) and it’s possible that the man next to him was Edward J. Birk during his trial in 1922, during prohibition.
The New York Times reported on the case in 1922:
FIRST BREWERY TRIAL ENDS IN AN ACQUITTAL
E.T. Birk of Chicago is Freed by a Jury of Charge of Transgressing Voltead Act.
A precedent was established in the Federal Court here today when a jury before Judge Wilkerson acquitted Edward J. Birk, president of Birk Brothers’ Brewery, who was accused of aiding in the manufacture and sale of beer of illegal alcoholic content.
The acquittal came after a four-day trial. When the case started F.J. Birk, Vice President of the brewery; F.J. Wetzel, shipping clerk, and Leonard Dressler, brewmaster, also were on trial. The cases against these defendants were dismissed because the Government found that its witnesses had vanished. [my emphasis]
This was the first case tried here before a jury in which officials of a brewery were accused of violating the law….
The jury reached a verdict after three and a half hours’ deliberation. When the verdict was read Birk walked up to the jury box and announced in a loud voice: “Gentlemen of the jury, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.” He then turned to the Judge and said, “And I want to thank you, too, Judge Wilkerson.”
While a controversy was pending over taxes claimed by the Internal Revenue Department a squad of prohibition agents sent from Washington in the Spring of 1921 raided loop saloons and seized twenty-five barrels of Birk Brothers beer.
The brewery was closed by the Government and remained closed until April of this year, when at a hearing of forfeiture proceedings instituted by the Government, it was turned back by Judge Carpenter to its owners.
Can’t you just hear the theme song from The Untouchables in the background?”
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:
Birk Brothers Brewing Company delivery wagon on Belmont Avenue, around 1895.
Today is the birthday of Bill Siebel (March 26, 1946-November 8, 2015). Bill was the grand-grandson of John Ewald Siebel, who founded what would become the Siebel Institue of Technology. In the early 1970s, Bill became president of the brewing school his family founded, and held that post until his retirement in 2000. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill a couple of times judging at the Great American Beer Festival, when we sat at a few of the same judging tables. Talking in between flights, he had a great sense of humor and seemed like such a nice person. I was only sorry I had’t met him sooner. Join me in raising a toast to Bill tonight.
This is Bill’s obituary from the Chicago Tribune:
Bill Siebel was the fourth generation of his family to head a Chicago beer-brewing school that has produced tens of thousands of alums with surnames such as Busch, Coors, Pabst, Stroh and Floyd — as in 3 Floyds Brewing Co.
It wouldn’t be exaggerating to call him a member of the “First Family” of beer education in the U.S., said Charlie Papazian, president and founder of Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest.
Bill Siebel was chairman and CEO of the Siebel Institute of Technology, established in Chicago in 1872 by his great-grandfather, Dusseldorf-born immigrant John Ewald Siebel. It bills itself as the oldest brewing school in the Americas. “There is one, based in Germany, established before us,” said Keith Lemcke, vice president of the institute, 900 N. Branch St.
“It’s been a continuous run,” Lemcke said, “except for this inconvenient time we call ‘Prohibition.’ ” During Prohibition, it kept going as a school of baking — which, like brewing, uses yeast.
Siebel Institute students, Lemcke said, have included August Busch III of Anheuser-Busch; John Mallett of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo; the father and grandfather of Samuel Adams brewer Jim Koch; and Greg Hall, a brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Company and son of Goose Island founder John Hall.
“The contributions that the Siebel Institute has made to brewing — and to training craft brewers — in its long history, are far too numerous to count,” said Koch of Samuel Adams. “I’m a sixth-generation brewer, and my father graduated from Siebel in 1948 and my grandfather in 1908. . . . The industry has lost a great one.”
Mr. Siebel, who had esophageal cancer, died on Nov. 8 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was 69.
The family school is “the longest-living institution that has served as an educational institution for brewers in the United States,” Papazian said. “They’ve gone through a lot of transitions, from the small breweries going out of business in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, to embracing the small craft brewers that were emerging in the ’70s and ’80s, welcoming them, and offering them educational opportunities. Bill was involved with that transition.”
“Many of our employees are graduates of Siebel Institute, and the impact the school has made on the beer community is impressive,” said Ken Stout, general manager of Goose Island Beer Company. “A great industry leader has been lost, and we’ll miss him dearly.”
Bill Siebel and his brother, Ron, grew up near Devon and Caldwell in Edgebrook, and at the Southwest edge of the Evanston Golf Club in Skokie, where one of the tees was behind their home. A highlight of their youth was spending summers with their mother, Mary, at Paradise Ranch near Colorado Springs, while their father, Raymond, commuted back and forth from the Siebel Institute in Chicago. The Siebel boys became accomplished horseback riders.
They attended grade school at the old Bishop Quarter Military Academy in Oak Park. Bill Siebel graduated from Florida’s Admiral Farragut Academy and the University of Miami. He served in the Navy, rising to lieutenant, before returning to Chicago — and the family beer school — in 1971, said his wife, Barbara Wright Siebel.
Both brothers attended the Siebel Institute, where a variety of classes, diplomas and certificates focus on yeast, malt, fermentation, biological science, quality control, engineering and packaging. “One of my classmates in 1967 was August Pabst, and August Busch III was a few years before,” Ron Siebel said.
For decades, the school and laboratory were located at 4055 W. Peterson, where the Siebels had a brewing library and a second-floor bierstube with heirloom steins.
After their father and uncle sold the business, “Bill and I were successful in getting it back,” Ron Siebel said. “We got it back in the family hands, and it stayed there until [Bill] retired and wanted to liquidate his holdings in the institute.” Today, the school is owned by Lallemand, a Canadian yeast company.
Ron Siebel focused on selling products such as stabilizers, which preserve clarity in beer. “Bill was ‘Mr. Inside.’ He was very good with numbers,” his brother said. Because of him, “The business was always on a steady course.”
Bill Siebel retired in 2000, Lemcke said.
He restored himself and reveled in nature, hiking, and watching birds and animals. For their honeymoon, Bill and Barbara Siebel canoed nine days on the U.S.-Canadian Boundary Waters. And for 20 years, they canoed in Ely, Minnesota, where he enjoyed spotting bear and moose. He also loved reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.
And this is another obituary from website Beer Monopoly:
William (Bill) Siebel, philanthropist and former President of the Siebel Institute, died 8 November 2015, aged 69
In the classroom of the Siebel Institute in Chicago, there is a long wall featuring the graduating class photographs of students dating back to the year 1900. The year 1973 marked the first appearance of a young, moustachioed Bill Siebel in the faculty section of the Diploma Course photographs, and his image would appear in every class photo for the next 26 years.
Unless you knew Bill, visitors to Siebel could be forgiven for wondering who this prankster was, who, year after year, managed to blag his way into one of the world’s oldest brewing schools to have his photo taken with the brewing school’s graduates?
Certainly, Bill would have chuckled at the suggestion of him being a repeat gatecrasher at the school, which has borne his family’s name since the 19th century. He would have even taken delight in being awarded the nickname Zelig – the title character of a Woody Allen “mockumentary” from 1983 about a human chameleon that sneaked past guards at major events to rub shoulders with the high and mighty – because he would have known of the film or more probably would have even seen it.
Bill had a great sense of humour. When he attended the Munich trade fair Drinktec as an exhibitor for the first time in 1993, he came armed with only a poster, expecting to be given a tabletop for his brochures. To his surprise he had in fact rented a large booth. Bill being Bill made the best of this and immediately organised two dozen large trees in pots which he placed alongside the walls. If passers-by remarked that the Siebel Institute had obviously branched out into horticulture, Bill laughed his infectious and his eyes would sparkle behind his glasses as he repeated the story about his mishap over and over again.
Despite his self-effacing modesty, Bill represented the best of North American “beer royalty”. Being a fourth generation Siebel to run the business, whose passion for beer was undeniable – he was most inconsolable when he had to cancel being a judge at this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver due to his failing health – Bill felt equally strongly about his obligations as a citizen. He diligently and conscientiously gave his expertise to many good causes and probably even more in terms of financial support. However, you had to know him really well to discover this side of him.
Bill was a Chicago man: born and bred in the Windy City, which he loved but hated for its extreme weather. This may have been one reason why he chose to study in far-away Florida. He graduated from Florida’s Admiral Farragut Academy and the University of Miami. He served in the Navy, rising to lieutenant, before returning to Chicago — and the family beer business — in 1971.
The Siebel Institute of Technology was established in Chicago in 1872 by Bill’s great-grandfather, the German-born immigrant John Ewald Siebel. Unlike Bill, JE Siebel must have been a real sourpuss, judging from the dour-looking gentleman, whose bust Bill and his wife Barbara kept in their yard. On my last visit to Chicago this spring, we presented JE to the Siebel Institute – they already had the other of the two busts that JE had made – because Bill knew no one in his family would want such a stern character face them in the morning.
Bill did not bear his family’s heritage lightly. He would joke about how the Siebel Institute made it through this “inconvenient time” Americans call Prohibition. Officially, the Siebel Institute kept going as a school of baking – which, like brewing, uses yeast – and Bill would laughingly speculate that his ancestors probably were involved in all kinds of shenanigans. After all, Prohibition in Chicago gave rise to plenty of colourful gangsters whose empires were made with alcohol. In fact, reality was far bleaker than Bill liked to narrate it. When JE Siebel died in late 1919, Prohibition had already been ratified, which meant that the Siebel Institute could no longer teach brewing in America and several Siebel family members were left destitute, says Keith Lemcke, Vice-President of the Siebel Institute.
As we know, the Siebel Institute survived. But when Bill joined the Institute, his father and uncle had already sold the business. Fortunately, Bill and his older brother Ron succeeded in getting it back. “We got it back in the family hands, and it stayed there until Bill retired and wanted to liquidate his holdings in the institute,” Ron said. Today, the school is owned by Lallemand, a Canadian yeast company.
Both Bill and Ron attended the Institute to be taught all about yeast, malt, fermentation, biological science, quality control, engineering and packaging. “One of my classmates in 1967 was August Pabst, and August Busch III was a few years before,” Ron said. Over its long history, the Siebel Institute has produced tens of thousands of alumni with such illustrious surnames like Busch, Coors, Pabst and Stroh. But John Mallett of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo; the father and grandfather of Samuel Adams brewer Jim Koch; and Greg Hall, a brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Company, were also among them.
For decades, the school and laboratory were located at 4055 W. Peterson, where the Siebels had a brewing library and a second-floor Bierstube in mock-Germanic style. For parties they liked to serve brat and sauerkraut.
While Ron would focus on selling auxiliary products, Bill was Mr Inside. “He was very good with numbers,” his brother remembers. Because of Bill, the business was always on a steady course. This does not mean that things were easy. For decades, the U.S. beer industry has been in a state of transition. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s a lot of the smaller brewers went out of business followed by the remaining mid-tier brewers in the 1990s. Fortunately for the Siebel Institute and thanks to Bill’s tireless travelling and networking, international students and craft brewers began to fill seats as of the 1990s. Bill wholeheartedly welcomed them, offering them educational opportunities.
Until his retirement in 2000, Bill taught at the Siebel Institute and took on various roles, from registrar, to President, Chairman and CEO.
Today is the birthday of Michael Brand (March 23, 1826-October 26, 1897). Born in Gau-Odernheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, he was trained as a brewer and came to America and became a partner with Valentine Busch in 1852 and Busch and Brand Brewery continued until Busch passed away in 1872, when in became the Michael Brand Brewery in Chicago, Illinois, though many sources say that it was 1878 when the name change took place. In 1889, in became the United States Brewing Co., which it remained until in closed in 1955.
Here’s a short biography from the “History of Chicago.”
Here’s another short history of his brewery for “One Hundred Years of Brewing.”
Today is the 65th birthday of Grant Johnston. Grant was the original brewer at Marin Brewing when it opened in 1989, and spent a number of years at Black Diamond Brewing in Concord, California. Grant was very influential in the early days of Bay Area brewing, and he’s an incredibly talented brewer. A few years ago he moved to the midwest, and these days can be found working a few days a week at the Argus Brewery in Chicago. A couple of years back, I was in Belgium at the Cantillon Brewery when in walked Grant, quite by chance, so you never know when you’re going to run into him. Join me in wishing Grant a very happy birthday.
Grant (on the right) judging the 2006 Double IPA Festival in the cellar of The Bistro, with Tom Dalldorf, Vicky, our hard-working beer steward in the middle, and the Toronado’s Dave Keene in profile on the left.
Today is the birthday of German-born Joseph Junk (January 15, 1841-1887) who emigrated to the U.S. in 1868, and in 1883 opened the eponymous Joseph Junk Brewery in Chicago, Illinois. Unfortunately, he died just a few years later, in 1887, and his widow, Magdalena Junk, took over management of the brewery, renaming it Junk’s Brewery and then the Jos. Junk Brewery, which it remained until 1909. She increased production from around 4,000 barrels to 45,000 barrels of lager beer.
It then became the South Side Brewing Co. until prohibition, and afterwards reopened under that same name. But in 1937 in became the more fancifully named Ambrosia Brewing Co., then changed again one final time, to the Atlantic Brewing Co., before closing for good in 1965. It was located at 3700/3710 South Halstead and 37th Streets. According to Tavern Trove, “the brewery has been torn down. What was the Ambrosia Brewery is now the parking lot for Schaller’s Pump, a tavern located at 3714 S. Halsted, Chicago.”
Here’s a short article from the Western Brewer (Brewer’s Journal) from August 1909 reporting on the transition from Jos. Junk to South Side Brewing.
I was unable to find any photos of any of the Junk family, and in fact very little of anything, which I guess makes sense since they were the Junk Brewery, or some variation, for a relatively short time a very long time ago. Here’s what I did find.
A rare Junk bottle.
The website where I found this claims it was from 1930, but American Breweries II states that it wasn’t called Ambrosia Brewing until 1937, so it’s probably from the late 1930s at the earliest. But another source says it’s from the 1950s, and indeed it as known as Ambrosia through 1959, so that’s perhaps more likely given the look of the postcard.
This is the brewery around 1952, taken by Ernie Oest and featured at beer can history.
But by far, this is the most interesting bit of history on Joseph Junk I turned up. This is a newspaper article from the Chicago Tribune for March 29, 1902. It concerns what I can only assume is Joe and Magdalena’s son, since they refer to him as a “young man” and “member of the Chicago Brewery” rather then saying “owner.” Seems the young man went on a bender in San Francisco and ended up marrying some floozy he’d just met. But here’s the best bit. “The trouble began when the young man’s family learned that Lottie (is that not a floozy’s name?) had done a song-and-dance turn in abbreviated skirts.” Oh, the horror. It sounds like they could live with or tolerate the “song-and dance turn,” but not, I repeat not, if there were “abbreviated skirts” involved. That was the deal breaker, so they sent him off on “a Southern tour” and her packing back to Frisco, eventually settling on a payoff on $10,000, which in today’s money is over a quarter-million dollars, or roughly $276,150. It must have been the talk of polite society for months afterwards, bringing shame down on the Junk family.
Today is the birthday of Michael Sieben (January 3, 1835-September 5, 1925). He was born in Ebersheim, Germany, but came to America when he was 25, in 1860. In 1865, he bought the James L. Hoerber Brewery, running it until 1875, when he built a new brewery which he named the Michael Sieben Brewery. Twenty years later he sold that brewery to the Excelsior Brewing Co., but promptly built another brewery, selling that one to United Breweries Co. in 1898, though he remained its manager of the Sieben’s Branch. A brewery bearing his name continued on in Chicago until prohibition, was briefly open during it, and re-opened afterwards in 1933 as Sieben’s Brewery Co., which remained in business until 1967.
This biography of Sieben is from “The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago, edited by Albert Nelson Marquis, and published in 1911:
In 1934, the newly reopened Sieben’s Brewery issued a press release celebrating its 100th anniversary of its founder, Michael Sieben:
The one hundreth birthday anniversary of Michael Sieben, the founder of the brewery which is now known all over the world, is celebrated these days by the Chicago Sieben Brewery Company, 1470 Larrabee Street. For the festive occasion an especially tasteful beer, the Sieben Centennial beer, was put on the market. It was made after a receipt known to the family for seventy years.
Michael Sieben was born on January 3, 1835, in Ebersheim, near Mainz, Germany, and died in Chicago September 5, 1925, at the age of ninety years. He learned the honorable art of beer brewing in Mainz, Germany, and as brewer’s and cooper’s assistant he journeyed through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. For two years he worked at Lyons, Maney, and Dijon until the wanderlust urged him to go to the unknown land on the other side of the big pond.
Michael Sieben came in the year 1860 to America. During the succeeding five years, he worked as malster and brewer’s assistant, then as master brewer, and later as manager in Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Boston. In the year 1865, he returned to Chicago and founded here the Sieben brewery in the then Griswold Street. In the year 1876, the brewery moved to Larrabee Street, south of Blackhawk Street, at which place it is still operating today.
From the marriage of Michael Sieben and his wife Ida, nee Fausch, came seven children, of whom two sons, William and Bernard, are in charge of the brewery today.
This account of the brewery is from “100 Years of Brewing,” published in 1903:
Around 2006, a group of investor’s tried to bring back the Sieben’s beer brand, but the last time the website was updated was 2009, so I don’t think they were successful in the long run. And in fact, the home page states that it’s “off the market.” But this account of Sieben is from their website:
Michael Sieben immigrated to the United States in 1860 from Ebersheim, Germany a village southwest of Mainz. In 1865 Michael founded the Michael SiebenBrewery, located on Pacific Avenue near Clark and Polk Streets in Chicago. That street is now the section of La Salle St. south of Congress Parkway. In 1871, the brewery was narrowly missed by the Great Chicago Fire due to a change in wind direction. In 1876 the brewery was relocated to 1466 Larrabee Street, just a short walk from where the Larrabee-Ogden station of the Chicago “L” Transit System would be built in 1900.
In 1896 Michael Sieben built a larger brewery on Clybourn Avenue, not far from the Larrabee Street location. In 1898 it was merged into the United Breweries Company. By 1903, Michael Sieben was back in the original Larrabee Street location and changed the name of his company to the Sieben´s Brewery Company. Michael Sieben´s wish was that the brewery bearing his name not be owned by anyone outside the Sieben family, perhaps due to the short alliance he had with United Breweries Company that this wish came into effect.
During the years of Prohibition 1920-1933 the Sieben family was out of the beer business. The years of Prohibition gave brewers few choices, some started to produce soda and/or near beer (a nonalcoholic beer) or just closed forever. Some brewers however, were faced with a couple of other choices, sell or lease their brewery. The Sieben´s were faced with this choice and decided to lease out the brewery to an entity which was supposed to be engaged in producing a nonalcoholic beer. This new company was called the George Frank Brewery and is said to be owned in partnership by Dion O´Banion (head of the north side gang) and Johnny Torrio (head of the south side gang). The story goes, that O´Banion calls up Torrio and said that he is tired of the bootleg business and wants to retire to his place in Colorado. O´Banion offered to sell Torrio, his share of the brewery for $500,000.00, Torrio agreed. Dion O´Banion was aware of the penalties for prohibition convictions.
The first, a mere slap on the hand. The second, put you away for nine months and O´Banion knew that Torrio had one conviction against him. Dion O´Banion also had information that the Chicago Police Department was to raid the brewery the day of the meeting. On May 19, 1924 the two men met at the Sieben´s Brewery. Johnny Torrio, handed Dion O´Banion a case with $500,000.00 in cash and in came the police and arrested everyone in sight.
This is where the common historical account differs from what family members who were there observed. The Sieben family member story is as follows, despite what was reported in the newspapers at the time. The transfer of funds either happened at another time or in another place. The raid happened about a week after this transaction. Also, O´Banion had no idea when a raid would take place, he only knew that the police officer he was paying off to inform him of when the next inspection was going to happen was no longer in a position to tell him. Elliot Ness had figured the cop for a “dirty” cop and had him transferred to where we don´t know, just out of the picture.
The normal operation with the gangsters was to at all times have two gangsters on the premises to run things. One would work in the office and the other was one of the bartenders. When the raid DID happen, the gangster/bartender, ran back through the brewery and kicked out the operating engineer that was running the steam engine that was used for refrigeration. He then grabbed a pair of overalls and dirtied his face with coal dust and sat at the controls of the steam engine so it looked like he was just an “engineer” worker and not a gangster. The gangster in the office came out and saw that there was a police officer standing guard in the street in front of the brewery. He got Leonard Sieben (who was 8 years old at the time) and told him to go out front and stand next to the officer and act like he was pulling a handkerchief out of his sleeve when the officer looked the other way. That was the signal for the gangster to slip out the front door and down the street, unseen. When the rest of the police surrounded the building and came in to conduct the raid, they ran right past the “engineer” who then just walked out the back door.
No gangsters were arrested at that time, they must have been rounded up later and this fact was hidden in an apparently elaborate deception so that the public could not find out. One might suspect that Elliot Ness had to score some kind of hit to garner some public or political support at a time when it was widely known that Prohibition was not working. The court records make no mention of Torrio, O´banion or old Scarface himself. The only names mentioned are “a Mr. Sieben, who owns the Realty” and George Frank who was the lease operator.
No matter which version you want to believe, this is what led to the infamous “handshake murder” of O´Banion at his north side State Street flower shop. It was also what sparked off the north and south side gang wars, including the St. Valentine´s DayMassacre in 1929.
In 1933 Prohibition came to an end and the Sieben family reopened the brewery, bier stube and garden. For the next three and a half decades, Sieben´s Brewery Company would brew the fine beers for which it was known. In the 1950´s and 1960´s the beer business was changing and Sieben´s was finding it hard to keep up. Faced with the competition of mass produced beers, the Sieben´s Brewery and associated bier stube closed in 1967. The bottling house caught fire in 1968 and was heavily damaged. In 1969 all of the Sieben´s Brewery Company buildings were torn down.
In the 1980´s the name Sieben Brewery was resurrected by group of entrepreneurs not related to the Sieben family. The “new Sieben´s” was a brew pub in the River North Area of Chicago. The brew pub did not package and distribute their products, nor did they ever brew or have the original Sieben´s Brewery recipes.
In 2006 the Sieben´s family is back in the brewing business. Richard Sieben is a fourth generation family brewer and along with long time homebrewing friend Elliot Hamilton are, “Carrying on a Great Family Brewing Tradition.” Sieben´s brings back the original “Real Lager Beer” that was brewed at the original brewery. The Sieben´s name has been around since the time when Chicago was a big beer brewing town. That´s why we like to think and say that we´re also “Carrying on Chicago´s Great Brewing Tradition.”
Sieben’s beer, after a two year run on the market has been temporarily withdrawn from distribution. Not having our own brewery, while saving a bundle of money in infrastructure, costs us in flexibility. Our Wisconsin based brewery is ready and willing to produce more beer but until we are able to secure a dependable distributor who has our product featured in their portfolio, we must take time off to rethink our strategy.
Portrait from “100 Years of Brewing,” originally published in 1901.
And here’s another portrait that included this text: “German-born Peter Schoenhofer (1827-1893) came penniless to America in 1851 and took jobs in various breweries around Chicago. Eventually he and a partner, Matheus Gottfried, opened a brewery. Schoenhofen bought out Gottfried in 1867 and the company became the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Company. Ads bragged that the beer’s clean taste came from the artesian spring located under the brewery. Their Edelweiss brand was the best known.”
Here’s an entry about Schoenhofen from the Encyclopedia of Chicago:
Peter Schoenhofen, a Prussian immigrant, was in Chicago working in the brewing trade by the 1850s. In 1861, he started a partnership with Matheus Gottfried; they were soon operating a brewery at Canalport Avenue and 18th Street where, during the early 1860s, they made about 600 barrels of lager beer a year. In 1867, Schoenhofen bought out his partner, and the company became the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Co. By 1868, annual output had increased to about 10,000 barrels. During the 1890s, when the business was owned by the City Contract Co. of London, England, annual output reached 180,000 barrels. Around 1900, the Schoenhofen family regained control of the company, which employed about 500 people at its brewery on West 12th Street by 1910. During this time, the company was also known as the National Brewing Co. The company’s “Edelweiss” brand of beer was a big seller. Operations shut down during Prohibition, but by 1933, after the national ban on alcohol production was lifted, the company was back in business as the Schoenhofen-Edelweiss Co. After being purchased by the Atlas Brewing Co. in the late 1940s, Schoenhofen became part of Dewery’s Ltd. of South Bend, Indiana, in 1951, and thereafter assumed the Dewery’s name. By the beginning of the 1970s, there was nothing left of its Chicago operations, although Dewery’s reintroduced the famous Edelweiss brand in 1972 after nearly a decade-long hiatus.
Forgotten Chicago has a nice photo gallery about the Schoenhofen Brewery and what remains of it today, saying that what is left “of the Schoenhofen Brewery are still the most impressive pre-Prohibition era brewery structures in Chicago. Buildings were first erected at 18th and Canalport in 1862 when the brewery relocated here from 12th and Jefferson. The last buildings were built in 1912, and the brewery remained in business until 1924, a casualty of prohibition.”
The area where the brewery operated are today known as the Schoenhofen Brewery Historic District.
I love their ad copy: “A case of good judgment,” which they used extensively. And this beer was a “secret brew,” whatever that means.
Today is the 51st birthday of Wil Turner, brewer at Open Outcry Brewing, in Chicago. He’s also a former brewer at Revolution Brewing and Goose Island Brewery, but Wil’s originally from California — or at least that’s where I first met him — but moved to Chicago to brew at the Clybourn Goose Island brewpub, eventually moving to the production side. Since the sale of Goose Island, Wil’s moved back over to brewpub brewing at Revolution and more recently moved to brew at Open Outcry. Wil’s a great brewer, of course, and a terrific person for the industry, always a fun guy to drink with. Join me in wishing Wil a very happy birthday.