Today is the 70th birthday — The Big 7-O — of historian Maureen Ogle, who wrote Ambitious Brew, which was published in 2006. Her next book was In Meat We Trust, but apparently she’s returning to beer for her next as of yet untitled book. So that’s something to look forward to. I first met Maureen shortly after Ambitious Brew was published when she asked me for some help putting together an invitation list for event at Anchor Brewing, and we’ve been good friends ever since. Please join me in wishing Maureen a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Alfred Vinzenz Werthmueller (September 22, 1835-?). Werthmueller was born in Germany, and with a partner, brewed the first lager in the state of Iowa. He became part of the Wertmueller & Ende Co. Brewery in 1892 and appears to have been bought out by his partner, Charles Ende, when in 1902 the name changed to the Ende Brewing Co. It started out in Burlington, Iowa as the Union Brewery in 1856, and closed in 1915.
I can find almost no information about Werthmueller or even the brewery he was a partner in for ten years. He’s referred to as a brewer in USBA convention minutes, and for the Ninth Convention was still in Iowa, but during the Tenth Convention he’s listed as a representative of G. Bosch & Co. I can’t find any information about G. Bosch & Co., although there was a Bosch Brewery in Michigan from 1874 to 1973. But it was founded by a Joseph Bosch, so it may have been a different company. But that’s all I could find, and nothing about his later life or where he ended up.
Burlington, Iowa in 1889.
Here’s an account of the brewery from “100 Years of Brewing:”
Today is the birthday of Isaac Leisy (June 26, 1838-July 11, 1892). He was born in Friedelsheim, Landkreis Bad Dürkheim, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. He emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 17, in 1855. They settled in Iowa initially, and began farming. Like several of his relatives, Isaac pursued brewing and briefly worked for a brewery in Illinois before spending several years working at the William J. Lemp Brewery in St. Louis. He then moved back to Germany for a few years, got married, and returned to the States in 1862 to start a family brewery with two of his brothers called the Leisy & Brothers Union Brewery. But Iassac wanted something bigger and in 1873, he and his brothers August and Henry Leisy bought Frederick Haltnorth’s brewery in Cleveland, Ohio, renaming it Isaac Leisy & Company.
This is the only photo I could find of Leisy, and it appears to be later in his life with his wife and family.
Here’s a short history of the Leisy Brewery by Michael Rotman in Cleveland Historical:
In 1873, Isaac Leisy and his two brothers (all originally from Bavaria in Germany) left their small brewery in rural Iowa and came to Cleveland after purchasing Frederick Haltnorth’s brewery on Vega Avenue for $120,000. Haltnorth (who was also the proprietor of Haltnorth’s Gardens — a beer garden at East 55th Street and Woodland Avenue) had purchased the brewery in 1864 from Jacob Mueller, who originally opened it in 1858. Only weeks before purchasing Haltnorth’s brewery, Isaac Leissy had been in Cleveland to attend the annual Brewer’s Congress. Leisy must have been impressed with the opportunities for growth and prosperity in Cleveland, which was quickly becoming an industrial metropolis, as compared to those that existed in rural Iowa.
In the mid-1880s, Isaac Leisy (having bought out his brothers) renovated the old brewery and expanded its operations, constructing a multi-building, 8-acre campus along Vega Avenue and increasing beer production eightfold. The Leisy Brewery aimed to be as self-sufficient as possible, and to this end the brewery’s grounds contained, for example, a bottling plant, stables for its fleet of horse-drawn delivery carriages, a cooperage, a blacksmith shop, and two 80-foot silos that held barley prior to its on-site malting. Self-sufficiency was important since competition among breweries in Cleveland at the time was fierce, with nearly twenty breweries operating in the city in 1890. To make matters more difficult for Leisy, in 1898 10 small Cleveland brewers joined the new Cleveland & Sandusky Brewing Co., a massive combination that signaled the brewing industry’s turn towards consolidation. Isaac’s son Otto took control of the company after his father’s death in 1892 and promptly vowed to remain independent of the new combination. He wrote to the Plain Dealer in 1898, emphatically stating that “My firm has existed in Cleveland for over a quarter of a century; has prospered by honorable methods of trade, thereby obtaining, possessing and enjoying the confidence of the same. By its former methods my company proposes to preserve and maintain its trade, and in a fair way compete with its opponent, the huge beer trust.”
Indeed, Leisy Brewing remained an independent, family-owned brewery throughout its entire history. It thrived in the decades before Prohibition, steadily increasing its sales and production. When Prohibition took effect in 1920 and brewing beer became illegal, the company made a short-lived attempt to produce non-alcoholic beverages. This proved to be unprofitable, and Leisy Brewing closed in 1923. Unlike some of Cleveland’s other breweries which had also been forced to shut down during Prohibition, Leisy returned after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. That year, Otto’s son Herbert Leisy reopened the brewery, reequipping it with new machinery to replace the equipment that had been sold off during Prohibition. Industry consolidation, however, continued to chip away at Cleveland’s small, independent breweries in the decades after Prohibition. Leisy Brewing finally closed in 1958, and its plant on Vega Avenue was demolished in the mid-1970s.
And this account is from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:
The LEISY BREWING CO., at 3400 Vega Ave. on the near west side, was once Cleveland’s largest independent brewery. It was established by Isaac Leisy (1838-92), an Iowa brewer who purchased Cleveland’s Frederick Haltnorth Brewery in association with 2 brothers; together they established Isaac Leisy & Co. in 1873. Leisy soon gained a reputation for its Premium Lager and Budweiser beers (Budweiser was not then a brand name). Leisy Brewing Co.With the departure of his brothers in 1882, Isaac Leisy as sole owner and manager substantially enlarged the brewery, replacing the old buildings with modern ones occupying 8 acres of land. Production rose from 12,000 barrels in 1873 to over 90,000 in 1890. Leisy employed 75 workers, mostly German-Americans. He died in 1892, shortly after completing a baronial brownstone mansion next to the brewery, and his son, Otto I. (1864-1914), assumed control. During Prohibition, the brewery was closed and its equipment sold, but with repeal Herbert F. Leisy (Otto’s son) reestablished the Leisy brewing dynasty. He reequipped and modernized the brewery with assistance from Carl Faller, the oldest active brewmaster in the U.S. when he died in 1939. In the 1950s, Leisy Black Dallas malt liquor and Leisy Light, Dortmunder, and Mello-Gold beer were distributed in Ohio and 5 neighboring states. To increase capacity, in early 1958 Leisy purchased the Geo. F. Stein brewery in Buffalo. Geo. S. Carter, former Leisy sales manager who had propelled PILSENER’s P.O.C. to a leading position in Ohio, returned to Leisy in June 1958 as president and a substantial owner, but all operations ceased the following year. Pointing to Ohio’s $.36-a-case tax as a major factor in its demise, Leisy was the oldest brewery in Cleveland and one of the longest surviving family-operated breweries in America when it closed.
The Ohio Breweriana website has an excerpt from the book, Breweries of Cleveland, by Carl H. Miller, that’s all about the Leisy Brewery. Also, the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History has an entry on the brewery plus there’s a book all about the Leisy’s entitled Brewing Beer In The Forest City: Volume I, The Leisy Story that’s available directly from the publisher.
Last month during a routine inspection, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa bridge inspector found a suspicious looking hole in the ground. At first, he thought it might be a “potentially hazardous sinkhole near an Interstate 380 access ramp,” but as he, and others looked closer, it may actually be a 150-year old beer cave, part of the Christian Magnus Eagle Brewery and Bottling Works. According to a local newspaper report in 1977, “excavators had unexpectedly pierced a beer cave during construction of this stretch of I-380 when they were digging to lay a culvert north of Eighth Street” so it’s seems that’s the likeliest explanation.
Apparently, a archaeologist and an architectural historian,among others, are investigating, and are keeping an open mind that it could be any number of things. A local historian, on the hand, appears quite certain it’s the beer caves, and in the local newspaper, The Gazette, appears ready to go record with his belief that they’re beer caves:
Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter is a bit more certain of the findings.
“They are the Magnus beer caves. That’s exactly what they are,” Hunter said after hearing of the discovery. “This is very exciting as an historian.”
The brewery was constructed by Jacob Wetzel in 1859.
Wetzel hired an old world brewer from Germany named Christian Magnus as his brewmaster and foreman, according to The Gazette’s Time Machine. Beer caves were essential to Magnus’ vision for the beer cooling and aging process. The brewery was a five-story complex overlooking Cedar Lake, but the back ran into a hill where the caves were located.
The brewery had five cellars that could hold 2,000 barrels, two ice houses that held up to 2,300 tons of ice, and a capacity to produce 60 barrels of beer in 12 hours.
Magnus bought out Wetzel in 1868, and at the height of production, the Christian Magnus Eagle Brewery and Bottling Works put out 25,000 barrels of 4.5 percent beer in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Hunter said the brewery was possibly best known for Eagle Brewing, a popular beer with a logo of an eagle perched on a beer keg with its wings stretched wide and a man tapping the keg.
The brewery closed because of prohibition in 1915, although it operated for several more years producing soft drinks, among other items, before entirely shutting down in the 1920 and being demolished in 1937, Hunter said.
Hunter said in later years homeless people would use the caves, and they were later boarded up. However, children would break through the boards with “skull and cross bone — do not enter warning” to explore.
A neighborhood then was built on top of the beer caves, before being torn down for I-380, he said.
The brewery from a lithograph done around 1875.
And here’s a photograph of the brewery, believed to be from 1870, from another piece in the Gazette about the Original Breweries.
Cedar Rapids, city of. Historical Views. Little caption information available. Photo appears to show a view of the Magnus Brewery (center), looking southwest over Cedar Lake. The brewery was located near present day Quaker Oats plant. The original Eagle Brewery was established in 1859 by Christian Magnus at the corner of Ely and Van Buren, modern D Avenue (D Ave.) and Eighth Street (Eighth St) NE in Cedar Rapids. The brewery produced beer and ale in a structure made from Anamosa stone and was considered one of the best breweries in Iowa. An immigrant from Germany, Magnus originally started a brewery for Jacob Wetzel in Cedar Rapids in 1859. In 1868, Magnus bought out his former employer and continued the European tradition of aging his beer in cold cellars beneath the brewery. When prohibition threatened his local brewing empire, Magnus invested his earning in such ventures as the Magnus Hotel, a longtime downtown landmark which fell to urban renewal during the 1970s.
Today in 1846, Iowa became the 29th state.
- Angry Cedar Brewing
- Appanoose Rapids Brewing
- Backpocket Brewing
- Beck’s Sports Bar & Grill
- Blue Mountain Culinary Emporium
- Briar Creek Brewing
- Broad Street Brewing
- CIB Brewery
- Confluence Brewing
- Court Avenue Brewing
- Depot Deli and Lounge
- Granite City Food & Brewery: Cedar Rapids, Clive, Davenport
- Great River Brewery
- Hub City Brewing
- Joynt Brewing
- Keg Creek Brewing
- Lost Duck Brewery
- Madhouse Brewing
- Millstream Brewing Company
- Old Capitol Brew Works and Public House
- Olde Main Brewing
- Patrick’s Steakhouse and Brewery
- Peace Tree Brewing
- Raccoon River Brewing
- Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery: Des Moines
- Third Base Sports Bar and Brewery
- Toppling Goliath Brewing
- Twisted Vine Brewery
- Worth Brewing
Iowa Brewery Guides
Guild: Iowa Brewers Guild
State Agency: Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division
- Capital: Des Moines
- Largest Cities: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Waterloo
- Population: 2,926,324; 30th
- Area: 56276 sq.mi., 26th
- Nickname: Hawkeye State
- Statehood: 29th, December 28, 1846
- Alcohol Legalized: April 15, 1933
- Number of Breweries: 21
- Rank: 24th
- Beer Production: 2,462,310
- Production Rank: 29th
- Beer Per Capita: 25.4 Gallons
- Bottles: 26.5%
- Cans: 61.9%
- Kegs: 11.1%
- Per Gallon: $0.19
- Per Case: $0.43
- Tax Per Barrel (24/12 Case): $5.89
- Draught Tax Per Barrel (in Kegs): $5.89
Economic Impact (2010):
- From Brewing: $10,089,237
- Direct Impact: $655,803,630
- Supplier Impact: $220,436,254
- Induced Economic Impact: $378,926,548
- Total Impact: $1,255,166,432
- Control State: No
- Sale Hours: 6 a.m.–2 a.m. Mon–Sat
8 a.m.–2 a.m. Sun
- Grocery Store Sales: Yes
- Notes: ABV > 5% beer shipped through state warehouse
Data complied, in part, from the Beer Institute’s Brewer’s Almanac 2010, Beer Serves America, the Brewers Association, Wikipedia and my World Factbook. If you see I’m missing a brewery link, please be so kind as to drop me a note or simply comment on this post. Thanks.
For the remaining states, see Brewing Links: United States.
Continuing my unintentional theme of dead animals and beer, here’s an odd one from the archives of Minnesota news, as highlighted in Yesterday’s News, 140 Years of Minnesota News by Ben Welter. Although reported in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1900, July 19 to be exact, the incident actually occurred in Iowa. The report assures us, however, that it was near the Minnesota border. Since it’s archival, here’s the original news report in its entirety:
DEATH LURKS IN THE BEER
Three Men Die in Agony After Drinking Lager.
By Wire From Fort Dodge, Ia., July 19.
Four young men living in Cerro Gordo county, near the Minnesota line, purchased and drank a keg of Eastern-brewed beer some days ago, and as a result three of them have died and the fourth is now in terrible agony, and is reported to be on the point of death.
The day was warm and the beer was consumed hurriedly by the friends, who little realized that they were sipping a death-dealing draught. They were all taken sick immediately, and although a physician was soon summoned, the taking off of three of the young bibbers could not be prevented.
To ascertain, if possible, the strange cause of the sickness, the keg was broken into and the decomposed remains of a genuine rattlesnake was found. Improbable as the story sounds, it is true; and is rendered plausible by the fact that empty kegs are often left lying around for weeks before being shipped back to the breweries. It is thus easy for reptiles and insects to crawl into the kegs as cool resorts.
The scalding out of the kegs upon their return to the brewery would naturally kill any living organism, which would remain right in the keg. It was only a few years ago that a man here became sick from drinking keg beer and an investigation showed that a dead toad occupied the keg with the beer.
I’m certainly glad sanitation standards in breweries have improved markedly over the last 110 years.
This mug, believe it or not, is available for purchase at What on Earth.