An Index to Wisconsin Breweries with Histories
Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly, copyright 1996
Last Revised 12/07/2014Addison (see St. Lawrence)
Ahnapee (later Algoma)Algoma
Allouez (see Green Bay)Alma
"The first industry in Alma was a brewery. This is understandable since the river froze in the winter and settlers were isolated, and the Swiss were fond of their special beer."
Farmer's Brewery is purchased in 1866 by Phillip J. Binzel (and Peter ?)Beloit
After Ulrich Oderbolz passed away in 1900, his oldest son, Frank, took over the daily tasks of operating the brewery while his Father's estate was being settled. Frank operated the brewery, but his mother, Anna Oderbolz had assumed ownership. In 1907, an ownership change take place (American Breweries II), perhaps Frank's mother passing away.
In the spring of 1911, Frank and some other local businessmen were boating in the waters above the dam in Black River Falls. Unfortunately, the motor on the boat quit and the group started to go over the dam. One by one the passengers grabbed hold of the dam and pulled themselves to safety. All survived but Frank, who was the last person on the boat and was unable to escape before the boat went over the dam. Frank's body was found several days later and several miles downstream.
Two years after Frank's death, the family sold the brewery to some local businessmen. That brewery, Badger Brewing Company, was shut down by prohibition just several years later. But while they couldn't brew beer, they did reopen during Prohibition to brew soda until beer became legal again in 1933. Attempts were made to resurrect the beer brewing process but failed due to either lack of capital/resources because a Federal permit was never issued. The brewery closed sometime in 1934.
In late 1996 brothers Dave and Jim Hellman purchased and refurbished the old building, installing a brand-new, state-of-the-art brewing system. They called the new brewery Pioneer Brewing Company. In June of 1997 the first kegs of Pioneer Lager and Pioneer Pale Ale were rolled off the lines. Within hours local residents were sampling the new brews.
In 1998 Pioneer purchased the Wisconsin Brewing Company
brands and moved production from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin to the brewery in Black
River Falls. Today, the brewery produces Pioneer Pale Ale, Pioneer Lager
and Black River Red under the Pioneer label and Badger Porter, Whitetail Cream
Ale, Rainbow Red Ale and Wooduck Wheat under the Wisconsin label. All
products are available in both barrels and bottles.
John Wendland and Fred
Adler established a brewery in 1875. It burned down in 1883 and again in 1888.
Mr. Wendland rebuilt it each time."
Branch British Hollow Burlington Wisconsin Brewing Company, has been
established in Burlington, Wisconsin. The new brewery will operate the plant of
the former Burlington Brewing Company, and will be under contract to
wholesale distributors outside Wisconsin, producing for them beer in cans with
private individual labels. (Source: The American Brewer Newsletter, December,
1954 -- American Brewer and Wisconsin Brewing sited in this article folded and
are not related to present-day entities - Wisconsin Brewing Company, Wauwatosa,
WI.) Buttes des Mortes Carlton (see Norman) Cassville Cato Cazenovia Cecil The Cedarburg Brewing Co.
began in 1869. One of the area's busiest breweries, it was producing 1,500
barrels of beer a year in the mid-1870s, according to "Breweries of
Wisconsin" by Jerry Apps (University of Wisconsin Press; 1992). It stayed
in business until 1920. Today the brewery building, at W62-N718 Riveredge Drive,
houses an artists' collective. The Engels and Schaeffer Brewing
Co. began in Cedarburg in 1848, but no one is sure where it was located or
when it closed, according to Gordon Engeldinger, who is co-writing a book on
Ozaukee County breweries. Cedar Creek Chilton Chippewa Falls
John Wendland and Fred Adler established a brewery in 1875. It burned down in 1883 and again in 1888. Mr. Wendland rebuilt it each time."
British HollowBuchanan (see Kaukauna)
Wisconsin Brewing Company, has been established in Burlington, Wisconsin. The new brewery will operate the plant of the former Burlington Brewing Company, and will be under contract to wholesale distributors outside Wisconsin, producing for them beer in cans with private individual labels. (Source: The American Brewer Newsletter, December, 1954 -- American Brewer and Wisconsin Brewing sited in this article folded and are not related to present-day entities - Wisconsin Brewing Company, Wauwatosa, WI.)
Buttes des Mortes
Carlton (see Norman)
The Cedarburg Brewing Co. began in 1869. One of the area's busiest breweries, it was producing 1,500 barrels of beer a year in the mid-1870s, according to "Breweries of Wisconsin" by Jerry Apps (University of Wisconsin Press; 1992). It stayed in business until 1920. Today the brewery building, at W62-N718 Riveredge Drive, houses an artists' collective.
The Engels and Schaeffer Brewing Co. began in Cedarburg in 1848, but no one is sure where it was located or when it closed, according to Gordon Engeldinger, who is co-writing a book on Ozaukee County breweries.
1 Jefferson Ave, Chippewa Falls
Christiana (later Cross Plains)
Cleveland (see Centreville)
Cross Plains (formerly Berry or Christiana ?)Darlington
1873 - Hochgreve Brewery is a flourishing business in nearby Allouez.
DuplainvilleEau Claire (includes Randall)
FarmingtonFond du Lac Township Fond du Lac County
Spaeth's City Brewery - 22-26 S. Water St. W.Originally constructed in 1890.On Wisconsin's list of Historical Buildings: The easternmost section of this building was the refrigerator of the City Brewery, built between 1898 and 1904. The rear wing, along the river was originally a barn for Krueger's saloon next door. Other buildings were added between 1894 and 1924, except for the one-story western wing which postdates 1930. The corbelled cornice and corner turrets of the cream brick refrigerator building remain intact but windows have been punched into the first and second floors. Despite its many alterations, the brewery is included in the district because it is of the same height, massing, roofline, scale and materials as the rest of the buildings in downtown Fort Atkinson and because of the importance of the local brewery to 19th century townspeople. The building has lost much of its integrity but its local history as a brewery is still visually apparent. Record #: 0074636
Francis Creek (see Kossuth)Franklin
Freestadt (Friestadt ?)
In 1839, a small group of immigrants from Saxony built homes near the Milwaukee River. That same year, 20 families from Pomerania arrived, seeking religious freedom. They founded Freistadt (Free Place) in the western Mequon Township
A green expanse of lawn along the east bank of the Milwaukee River, just north of the Washington Ave. bridge, now covers the remains of Grafton's John Weber Brewing Co. It operated from the mid-1880s well into the 1890s.
The Grafton Brewing Co. was run by George Blessing shortly before Prohibition and then revived shortly afterward, from 1933 to 1935, when it was bought by the Wisconsin Cooperative Brewery, which ran it until it closed in 1941. The old brewery is in a house about a half-block north of Washington Ave. on Green Bay Road.
GravesvilleGreen Bay (formerly Allouez)
Hika (see Centreville)Hillsboro
BRUENIG BREWERY - JACOB BREUNIG, brewer and saloon keeper, 108-112 N Main ST., Jefferson; born March 24, 1815, in Elsenfeldt, Bavaria, Germany; learned trade, and worked as apprentice ten years in Wertsberg; came to America March 6, 1854, and first worked in Philadelphia three months, and then came to Jefferson and worked at coopering, and got out timber for making beer-barrels; helped erect his present brewery in 1863. Married Anna Ruecker in 1854; they have one son – George. People are members of Catholic Church. Mr. Breunig has been Alderman several terms. For full description of Mr. Breunig’s manufacture, see “Breweries.” “The History of Jefferson County, Wisconsin”, published: Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1879. Wisconsin Historical Building Record #: 0006828, National Register Date: 6/14/84
Kiel (see Schleswig)
Lake (Town of Lake incorporated into Milwaukee, south side)
Lisbon Township (see Sussex)
Capital Brewery was founded on March 14, 1984. Located in a former egg processing plant building, Capital Brewery produced its first brew in the spring of 1986.Much of the brewing equipment currently used in the brewery, including the two copper brewing kettles, came from the Hoxter Brewery in Germany.
Markesan (see Mackford)
Menomonie (also Menomonee or Menominee)
Franz Zimmerman Brewery in Mequon, also known as the Mequon Brewery, operated from 1878 until the mid-1880s. Its facilities can still be seen on Mequon Road where Kelch Corp. is located. The brewery maintained beer caves on the old fox farm near Green Bay and Highland Roads.
Capital Brewery Company
Milwaukee (including Wauwatosa)
Wisconsin Brewing Company, 1064 N. 63rd off State Street, Wauwatosa, WI. Mark May was the Chief Operating Officer and one of the principal owners of the Wisconsin Brewing Company, a micro-brewery, until 1998 (see Pioneer Brewing Company) . He was responsible for general operations and sales in the Milwaukee area. Mark had been in the brewing industry for 15 years. He began his career home-brewing in California. He served as the head brewer for Lakefront Brewery prior to starting Wisconsin Brewing Company in c1996.
Joseph Huber Brewing Co.
1845 - 1848 Bissinger 1848 - 1867 John Knipschilt 1867 - 1868 Ed Ruegger 1868 - ? Ruegger & Hefty ? - 1890 Jacob Hefty 1890 - 1891 Hefty & Son 1891 - 1892 Hefty & Blumer 1892 - 1906 Adam Blumer, Monroe Brewery 1906 - 1920 Blumer Brewing Co. 1920 - 1933 Blumer Products Co. 1933 - 1943 Blumer Brewing Corp. 1943 - 1947 Blumer Brewing Co. 1947 - 1985 Joseph Huber Brewing Co. (Joseph Huber was brewmaster for the Blumer Brewing Company, of Monroe, Wisconsin, when he acquired a controlling interest in the company in 1947.) 1985 - 1986 MTX, Inc. 1986 - 1991 Berghoff-Huber Brewing Co. 1991 - Joseph Huber Brewing Co.
Mount Pleasant (see Racine)
Neosho (Brewery c1914)
The Robert Schwalbach Brewery in Newburg, which operated from 1876 to 1899 and produced about 125 barrels a year. A tavern, The Newburg Brewery, 315 Main St., is there now. Tracy Preschat, whose family owns the tavern, said notebooks and diaries - but not beer recipes - from Schwalbach have been found in the walls, as has a tunnel from the tavern to a local funeral home.
The Binzel Brothers - Peter Binzel Sr., was the first (?) to arrive in America c. 1862, coming from Germany where he was born on 1/11/1840. Peter came to Milwaukee, then up to the Waupun Brewery, later to be joined by brothers, George, Balthasar, and Philip. Balthasar left his brothers and moved to Montana, while George became a manager at the Blatz Brewing Company. After the Waupun Brewery burned in 1864; in 1866, the Farmer's Brewery of Beaver Dam is purchased by Phillip J. Binzel (and Peter ?) who had served his apprenticeship with Joseph Schlitz and Val Blatz from 1857 - 1863.
Circa 1867, Peter moved to Oconomowoc purchasing some property on Fowler St., where a tanning business had been in operation. In 1868 (July 2) he marries Sarah Schneider of the Town of Erin, and builds a small wooden structure on his property to start his brewery, the Binzel Beverage Company (aka Peter Binzel, Brewer; Binzel's; Philip Binzel; Binzel Oconomowoc; P. Binzel). As the brewery grew, his family did; on May 25, 1871, son Philip was born in the family home, also on Fowler St.
As Philip grew, an ice house was built in 1873, the following year, Peter put on a 60 x 24 ft addition, holding beer vaults and also used for storing barley. These structures were made of brick, and the original building also had brick exterior added.
Success led to a new building in 1877, and with it, the bottling of beer in clay bottles and output capacity was 3400 barrels.
Binzel was not only distributed in the local area horse-drawn wagons, but shipped to Milwaukee via the railroad (note: Peter was not the type of owner to sit around, he drove the wagons as well, many too much. In late 1888 he fell from his uncontrollable wagon and broke his femur bone.) To further promote his product locally, Peter bought or built several taverns in the area. Feeling more prosperous, he built a larger home on Fowler Lake in 1895 (his daughter Ida lived there as recently as 1957).
1912, Peter Sr. retires and son Philip takes over.
1 Peter Binzel 1/11/1840-12/31/1924
sp - Sarah Schneider 8/6/1847-3/15/1901 (after her death, Peter married Bertha Meyer 1863-1917)
Philip Binzel 1871-1931 (married 1915)
sp - Mary Mueller 1876-1933
George Binzel 1869-1895
Mary Binzel 1872-1873
Peter Binzel Jr. 1874-1939
Anna Binzel 1876-1962 (married in 1907)
sp - Ernest Theobald (1870-1939)
Laura Binzel 1878-1894
Arthur Binzel 1881-1882
Ida Binzel 1870-1957
Pheasant Branch (later Middleton)
Portage (Fort Winnebago until 1852)
The first beer brewed in the city was a homespun operation done by an old Englishman named J. Arnet who built a log cabin in the village and brewed the city's first beer in iron kettles outside. The first commercially made beer, however, was produced by a brewer named Wittman, who built his brewery on N. Harrison St. some time between 1850 and 1883. This nearly square plan building (539 N. Harrison St.) is still extant and it is two-stories in height and has cream brick walls that are founded on a stone basement story. Wittman built this building next to the Front Gable form cream brick building (551 N. Wisconsin St.) that he built about the same time as a saloon with family living quarters above. Wittman's brewery stayed in operation until at least the early 1880s, but Sanborn-Perris maps show that this usage was discontinued by the turn-of-the-century and the brewery building was eventually converted into apartments.
Other related enterprises also existed by the beginning of the 1880s.
The Port Washington Malt Co. was an impressive enterprise for a village of Port Washington's size, but it has now been completely demolished. An even larger enterprise was the brewery built at the foot of the north bluff fronting Lake Michigan on what is today the west side of the 400 block of N. Lake St. Today, only a single greatly altered building from this brewery still exists and it is now used as the American Legion Memorial Post No. 82's meeting hall (435 N. Lake St.). The exact date when this brewery was begun has not yet been identified but by 1883 it was known as the Lakeside Brewery and was owned by G. Biedermann, proprietors. Biedermann still controlled it as late as 1900, but in 1903, the company changed hands and was renamed the Port Washington Brewing Co., makers of Premo beer, sold under the slogan "the beer that made Milwaukee furious." The new proprietors of the firm, Louis and C. F. Labahn and George Blessing, rebuilt and enlarged the brewery in 1909. The firm managed to survive Prohibition and was again producing beer in 1935 and was known as The Old Port Brewing Corporation. Since then, however, all but one of its buildings have been demolished and this sole survivor has now been greatly altered.
In 1847, Jacob Moritz began brewing in Port Washington at Lakeside Brewing. It was renamed Port Washington Brewing Co. and then, after Prohibition, the Old Port Washington Brewing Co. It closed in 1947. The brewery's old offices now form part of the American Legion Hall, 419 Lake St., across from Lower Lake Park. The brewery had beer caves, since bulldozed shut, built into St. Mary's Hill behind it. One of the company's signature beers was Premo, whose slogan was "The beer that made Milwaukee furious."
From 1865 to 1894, the Wittman Brewery operated in Port Washington. The brewery's building, which also was a tavern, is today a private residence at 532 N. Harrison St. It also had beer caves built into St. Mary's Hill on the west side of Wisconsin Ave.
Potosi Brewing Company's origins date to the Albrecht & Hail brewery, opened in 1852. Potosi was purchased by the Schumacher brothers in 1886 and the brewery remained in family hands until it closed in 1972, suffering from a lack of family members to carry on the business. Joseph Huber bought the Bohemian Club, Potosi, Holiday and Alpine lines.
Prairie du Chien
Princeton (John Ernst Brewing Company, c 1911, in post prohibition days it became the Princeton Brewing Company, home of "Tiger Brew" the beer with a Purr!
Rhinelander Brewing Company was founded in 1882, and were successful through the early 1960's. In 1967, the company closed and Huber purchased their line.
St. Martin (see Franklin)
Schleswig (now Kiel)
Sewastopol (see Sturgeon Bay)
Sherman Township (see Spencer)
Silver Creek (see Random Lake)
Slinger (see Schleisingerville)
South Germantown (see Germantown)
Stevens Point Brewery - Since 1857, the Stevens Point Brewery has transformed pure
Wisconsin water, the finest grains and European style hops into award- winning
Brews. Tour the brewhouse, packaging area, museum and the Hospitality Room for
samples of our hand- crafted premium beers. Reservations suggested. Summer
season Jun through Aug from Mon through Sat 11 am to 2 pm hourly. Off season Sep
through May from Mon to Fri 11 am, Sat 11 am and 1:30 pm. Call 715-344-9310, toll-free 800-369-4911.
2617 Water St, Stevens Point
Summit Centre Superior
(West Superior annexed in 1905) Note:
Most of the article below originally appeared in the July-August 1997 American
Breweriana Journal. (ABA Home
page) A number of corrections and additions have been added by this editor.
Brewing Company was founded in 1890 by Louis Rueping and John A. KIinkert as
the KIinkert Brewing Company. Both KIinkert and Rueping had worked many years in
the brewing business before setting up this brewery in West Superior, Wisconsin
John KIinkert was born in Hesse-Darmstadt,
Germany in 1849 and came to America in 1865. His experience as a brewer dates
back to his graduation from the Brewers Academy at Frankfort, Germany. From 1867
to 1882, he was employed in some of the principal breweries of Milwaukee,
including six years as foreman of the Philip Best Brewery. In 1882, he bought a
one-half interest in the Red River Brewery at Fargo, North Dakota, with John G.
Kraenzlein. Two years later, Kraenzlein sold his interest to Louis Rueping. KIinkert
and Rueping were successful with their small operation in North Dakota until
early Prohibition laws closed down their brewery in 1889. The pair moved to West
Superior, Wisconsin, in 1890, and continued their partnership by building a new
brewery, the KIinkert Brewing Company. It was one of seven breweries operating
in Superior to quench the iron ore miners' thirst for good beer.
Superior (West Superior annexed in 1905)
Note: Most of the article below originally appeared in the July-August 1997 American Breweriana Journal. (ABA Home page) A number of corrections and additions have been added by this editor.
Northern Brewing Company was founded in 1890 by Louis Rueping and John A. KIinkert as the KIinkert Brewing Company. Both KIinkert and Rueping had worked many years in the brewing business before setting up this brewery in West Superior, Wisconsin
John KIinkert was born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany in 1849 and came to America in 1865. His experience as a brewer dates back to his graduation from the Brewers Academy at Frankfort, Germany. From 1867 to 1882, he was employed in some of the principal breweries of Milwaukee, including six years as foreman of the Philip Best Brewery. In 1882, he bought a one-half interest in the Red River Brewery at Fargo, North Dakota, with John G. Kraenzlein. Two years later, Kraenzlein sold his interest to Louis Rueping. KIinkert and Rueping were successful with their small operation in North Dakota until early Prohibition laws closed down their brewery in 1889. The pair moved to West Superior, Wisconsin, in 1890, and continued their partnership by building a new brewery, the KIinkert Brewing Company. It was one of seven breweries operating in Superior to quench the iron ore miners' thirst for good beer.
When John Klinkert's home at 24th and Scranton was demolished in July 1956, an 1891 KIinkert Brewing Company advertising calendar was discovered in the attic.
After Klinkert's partnership ended in 1898, Louis Rueping renamed the original brewery the L. Rueping Company. In the following months, he reorganized and incorporated the Northern Brewing Company. Northern eventually grew to become one of Superior's most prosperous industries. At one time, Northern beer outsold the combined sales of all other brands in the city.
The brewery was located at the corner of Catlin and 8th Streets (702 N. 8th Street). It represented an investment of $300,000 for "the most modern brewery machinery of the time." Glass-enameled storage tanks, which most breweries didn't use until after Prohibition, were installed at Northern as early as 1909. The tanks were purchased from the Anheuser Busch brewery at St. Louis. The apparatus for filling the barrels and bottles where also state of the art. It excluded air in the bottling process, so that none of the original flavor and purity was lost during filling.
During the next five years, the capacity of the brewery was doubled to 20,000 barrels by additions and the modernization of the plant. Northern's Blue Label beer was introduced in 1912. The company employed 50 men that year who were proud of a new fire-proof, all-brick bottling house. Lager beer and malt extract were the main products. Wooden barrels of beer were stacked on hand cars, railroaded to Hammond Avenue, and eventually placed on horse drawn wagons for delivery.
The Northern Brewing Company was a home town brewery. Its market was the citizens of Superior, and its purchases and payroll added $125,000 a to the local economy each year
When Prohibition came to Superior in 1919, the brewery was cashing in on the popularity of its Blue Label Beer. Nearly 25,000 barrels of the brand were being brewed annually when the brewery was forced to shut its doors. On April 20, 1920, the owners of the brewery disposed of their holdings and moved to Southern Wisconsin. The new owners in Superior allowed the brewery to sit idle for two years.
Since the plant had the most modern equipment available at the time, very little renovating was necessary to resume operations at the brewery - this time with near beer and root beer. Brewery officers petitioned Secretary Mellon for a permit to manufacture real beer for the use of medical purposes. The petition was not granted, but they did receive a permit to manufacture a cereal beverage and soft drinks. Workers were back on the job at the Northern Beverage Company on November 16,1922.
After several months of experimenting with its distiller for near beer, the company offered a very high grade near beer and root beer to the people of Superior. In a full-page ad in the Superior Telegram on November 13, 1922, a contest was announced to name Northern's new beverages. The company offered a cash prize of $25 for the originator of the best names. This was a considerable amount of money at a time when the average weekly wage was $12.
The promotion created an instant demand for
the brewery's products. The results of the contest aren't known, but the
officers continued to use the "Northern" name on their near beer and
soft drinks - until one summer evening in 1924.
Delahunt appeared before Federal Commissioner Charles Bishop on July 30. His bail was set at $2,000. The Northern Beverage Company was the first Wisconsin brewery caught manufacturing and distributing illegal beer during Prohibition.
On Monday November 17, 1924, the company's permit to manufacture non-intoxicating beverages was revoked by the Wisconsin office for Prohibition. The people of Superior would wait nine years before their local brewery would reopen. Northern was not the only brewery caught brewing illegally. The following week, two other Wisconsin breweries were raided and their operating permits revoked: the Ebner Beverage Company of Fort Atkinson and the Cassville Beverage Company in Cassville.
On the dawn of Repeal, the new owner of Northern, Rudolph Peterson, mad plans to introduce beer to Superior after a 13 year absence. The Northern Brewing Company reopened on Wednesday March 22, 1933.
The brewery needed a major overhaul, and Peterson spared no expense in refitting the brewery. He had some difficulty in getting a brewing permit due to the company's illegal operations back in 1924 Since he was not involved, he finally received the necessary permit in July 1933.
J.S. Cochrane returned as engineer for the
Northern brewery, a position he held during the pre-Prohibition days. He fired
up the coal-fed boilers to heat the building and provide hot water to clean the
outdated equipment. Five other men were hired to clean and varnish the vats and
The brewmaster usually brewed a new batch three times a week. A pasteurizer was added to the brewery, due to a brief 1933 Wisconsin law promoted by tavern owners. They complained of unfair competition from package stores selling cold beer. The law required package stores to sell beer at room temperature. To extend the beer's shelf life and satisfy the package stores, Northern pasteurized its beer for two hours.
In the bottling house, every bottle was
visually inspected to insure proper filling. This was done eight hours a day.
Labels were added after filling, then bottles racked and dropped into beer
cases. For many years, the brewery had a problem with bottles exploding as they
were dropped in cases. This must have been considered acceptable in brewing
operations at Northern, since the foremen never bothered to fix this problem.
Joe Hartel took advantage of the extreme cold winters of Northern Wisconsin. During the winter he opened the windows to allow the sub-zero weather to cool the wort as quickly as possible Some employees recall standing on floors that were half ice.
Victor Nelson was a leader in the brewing industry. His stated goal, "We're here to make money." The former road contractor operated the brewery like he managed a road crew. When he caught a worker slacking off, he would shout, "You got to get going boy, don't even look at the sun."
The Northern Brewing Company was one of the most sanitary small brewing operations in Wisconsin. Joe Hartel kept the brewery spotless. Even though he demanded hard work from his employees, their reward was a $100 bonus every Christmas. When the brewery changed from wooden to aluminum kegs, Victor gave a Northern beer neck tie to all his employees.
Victor also wanted to market a beer named
after him and introduced Vic's beer. It was Northern Pale beer, but in an
unusual screen printed shorty bottle. Because the shorty bottles were hard to
separate from the regular stubby bottles, many of Vic's beer bottles never came
back to the brewery.
The new owner gave Joe Hartel full authority to order the best hops in the world for Northern Pale Beer. On February 13, 1956, Hartel took the first step in a general production-distribution expansion program by importing Bavarian hops to improve the quality of Northern beer. This was the first time imported hops had been used at the brewery. Hartel selected the Bavarian hops from the Hallertauer Valley in Germany where he had spent his early brewing days. "Hops," Hartel explained, "contribute the finer, mellow flavor to the beer. I know this Bavarian product will give us top quality."
Northern beer was a full hopped beer with a
heavy body, old German beer flavor, and the second highest alcohol content in
the country (4.9%). The brewery also made a bock beer every year until 1966,
using a dark caramel barley. The brewery never had a chemist on hand, but Johnny
Hey from Fitgers, in Duluth, was used occasionally.
For outdoor advertising, a huge Northern outdoor billboard sign with a clock was placed next to the Nemadji Bridge and was maintained by the brewery. Over the years, six different neon sign styles where produced for Northern beer. The neon signs were used mostly in the Duluth Superior area. Northern beer glasses were used at the brewery's two tap rooms and by certain major accounts. In 1962, the Northern brewery produced "Best Beer by a Damn Sight," a private label, for the Damn Sight Tavern on U.S. Highway 8 near Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. The label featured an artist's rendition of the tavern building.
Public relations were also important for the Northern Brewing Company. The brewery had two tap rooms, one for the employees and a second was rented to the public. Local unions met regularly in the brewery tap room until 1966. Garbage men visited the brewery every Friday afternoon to pick up spent hops and enjoy a few free beers in the tap room. Victor Nelson once installed a beer tap in the brewery's office. It was removed by Bob Rooney during the late 1950s..
Joseph Hartel's son, Richard, worked at the Northern brewery from 1945 to 1965. Dick Hartel learned everything about the brewing industry from his father. His first lessons started in 1937, when his father was the brewmaster at the Eulberg Brewery in Portage, Wisconsin.
In 1942, when his father became brewmaster
at Peter Bub, no openings were available to him, so he worked briefly at
Heileman in La Crosse. Richard was working at the munitions plant in Baraboo in
1943 when his father asked him to join him at the Northern brewery. Dick Hartel
recalls, "My dad always worked around the clock; everything had to he just
Peter Slomann became the new president of Northern Brewing Company and continued to cut costs to keep the company in business. A circuit brewmaster from Stroh, Joe Linsky, was brought in two to three days a week to oversee the brewing operations.
Bob Byrns remembers working at the Northern brewery from 1957 to 1967. Each year, Bob had to scrape varnish off the aging tanks and apply two or three new coats. One day while replacing the double bottoms in the wort tank he forgot to close the tank's hatch. Beer started pumping out of the hop jack like a fire hose. The entire 165-barrel batch of beer was lost as it flowed down the stairs and into the sewer. Bob Byrns and Bob Rooney also wanted to see their names on a label, so the brewery introduced "Bob's Beer. "It was the same Northern beer in a different package!
During the early 1960s, returnable bottles weren't being returned to the brewery. They were being picked up by the larger breweries in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Bob Byrns had to occasionally go over to Fitgers to buy their surplus bottles.
In 1963, the Northern Brewing Company replaced its redwood cypress fermenting tanks with aluminum metal tanks. To install the new tanks a large hole was cut in the outside brick wall of the brewery. A worker for the Lakehead Pipeline Co. was fatally crushed against the brewery wall during the installation.
Superior, Spooner and Rice Lake were Northern's biggest accounts in Wisconsin, but the brewery regularly sent two semi-truckloads of beer to the Milwaukee area. When the brewery was using a Circuit brewmaster, a bad batch of Northern beer left the brewery. Beer was returned to the brewery by the truck load. The mistake was costly to the brewery. Many long-time accounts never called on the Northern brewery again.
Many employees blamed the circuit brewmaster for the bad beer. Management advertised for a full-time brewmaster to prevent this error from re-occurring. Henry Rothmann, associated with the Wausau Brewing Company for 28 years, became the new brewmaster and manager at the Northern brewery. Many employees felt that Rothmann was not the right person to manage the brewery. The brewery was averaging about 18,000 barrels per year, and sales declined substantially after Rothmann made changes to the brewing operations.
Northern beer distribution and pricing were different throughout Wisconsin. Milwaukee distributors paid less for their beer than did local distributors. Dick Hartel said, "I could go down to Wausau and buy our beer cheaper than I could working at the brewery in Superior." Dick Hartel voluntarily left the brewing business and worked as a custodian at the Superior High School. "I could see it coming. After my dad left the brewery, it wasn't the same. Corners were cut and the writing was on the wall."
After five years of declining sales, the officers of the Northern Brewing Company announced on February 13, 1967, that the brewery would cease operations at the end of the week. The announcement was anti-climactic, since no beer had been brewed since the previous December. The Northern beer label and its distribution network were sold to the Cold Spring Brewing Company of Minnesota. Cold Spring brewed Northern beer, but could not overcome - or benefit from - its past reputation. The brand was discontinued in 1995.
The Northern Brewery in Superior had a full floor of inventory when the plant closed. A skeleton crew was kept to dispose of the beer inventory. Hank Rothmann went to work at Huber in Monroe after the brewery closed. Tommy Byrns Tavern was the last tavern to serve Northern beer on tap from the Superior brewery.
The Fitger's Brewing Company in Duluth considered purchasing the old Northern brewery in 1968 after the Interstate Commission threatened to build 1-35 through Fitger's historical brewery grounds. The Northern brewery, as it turned out, was too small Despite Fitger's closing in 1972, its buildings still stand (the freeway was tunneled below and around it). It is now a tourist shopping mall and hotel.
The Northern brewery stood vacant for several years until a second hand and sign shop came and went. Currently, it's an appliance recycling business and warehouse. The heart and soul of the brewery was torn down in the mid 1980s. It was literally split in two. The original office, tap rooms and cooperage are gone. The bottling house remains today, as does a four-story section of the brew house. It's rumored that the equipment is in South America.
The old Northern Brewing Company is still remembered by older Superior residents who had the fortune to the drink excellent beer once brewed by Joseph Hartel and his brewing assistants.
Engels Brewing Co. in Thiensville was begun in the 1870s by Charles Engels. It was in the 100 block of Green Bay Road, Engeldinger said, and stored its beer in caves on a hill near Green Bay and Bonniwell roads about two miles north.
J. Harz Brewery in Thiensville operated from 1870 to 1880. A portion of its old foundation can still be seen on the north edge of town, on the east side of Cedarburg Road.
Hoeffner and Frohne started a distillery in this year, and that was at the site of the former Hoeffner's brewery which later passed over to Jos. Bursinger [north side of Cady, east of bridge]. In fall Frohne parted from Jacob Hoeffner and built a distillery with Fritz Herrmann where his summer-garden is presently located [south of Fourth street bridge] and began in the spring of 1849 to distill.
JOSEPH BURSINGER, brewer, was born in Baden, Germany, Feb. 17, 1822, and came to Wisconsin in July, 1853, and located in Milwaukee, where he engaged in brewing beer and cooperage; from Milwaukee he went to Waukesha Co., and farmed for one year; then he came to Watertown and commenced the brewing of beer, which he has continued up to the present time. He married, in November, 1849, Mary Voppiller, of Sigmeringen, Prussia; he has two children living – Ferdinand and Ellanora. Mr. And Mrs. Bursinger are members of St. Henry’s Catholic Church.
AUGUST FUERMANN, brewer; was born in Germany Jan. 8, 1822; came to Wisconsin in 1847, locating in Milwaukee, where he opened a grocery and saloon; he then moved to Watertown and engaged in the brewing of lager beer in a building 24 x 50 and gradually made additions to the same until he has the handsomest brewery in Watertown. He married, in 1846, Christiana Hengott, of Prussia; he has nine children – Charlie, August, Amelia, Julius, Aida, Henry, Iette, Albert and Gerhard.
AUGUST FUERMANN, Jr., proprietor of saloon; born in Watertown Sept. 3, 1850; associated with his father in the brewing business here, and Chicago agent of the Fuermann Brewing Company from October, 1871, until he returned to Watertown, and engaged in present business in February, 1878. Dec. 19, 1874, he was married to Eliza Speer (daughter of Ferdinand Speer); she was born in Watertown; they have one child – Amanda, born April 29, 1878. Mr. F. is a member of A., F. & A. M., I.O.O.F., Turners’ and Concordia Musical Societies.
West De Pere (see De Pere)
Yuba (see Greenwood)
Other Reference Sources: American Breweries II by Dale P. Van Wieren; The Register of United States Breweries 1876-1976, Vol. I & II, by Manfred Friedrich & Donald Bull; The Pabst Brewing Company - The History of an American Brewer by Thomas C. Cochran; Breweries of Wisconsin by Jerry Apps; Badger Breweries: Past & Present by Wayne L. Kroll. The Great American Beer Book by Robertson, James D.. Ottawa, IL: Caroline House Publishers, 1978.;The Beer Can - Beer Can Collectors of America, by Matteson, IL: Great Lakes Living Press, 1976.
Western Historical Company, Chicago: 1880 - Like many similar publications of the period, Western's 1880 history relies heavily on interviews with early residents conducted many years later. Narratives were subject to selective, sometimes creative recollection, and the resulting work should be appreciated for the historical publication that it is but viewed with a critical eye as a history. We caution viewers to verify the data contained in these early stories.