The World’s Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago on May 1 1893 and drew 26 million visitors. There were inventions, music, the ferris wheel and electricity. Edibles were introduced including Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Juicy Fruit gum, Crackerjack, and Vienna frankfurters (the revered Chicago hotdog).
. And there was beer. Lots of beer. Beer was a serious issue.
My great grandfather, Albert Gustav Fleig was a skilled cabinetmaker, but even he drove a beer wagon for a time. At the fair, Frederick Pabst beat out Anheuser-Busch to win that famous “America’s Best” blue ribbon, hence the name Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Joseph Schlitz took the top prize for beer purity. The big names were just that, but there were dozens of small breweries across Chicago to quench the collective thirst. As early as 1900, there were sixty Chicago breweries that produced over 100 million gallons of beer per year.
That is an astounding amount of beer, by an incredible amount of maltsters perfecting their craft.
So we hoist a stein to a those old German brewers and maltsters who gifted Chicago with untold barrels, but now rest in Chicago cemeteries.
Prior to 1833, Chicago had a population of barely 200 and no less than two taverns but then in 1833 William Haas and Conrad Sulzer arrived in Chicago from New York and opened Haas & Sulzer Brewery. Both men saw huge successes.
William Lill, an immigrant from England bought the brewery and changed the name to the Lill & Diversey Brewery. By 1861 they were over 75 men producing nearly 45,000 barrels a year of. That included their most popular drink, Lill’s Cream Ale. In 1866 the brewery expanded over two acres on the corner of Pine Street (later North Michigan Ave) and Chicago Avenue.. The four-story structure towered over the Water Tower Pumping Station later built across the street.
There was Michael Diversey (born Diversy), 1810 –1869, a German immigrant, a philanthropist and a Chicago alderman with a street named after him (2800 north) . St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Chicago was built on land donated by Michael Diversey. After Michael Diversey’s death in 1869, Lill continued the operation alone. Unfortunately, this brewery, like most breweries were destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Lill & Diversey Brewery burned to the ground and never reopened. William Lill lost an estimated $500,000 in damages with the destruction of the brewery.
According to a article in the Chicago Tribune, “Close to 400,000 barrels were brewed locally in 1879, putting Chicago sixth in national beer production and employing more than 1,000 throughout the city. By 1890, it was reported that “49 gallons of beer were consumed annually for every man, woman and child living in Chicago.”
Peter Schoenhofen was born in Prussia, and immigrated to Chicago, Illinois, in the 1850s . In 1867, his company became the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing At the time of his death, brewery had an annual output of 180,000 barrels. and employed about 500 people. The Schoenhofen Brewing Company is now a Historic Chicago District landmark.
In 1865, Michael Sieben founded Michael Sieben’s brewery which began in 1865 on Pacific Avenue near Clark and Polk Streets , later to 1466 Larrabee. It survived until 1967 along with the famous Sieben’s bier stube and garden, an oasis on a hot summer’s night.
After 1910, beer sales began to dry up due in large part to both World War I and Prohibition. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, Congress restricted the use of the ingredients necessary for the production of alcoholic beverages. World War II, forced another curtailment of production. But since then, beer came back in a big way. Who remembers the well-known tagline “When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer”, Budweiser’s “King of bottled beers” or Miller’s “the champagne of bottled beer”
So we salute a few of the pioneers
Michael Diversey died in 1869 and is now resting in St. Boniface Catholic Cemetery at Clark and Lawrence
Conrad Sulzer died 1873 and is buried Graceland
William Lill died 1875 is buried in Rosehill Cemetery
Conrad Seipp founder of the Seipp Brewing Company, , died 1890 and was buried in Oakwoods Cemetery
John H. McAvoy died 1893 and is buried in Oakwoods Cemetery
Peter Schoenhofen died 1893 and was buried in a pyramid guarded by a large Sphinx and an angel within Graceland Cemetery
Michael Sieben died 1925 is buried in St. Boniface, Clark and Lawrence.