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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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BREWERIES

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Dubuque Brewing and Malting Company
BREWERIES. In 1990 DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY owned by ZELE BREWING COMPANY was the oldest company of its kind operating in Iowa. It is unsure who produced the first beer in Dubuque. Mathias TSCHIRGI and Anton Gehrig claimed to have made the first commercial brewery in May 1845 at 2125 Couler St. Anton HEEB began the A. HEEB BREWING COMPANY. By 1847 he controlled the brewery that Anton Gehrig and Tschirgi had begun. The DUBUQUE BREWERY was expanded in 1856 and 1860 and by 1880 Heeb's annual income was estimated at $60,000. Seven hundred barrels of beer were produced every twenty-five days with a crew of fourteen workmen.

Tschirgi briefly operated a brewery outside of Dubuque before returning to the city in 1849. He constructed a brewery on Julien Avenue and then sold the company five years later to the firm of Kurtz and Welder. With Jacob Schwind, he opened the WESTERN BREWERY at Julien Avenue and Delhi Street. Valued in 1880 at $100,000, the brewery produced three hundred barrels of beer per week. Both the Heeb and Western breweries were later part of the merger that resulted in the DUBUQUE BREWING AND MALTING COMPANY in 1892.

The Stone Brewery opened on Locust Street in 1852 was operated by Ignatz Seeger. Around 1855 he sold the brewery to the Dubuque Joint Stock Beer Brewing Company for an estimated $24,000. Ambrose Gleed leased the brewery in 1873 and operated it for three years. In 1878 the company was sold under foreclosure proceedings to John PIER for seven thousand dollars. Within two years, he was employing six men at the renamed KEY CITY BREWING COMPANY and brewing ten barrels of beer daily. It remained open until 1863.

The 1850s was a time of several small breweries in Dubuque. These included the MINERS' BREWERY (THE), EXCELSIOR BREWERY, Kempf's Brewery, and the West Dubuque Lager Brewery.

Titus Schmidt Brewery at Eagle Point Road and Couler Avenue. Image courtesy: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/2926
In 1855 a brewery known as the Titus Schmidt and Company was opened on Couler Avenue. Partners with Schmidt included F. Beck and B. Scheer. The capacity of the brewery annually was 7,000 and by 1857 the business had an appraised value of $10,000.

The SCHMID BROTHERS AND COMPANY was the first to locally bottle beer for drinking at home. This business was later renamed the IOWA BREWERY.

A local controversy arose in 1858 when tavern owners complained that local breweries were not filling the barrels. A committee to investigate the charges was appointed by Mayor Henry S. HETHERINGTON.

Peaslee's Ale Company was founded in 1865 and was located at Fifth and White STREETS. Adam GLAB constructed the NORTHERN BREWING COMPANY the same year. The business expanded with a malt house, bowling alley, BEER GARDENS, and ice house. Fourteen years later, the GLAB BREWERY was annually producing five thousand barrels of beer. In 1892 Glab's operation became part of the Dubuque Brewing and Malting Company.

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Local beer dealers complained in 1868 about the high prices charged by the local breweries. A committee was established to investigate the possibility of opening a brewery managed by the dealers themselves. Fifty thousand dollars to start the cooperative was to be raised by the sale of stock at $100 per share. No record exists of such a business ever being established.

Nine breweries existed in Dubuque in 1869. This number decreased to four by 1877.

In the beginning of the 1890s, an English syndicate attempted to buy the local breweries. To protect themselves, the local owners decided to band together. The consolidation of four of Dubuque's major breweries in 1892 to form the Dubuque Brewing and Malting Company created one of the Midwest's premier beer-brewing companies.

The first brew was in the barrels by January 1896. On May 17, an open house at the company was held with six thousand invitations issued to out-of-state residents. A general invitation was issued to all Dubuque residents. Three bands performed, an army of waiters served refreshments, and officers of the company gave tours. When PROHIBITION was declared on December 31, 1916, and the company was closed the firm was the employer of more than two hundred people. The company never recovered despite repeal of the law.

The DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY was incorporated on May 6, 1898. The directors included Joseph H. RHOMBERG, president; John P. Page, vice-president; Ferdinand Broell, secretary-treasurer; Gustav H. Hesselman; and John Fritz. To encourage sale of their product, the brewery owned many taverns in Dubuque. This practice was eventually ended when the brewery was forced to divest itself of the taverns to avoid potential legal action under anti-trust laws.

The brewery produced Gold Star and Silver Star beers and after 1909 acted as the Dubuque agent for Anheuser-Busch products. Dubuque Star also closed with Prohibition, but later reopened with its officers being Alphonse Leopold RHOMBERG, president; Joseph W. Rhomberg, vice-president; and J. Anthony Rhomberg, secretary-treasurer.

After a series of sales and the end of Zele Brewing Company in Dubuque, the future of the brewery was unsure. In November 1991, Mark Lousberg announced the first bottles of Rhomberg Amber would be ready for sale. The Rhomberg label had not been used in Dubuque since Zele had concentrated on brewing contract labels. Rhomberg had been a popular beer when marketed in selected Midwestern cities and Connecticut during the mid-1980s. During a beer tasting sponsored by the Chicago Tribune in 1985, Rhomberg scored second in a field of seventeen beers. Lousberg announced that the Rhomberg label would first be marketed in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

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Microbreweries became a major industry in Iowa during the 1990s. One of these was the Bricktown Brewery along Lower Main Street in the former showroom of the COOPER WAGON WORKS. The brewery and restaurant closed during the economic downturn of 2009.
Coaster. Photo courtesy: Potosi Brewing Company