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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.
DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY
DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY. Articles of incorporation for Dubuque Star was filed in 1896 with Joseph H. RHOMBERG listed as president, John P. Page as vice-president and Ferdinand Broell and secretary-treasurer. A six-pointed star was developed as the trademark for the brewery's Gold and Silver Star beers. (1) The site of the brewery was a large building constructed at the foot of 4th Street in 1860 by Joseph A. RHOMBERG as a distillery. This had been converted into the IOWA PACIFIC MILL in 1873. Only the office and the base of the large smokestack remained of the original building. (2) The brewery was designed by Ranter, an architect from Chicago who was considered a specialist in brewery architecture. (3) The annual capacity was 35,000 barrels. (4)
The brewery was forced to close along with other breweries on December 31, 1916 and the corporation was allowed to lapse. (5) It became the first brewery to resume operations when it reopened on August 22, 1933 with the repeal of PROHIBITION. (6) The new offiers were Alphons L. RHOMBERG, president; Joseph William RHOMBERG, vice-president; and J. Anthony Rhomberg, secretary-treasurer. Marie and James Ryan made up the board. (7) 3.2 percent beer was the first legalized beer to be sold in the state. (8) It is said the first barrel of beer brewed by the company was sent to Iowa's Governor Clyde Herring as a token of celebration. (9)
Bottled beer was first produced by the brewery in 1935.
In 1944 Anthony Rhomberg took over the brewery. In 1952 the Star Brewery brought in a new general manager and master brewer. Arnold A. CAITHAM made changes that resulted in the brewery showing a 250% sales increase in the first two years of his five-year plan. (10)
Caitham changed the brewing formula and raised the price of the beer to the point it demanded attention. The second change was to cultivate a friendly attitude in every outlet whether it carried Star beer or not. Visiting outlets, Caitham and his staff pressed the slogan that "What Dubuque makes, makes Dubuque." To increase the brewery's image as a good citizen, Caitham joined many civic and fraternal organizations, worked with other business leaders to bring more industry to Dubuque, and worked to bring a baseball team to the community. When the city was awarded a franchise in the Class D Mississippi-Ohio Valley Baseball League, Star Brewery sponsored the team--the first in the city in twenty-two years. By 1957 the company sponsored a team in every local sport. (11)
Economy was an important part of the plan. The company under Caitham chose to withdraw rather than expand. In 1957 there was only one Star distributor in Wisconsin and one in Iowa. The concentration allowed Star to sell 90% of its beer directly and therefore control stock. Star's coal-fired boiler was replaced by one that was gas-fired with an auxiliary in case of gas failure. All equipment in the bottle shop was replaced and reorganized to operate efficiently. Plans for more efficient handling of cases and stainless steel cooperage were also implemented. To make the brewery a source of local pride, the brick surface of the exterior was completely tuck-pointed. (12)
The peak production came in 1959 with 50,000 barrels and an employment of forty workers. (13)
Caitham's tenure with Star was called the company's "Golden Age." In five years the company was producing 35,000 barrels of beer annually. The company's local and county outlets had increased 48%. (14)
The brewery was sold in the 1970s to Joseph Pickett and Sons, Inc. Joseph PICKETT, Sr. was responsible for the modernization of the plant. There was, for example, no can production facilities and the brewery had a single bottle production line. (15) Primarily a keg beer plant, the brewery's two products, Vat 7 and Dubuque Star, commanded only five percent of the local market. (16) Modernization was nearly complete by 1977. Pickett's Premium, introduced in 1973, by then had twelve percent of the local market and was being sold in Illinois and Wisconsin, (17) Pickett also produced Fox Head 400 and Weber, for the Wisconsin market. (18)
Ownership transferred again in the 1980s when the brewery was sold to AGRI Industries of West Des Moines. In 1982 the brewery was renamed Dubuque Star. A super premium brewery, the plant produced Rhomberg Beer until 1985. The efforts were not successful. (19) AGRI closed the brewery in 1983 claiming stiff competition from rival BREWERIES and low profits.
In 1984 a group of Milwaukee investors reopened the brewery for six years. (20) Led by Richard Armitage, the new owners realized they had little chance of competing with brewers like Anheuser-Busch which could produce in a single day triple the amount Star could produce at full capacity in a year. (21) The plan was to produce Star for the local market; Edelweiss for Chicago; Weber for Waukeshaw; and E & B for Michigan. (22)
Dubuque Star was purchased in October 1989, by ZELE BREWING COMPANY of Seattle, Washington. It was anticipated at the time of the sale that the production of Zele products would add an additional twenty thousand barrels to Dubuque Star's annual production. The brewery, however, was closed the following year. (23)
Among the products over the years were: (24)
Dubuque Star Lager Beer 1933 - 1938
Dubuque Star Select Beer 1933 - 1950
Dubuque Star Beer 1933 - 1973
Dubuque Bock 1934 - 1943
Iowa Beer 1944 - 1949
Holiday Beer 1946 - 1956
Star Beer 1952 - 1971
E&B Beer 1982 - 1985
Key City Beer 1983 - 1990
Quittin Time Beer 1983 - 1990
In 1992 Brandevor Enterprises of Seattle reopened the brewery and produced craft beers. In addition to their own brands like Big Muddy Red Ale, Dubuque Star brewed beers for the restaurant chain TGI Friday's and Marriott Hotels achieving sales of 25,000 barrels in 1995 and 1996. They also brewed beers for west coast micro-brewer Tuan Tony Nguyen including Beer Guy and Chau Tien brands. Production fell to only 5,000 barrels in 1998, and the brewery was closed permanently in 1999. (25) In 2001 it was acquired by the city through eminent domain. (26)
Dubuque Star Brewery was an important site of several MOTION PICTURES shot in the Dubuque area. In 1978 ZIGGY'S was used for several scenes of the movie F.I.S.T. (28) The movie Take This Job and Shove It, starring Art Carney, was shot at the brewery during the summer of 1981. (29)
Labels courtesy of Jim Massey
1. "Many Breweries Here, But Only Star Remains," Telegraph Herald, August 31, 1958, p. 42
2. Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque, Dubuque Iowa: Center for Dubuque History-Loras, 2000, p. 243
3. "Dubuque Star Brewery," Breweries on Waymarking.com. Online: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3HD2_Dubuque_Star_Brewery_Dubuque_IA
5. "Many Breweries Here..."
8. "Iowa Brewed Beer Ready for Thanksgiving," Telegraph Herald, Sept. 14, 1933, p. 11. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=SGlFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QrwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4994,1887063&dq=dubuque+brewing+and+malting+company&hl=en
9. "Many Breweries Here..."
10. "Dubuque Star's Five-Year Plan: Formula for a Future," The Brewer's Digest, July 1957, p. 28
12. Ibid., p. 29
13. "Time Line in a Bottle," Telegraph Herald. Undated article
14. "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Papers," February 13, 2007, Section 8, Page 34, Online: http://weblink.cityofdubuque.org/WebLink8/1/doc/66014/Page44.aspx
15. "Dubuque Star's Five-Year Plan," p. 29
16. "Dubuque Star Brewery," Wikipedia. Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubuque_Star_Brewery
17. "Joseph Pickett and Sons of Dubuque," Falstaff Brewing Corporation, Online: http://www.falstaffbrewing.com/jos__pickett_&_sons.htm
21. Thimmesch, Nick. "Dubuque Star Battles Brewery Giants with A Low-Suds Budget," Gainesville Sun, May 26, 1984, Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1320&dat=19840526&id=WKQRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1ukDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4550,3503429&hl=en
23. "Joseph Pickett..."
24. "Trade Names for the Brewery at the East 4th Street Extension," Tavern Trove, Online: http://www.taverntrove.com/brewery.php?BreweryId=366
25. "Joseph Pickett and Sons of Dubuque."
26. "Time Line in a Bottle," Telegraph Herald, Undated article.
28. "Dubuque Star Brewing Company Building," Main View, Dubuque Main Street, February 2010, Online: http://www.dubuquemainstreet.org/Feb2010newsDMSc.pdf