The Geography (and history) of Beer

Published October 6, 2014 by Heidi Heller

Today’s blogger is Heidi Heller, a senior history major at Augsburg College and an intern with the Historyapolis Project.

It’s map Monday. Today we celebrate Oktoberfest by exploring the long history of beer brewing in Minneapolis. This map shows the known locations of 27 of the 30 different breweries that operated in Minneapolis between 1850 and 2005. Some of these breweries operated for years, weathering prohibition, changing consumer tastes, shifts in ownership and mergers. Others were more short-lived. Each and every one of them helped to lay the foundation for today’s thriving craft beer industry.

In the earliest years of the city, settlers brewed their own beer. Brewing became a commercial enterprise in 1850 when immigrant John Orth went into business at 13th Ave and Marshall St NE, establishing what would be the second brewery in Minnesota. Orth’s brewery was initially tiny. But it grew, continuously, by embracing innovation. Orth built above-ground storage buildings known as “ice cellars” that allowed him to avoid dependence on the Nicollet Island caves used by so many other brewers (and which were later venues for adventure for Frank Rog and thousands of other Minneapolis children who lived near the river). He was also one of the first Minneapolis brewers to advertise his product in the local newspapers.

Yet like any other growing industry, competition quickly increased as other breweries opened. In 1857, the Mississippi Brewery (later Gluek Brewing Co.) appeared at 20th Ave and Marshall St NE and the Nicholas Bofferding Brewery materialized in north Minneapolis. Nine new breweries opened in the aftermath of the Civil War. These included Kranzlein & Miller (later Heinrich Brewing Association)at 4th St and 22nd Ave; Germania Brewing Association at Glenwood Ave at 6th St; and Anton Zahler (later F.D. Noerenberg) at Bluff St and 20th Ave S. The years after the Panic of 1893 brought another wave of new breweries. Twelve opened between 1894-1905.

The city was booming and the population was exploding. But competition to supply the growing number of saloons, hotels and gaming halls remained intense among local brewers. In addition to vying with one another, they also had to be aware of the threat to their market share posed by well established breweries in larger cities like St. Louis and Chicago. These large operations had money to invest in new technologies like pasteurization. This meant that their product lasted longer, making it possible to distribute it over a larger area. Most Minneapolis breweries did not seek to expand in this same way. Instead, they remained focused on the local market, establishing local “tied-houses” that only sold their beer.

By the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, on-going competition and other challenges would face breweries that would lead to mergers, closures and forever change the brewery industry in Minneapolis. Stay tuned. We’ll pick up that story tomorrow.

Sources: Michael R. Worcester, “From the Land of the Golden Grain: The Origins and Early Years of the Minneapolis Brewing Company,” Hennepin History Magazine, Fall 1992, Michael Worcester, “John Orth: Hennepin County’s Pioneer Brewer,” Hennepin History Magazine, Spring 2006, Roland C. Amundson, “Listen to the Bottle Say “Gluek, Gluek, Gluek,” Hennepin History Magazine, Winter 1988-1989. Doug Hoverson, Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.