Beer was Brewed here until 1950


Reedsburg Brewery, Reedsburg Wisconsin
Date added: February 09, 2024 Categories: Wisconsin Brewery
Facing northwest looking at south and east facades. Tall building is brew house with one story storage on west and one story wash house on north. One Story building is office, pitch house and bottling (1984)

The history of the brewing industry in Reedsburg stretches back to 1870, when Frank and Florin Meckler built the first brewery in the community, during a period when Sauk County was the chief hop-producing district in the state. Known as the Reedsburg Brewery, it continued in operation through various ownership changes at the original site on the corner of Fourth Street and North Walnut Street through the nineteenth century until about 1898 when the firm was purchased by Albert Fuhrman, a German brewer who had settled in Oshkosh in 1882 and became the foreman of the Oshkosh Brewing Company before moving to Reedsburg around 1898. Under Fuhrman's management, the Reedsburg Brewery expanded and operated successfully until Prohibition. Indeed, one history claims that the history of brewing in Reedsburg "was practically a failure until Mr. Fuhrman". Fuhrman's son, Otto, became the master brewer in his father's plant. The firm advertised the use of pure and non-chemical lager beer for medicinal purposes and opened a sample room on Main Street around 1902. Fuhrman was also the iceman in Reedsburg.

After the old plant on the site burned in 1903, Fuhrman contracted with Max Von Viltier of Viltier Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee in May 1904 to provide plans for a new brewery and to equip it. The 8000 barrel capacity brewery was completed by January 1905 and production began the following March.

In 1912 the plant could produce 10,000 barrels of beer but only 5,000 were being produced. Eleven people were working in the brewery in addition to the Fuhrmans. The brewery expanded and built a separate malt house by the railroad tracks before 1912.

The brewery closed during Prohibition and when it re-opened, Hans B. Johnson was the new proprietor. P. H. Schweke of Reedsburg bought the brewery in the late 1930s and ran it until 1947. It re-opened in 1949 and this final attempt at operating a brewery in Reedsburg ended in 1950. "Old Gold" and "Champion" beers had been produced and bottled here, with about 35-44% of production being bottled beer.

The Reedsburg Brewery is an excellent and historically significant local example of the development of the brewing industry in a small town in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although success was uneven, the brewery operated continuously from the 1870s until 1950. This long term of operation (through numerous owners) indicates that the brewery played a considerable role in the economy of the city and the current building, constructed in 1904, reflects the period of the greatest success of the industry in Reedsburg. The brewery utilized both local agricultural goods, such as grains and hops, and industrial methods of production, an important function in an area still dependent on farming. The products of the brewery; including "Champion" and "Old Gold" beer; were distributed locally and the plant at one time employed around fifteen people.

Site Description

The Reedsburg Brewery, built in 1904 on the original plant, is a four-story plus basement building constructed of brick with steel beams, concrete arches, and cement floors. The 8000-barrel capacity brewery was built by West Side Construction of Reedsburg with plans furnished by the Viltier Manufacturing Company at an estimated cost of $24,000. Masonry work was done by Henry Fauteck of Reedsburg and machinery was installed by John Schale of the Viltier Manufacturing Company. Although built on the site of the old brewery, the hill had been leveled. The structure was built to be fireproof with water connections on every floor. Several ancillary were constructed at the same time.

Today most of the brewery is four stories; some sections are one story. Windows are 6/6 with arched heads. Most of the windows are broken and boarded over from the interior. Some of the window openings on the east facade are bricked up (and have been so since 1912, according to a 1912 photograph). Two windows on a one-story section were bricked in at a later date. A brick beltline separates the first story from the upper stories. This same photo shows that there was an additional 1-1½ story section on the south side of the brewery, making this section about five stories tall.

The four-story section was the brew house and cold storage. Originally, the first story contained the engine room and boiler room, pressure and racking rooms, and washrooms. Doors between sections were built like refrigerator doors so that correct temperatures could be maintained, The brewing kettle extended to the second floor, which also contained fermenting vats, mash machinery, and hop storage space. The third story contained a 150-barrel water tank and above this level, malt was stored. A one-story washhouse is adjacent on the north. Another one-story section west of the brew house was built as a general storage area and originally was separate from the main building. North of the brew house is an office and pitch house of one story, Just north of this is a one-story brick bottling works. The bottling works and pitch house/office were built freestanding; today they are connected by a narrow brick addition but are still separate from the brew house. The pitch house/office has been extensively altered on the exterior and interior. The bottling works and brew house have retained most of their integrity. The bottling works is empty except for one 50-gallon glass-lined vat. No machinery is left in the brewery itself. The I-beam and concrete vault structures is still visible in the brewery. One narrow fluted metal column and some ornamental metal scrolled brackets remain in the building. A large hole is where the two-story vat was. "Hop storage" and "racking room" remain on the doors of two rooms. No new interior partitions have been put up and the interior walls are brick.

The Reedsburg Brewery is located on the northwest corner of North Walnut Street and Fourth Street. The land immediately west of the brewery is a rocky hill and the rest of the area is a residential neighborhood. Although all of the brewery buildings on this site remain, the malt house was torn down in 1933.

Reedsburg Brewery, Reedsburg Wisconsin Facing northwest looking at south and east facades. Tall building is brew house with one story storage on west and one story wash house on north. One Story building is office, pitch house and bottling (1984)
Facing northwest looking at south and east facades. Tall building is brew house with one story storage on west and one story wash house on north. One Story building is office, pitch house and bottling (1984)

Reedsburg Brewery, Reedsburg Wisconsin Facing southwest looking at north and east facades. From right, one story bottling and pitch house and office, one story Wash house attached to taller brewery (1984)
Facing southwest looking at north and east facades. From right, one story bottling and pitch house and office, one story Wash house attached to taller brewery (1984)