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The Hessen Connection to Wisconsin's Beer Industry


While Milwaukee’s brewing industry was started by Welch immigrants in 1840, within just a few years they were facing competition from newly arrived German brewers who would make Milwaukee synonymous with beer. Several of those with names still recognizable today came to Wisconsin from Hessen.


Jacob Best was born in Mettenheim, Hessen-Darmstadt in 1786. He emigrated to Milwaukee in 1844 to join his sons (Phillip, Jacob Jr., Charles, and Lorenz) who had settled there earlier. The senior Best founded Empire Brewery on Chestnut Street Hill. After Jacob Sr. retired in 1853, two of his sons continued operations as a partnership under the name Phillip Best Brewery. Captain Frederick Pabst, who had married into the Best family, later bought the brewery, and built it into the nation's largest brewer by 1874, and changed its name to the Pabst Brewing Company in 1889. Producing 100,000 barrels of beer annually, it was the largest beer producer in the United States. The company's flagship brand Best's Select won gold metals at Philadelphia's Centennial in 1876 and the Paris World's Fair in 1878. Frederick Pabst became sole owner of the company and renamed it Pabst Brewing Company in 1889.


Joseph Schlitz was born in 1831 in Mainz, which at that time was part of Hessen-Darmstadt. He emigrated to the United States in 1850 and started working as a bookkeeper for August Krug, who owned a small tavern brewery. In 1858, when he married August Krug's widow, he changed the name of the company to the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company. In the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire, Schlitz sent hundreds of barrels of beer to Chicago. By 1859, Schlitz produced and sold 2,000 barrels of beer—more than six times the volume of beer produced in 1853 and became "the beer that made Wisconsin famous!"


Philipp Jung was born on December 23, 1845 in Dorn-Assenheim, Hessen-Darmstadt. He emigrated to the United States in 1870 and settled in Milwaukee. Jung held several positions with the Phillip Best Brewing Company before he partnered with Ernst Borchert in 1879 to found the Jung & Borchert Brewing Company. In 1888 this became the Falk, Jung & Borchert Brewing Company in one of the earliest mergers involving Milwaukee breweries. The company became a rival to the Philip Best Brewery, which was operated by Frederick Pabst. Jung was important both as a manufacturer of large quantities and also as one who gave a distinctive quality to the goods produced at his breweries. In 1896, Jung purchased the Jacob Obermann Brewery at Fifth and Cherry Streets in Milwaukee, and established the Jung Brewing Company. This firm grew and outlived its founder, who passed away in 1911. It finally closed in 1920 because of Prohibition.

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