Arriving in Madison, Wisconsin on May 11, 1852, from a village in Germany called Ichendorf, George Esser possessed little more than the clothing on his back, a talent for masonry, and a taste for good, traditional German beer. Esser started producing lager in a small brewery he bought in Monroe for $1,500. In 1863, he purchased 2 1/2 acres of land in Cross Plains. The original building had two cellars below and several rooms above to house Esser’s family. The beer, known as Esser’s Best, was first brewed in October 1863. He was joined in this enterprise in 1881 by his son Jacob. At that time, the brewery had a capacity of 2,000 barrels. A barrel of beer cost $7, and a case containing 36-pint bottles was priced at $1.75. Jacob and his sons, primarily Werner (W.B.) and Peter (Spundt) began delivering beer to the surrounding communities, often starting out as early as 3 a.m. Werner acted as Brewmaster from 1907 to 1910. It was increased competition from the larger breweries that forced him to become a distributor. The first beer that he handled as a distributor was Hausmann’s originally brewed in Madison in 1920, Werner became the distributor for Blatz Near Beer. Following Prohibition in 1933, the company again began to distribute beer. It should be noted that during prohibition, Werner and his brothers were kept very busy taking care of the beer needs in the area, mostly doing business at night.
In 1937, Werner’s eldest son, Roman, became a partner. At this point, the company began to handle Old Style products out of La Crosse, Wisconsin. The family tradition continued when Del Esser, Werner’s youngest son, joined the firm in 1948. In 1988, Roman’s son, Wayne, took over the business. In 1990, Wayne was joined in the business by his son, Larry, which made six generations of Essers in the bee business. It should also be noted that the Essers were distributors of Blatz and Old Style products until they sold the distributorship in January 1998 to Frank Beer in Middleton, Wisconsin. Frank beer is currently the distributor of Esser’s Best in the area.
George Esser came to America to find a new life. He fought homesickness and he fought poverty, eventually prospering. Family values were important to George Esser, and he passed those values and his legacy onto his sons through six generations. Wayne and Larry Esser are very proud to have made George Esser’s beer available again in 1995, using his original recipe.
May you always have a full belly, a heavy purse and a light heart.