Minhas Craft Brewery

Minhas Craft Brewery, Wisconsin
Address

1208 – 14th Avenue
Monroe, WI 53566

Phone

(414) 931-2337

First Visited

August 9, 2013

The Brewery in Monroe has been owned over the last 160 years by some of the most prominent citizens of the area. They were 1st or 2nd generation immigrants, tracing their origins from Switzerland, France, Britain, Germany and Denmark. In 1845, Mr. Bissinger opened a brewery in the beautiful rolling green hills of Southern Wisconsin, inhabited by many people from Switzerland and simply called it Monroe Brewery.

On October 30, 1841, John M. Knipschield was living in Lee County in North Central Illinois when he made his declaration to become a citizen of USA and broke his alliance with “Frederick William the Fourth, King of Prussia”. Shortly after Wisconsin became the 30th state in the United States, Mr. Knipschildt purchased the Brewery. By 1850, he had invested $1000 into the Brewery and produced 366 barrels per year. The Brewery was hand powered, employed two men who were paid $50 per year and wood and coal was used for fuel. He was also a Treasurer and a Trustee of Green County.

Between 1857 – 1861 George Esser and John Herman owned the brewery. At that at the time, the Brewery had 2 cellars, a malt mill and a malt drier. The malting of barley was done right at the Brewery. In 1858, they built the underground beer storage cellar as there were no ice controlled or mechanically controlled cellars at During their ownership lager beer was produced for the first time – prior to this only ales were brewed during winter, the only time that brewing took place. By 1860, production had significantly increased and the Brewery had nearly 100% market share in the Green County and within a 25 miles radius area.  In 1861, their partnership was dissolved, and Herman had sole ownership until 1867 when Captain Edward Ruegger whom had migrated in 1854 from La Havre, NW France took over the brewery for two years.

Jacob Hefty, born in Canton Glarus, Switzerland, gained ownershipin 1868 and distributed beer under the “Monroe” label. They produced 1200 barrels annually, employed four males, with an annual payroll of $3,000 per year. One horse still powered the Brewery. Hefty was joined by his brother-in-law Adam Blumer Sr. as a 50% owner in 1885. In 1892, Adam Blumer  Sr. became the sole owner of the Brewery and in 1906, the name of the Brewery was changed to Blumer Brewing Company. When Blumer, Sr. took over the brewery in 1892, it was a “one-horse” operation but during his years of ownership, the plant was rebuilt and equipped throughout with modern machinery. When he was done, it was a modern Brewery in every respect and it became a major regional brewery – a distinction it retains to this day.

Fred J. Blumer took over the ownership of the Brewery upon the death of his father Adam Blumer Sr. Under the management of Fred J. Blumer and his brothers Jacob C. and Adam Jr. Blumer, the Brewery expanded and proved to be one of the most up-to-date breweries in Wisconsin. At this time the Blumer Brewing Company had a yearly output of 12,000 barrels. When Fred and his brother took over the brewery, it only produced around 1,500 barrels a year. The brothers brought in electric equipment and practically rebuilt the brewery.

As a result of prohibition Blumer Brewing Company changed its name to Blumer Products Company in 1920. In order to survive, it started making Ice Cream, non alcoholic beer and started distributing Case Tractors, Separators, Silo Fillers, and Road Machinery. At the Blumer Products Company, they came up with the Blumer’s Golden Glow Near Beer, which became extremely popular.

In 1938, Carl O. Marty, the big cheese magnate of Monroe, bought the majority ownership in Blumer Brewery mainly for its large cold storage space for cheese. On March 30, 1944, Carl O. Marty sold part of his interest in the beer operation to a group of stock holders. He named Joseph Huber as the President and Manager of the brewery while Carl O. Marty remained the President of the Monroe Cold Storage, Inc.

In 1947, Carl O. Marty sold his Brewery business interest to Joseph Huber, and the name was changed to Joseph Huber Brewing Company. Huber Regular and Huber Bock were introduced in 1947 by Joseph Huber. After more than 60 years, they are still going strong – this is despite the fact that they were sold in “returnable” bottles for a very long time. He also introduced Regal Brau, a German style beer in 1963 and Wisconsin Club a few years later. These brands continue to sell well after 40 years.

Fred Huber is one of the main reasons there is still a Brewery in Monroe and that it did not shut down like the hundreds of Breweries in the 1970s and 80s across America. Fred Huber was a promoter, a visionary, a maverick entrepreneur and a rescuer of several now defunct breweries and beer brands. He was a great story teller and a likeable man. He liked living “large“ and loved to socialize with the rich and the famous, including the legendary coach Mike Ditka of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Bill Smith and Craig Werle (through their company MTX Inc. of Milwaukee WI), took over the Brewery, it was producing at its peak capacity, and Augsburger was a very popular craft brew in the Midwest. They introduced Savannah FMBs (Flavored Malt Beverages), the first ones to introduce beverage of this type in North America. Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice and many other FMBs that are popular today, were to come a couple of decades later. They also changed the corporate culture at the Brewery, This included the departure of the legendary Brewmaster Hans Kestler, known for “tasting” his brews in generous quantities in the afternoons. In 1988, Smith and Werle stunned the community and the industry by selling the Augsburger brand to Stroh Brewing Company, than one of the 5 largest Brewing companies in the USA. With the sale of Augsburger, the Brewery lost 60% of its volume. Smith and Werle announced their intention to close the Brewery. Interestingly, Stroh merged with Pabst in a few years and to this day, the Augsburger brand is owned by Pabst Brewing Company.

Fred Huber with his partners purchased the Brewery in 1989 for a reported $2.3 Million. Fred would later disclose that the reason he sold the Brewery in 1985 was that he was burnt out. With Herman Berghoff, owner of the famous Chicago restaurant, as one of his partners, they introduced the Berghoff brand of craft beers and MYSTIC line of juice based beverages. He also brought back the famous Brewmaster Hans Kestler, who had moved to work at a Hawaii based Brewery. However, the Huber Brewery had large debt and continued to generate losses. In 1994, Fred Huber and his partners sold the Brewery to the Weinstein Family of Madison.

The Madison based Weinstein family had a long association with the Monroe Brewery. For many decades they distributed its products for throughout Wisconsin via their company General Beer. They were also investors over the years in the Brewery. The family purchased the Brewery in Monroe in 1994 and injected sizeable capital to upgrade and modernize the Brewery. Over the next 12 months, they invested about $3 million to modernize the Brewery, and increased its capacity. Dan Weinstein, Steve Preston, Bob Royko and the senior staff provided the much needed stability at the Brewery after the turbulent 80s and early 90s when the future was anything but certain. During this time, various new lines and flavors of beers and sodas were introduced. Berghoff Family of beers were also expanded. Perhaps their biggest contribution was that they brought in senior management staff at the Brewery who are the best in their business and continue to provide leadership at the Brewery led by Gary Olson, the President.

In 2003, the Brewery started to make Beers for Ravinder Minhas for export to Alberta, Canada on a contract basis. Ravinder Minhas also invested in additional can packaging equipment to expand the Mountain Crest line and other brands. This new arrangement increased the production of the Brewery by 5 times. By 2005, the beer exported to Alberta made up 85% of the Brewery’s total production. The Minhas Family purchased 100% interest in the Brewery on October 3, 2006 and changed the name of the Brewery to Minhas Craft Brewery.

The Minhas Craft Brewery is the Midwest’s oldest brewery and the second oldest in the entire nation. Surviving the depression, prohibition, brushes  with the mob and two major fires, today we stand as one the top ten largest breweries in America. We invite you to join beer lovers from all around the world that come to experience the best brewery tour here in the quaint town of Monroe.

Beers Tried

Photo Gallery

Add a comment

*Please complete all fields correctly