View Full Version : Milwaukee whiskey hx

11-13-2008, 13:52

Civil War era

"There were then eight distilleries in Milwaukee and a number of others outside the city limits. The local distillers were Otto Bierbach, Brunst & Casperi, Koeffler Bros., O'Neill & Reynolds, Rindshopf & Son, J.B. Schram, P. Young, and Schuckman and Waldeck.

Even in those days, Milwaukee was a law abiding community and the distillers paid the $2 tax, grumbling all the way. But before long they ran into difficulty with competition from Chicago distillers.

Chicago whiskey was selling here for $1.15 a gallon. Bierbach, Brunst, Koeffler, Rindshopf and their friends figured out that if the Chicagoans could sell whiskey that was taxed at $2 a gallon, for $1.15 they must not be paying the tax.

They were paying off the people charged with enforcing the tax instead. Most of the Milwaukeeans switched over to the new rules that were developed by the Chicagoans. Washington found its liquor tax wasn't bringing in much revenue, but everyone else was satisfied until 1876, when the stakes were raised.

It was then that Congress decided that a manufacturer of contraband booze would be subject to a prison term as well as a fine. Jacob Nunnemacher, for one decided to get out of the business.

He sold his Nunnemacher Distillery, located well out in the country near what is now 27th & Oklahoma, to the Kinnickinnic Distilling Co. He had been willing to take a chance with a fine, but wasn't ready to go to jail.

The Kinnickinnic outfit, despite its catchy name , didn't last long, and within a few years only three distilleries remained in the city. They were Meadow Spring Distilling Co., Wm. Bergenthal Co., and John Meiner.

By 1916, there were only two distilleries here, although one had three companies operating out of the same address. National Distilling was one, and S.C. Herbst was the other. Herbst's three firms were, Benson Creek Distillery, Old Judge Distilling Co., and the Old John E. Fitzgeralds Distillery.

Prohibition closed these distilleries down, but the real turning point was in 1876, when Jake Nunnemacher decided that he didn't want to risk going to jail."


Why gin and vodka but no whiskey with all of the micro distillers?

11-13-2008, 21:42
From Whiskey to Yeast


1882: Meadow Springs Distillery Co. is founded by three Milwaukeans.
1887: Company's name is changed to National Distilling Company; firm begins producing yeast, with the major line called Red Star.
1919: With the beginning of Prohibition, company begins focusing more on yeast; name is changed again, to Red Star Yeast and Products Company.



S.C. Herbst has connections to Frankfort and the Stitzel-Weller history....odd that Milwaukee and Frankfort would have whiskey connections...beer capital and major whiskey region...except both used grain and yeast.
Old Fitz comes from that connection....the other bourbon site has a long thread on Stitzel-Weller.

11-13-2008, 21:54
Just out of curiosity...not expecting to find much, I searched what I thought would be a relatively unlikely state for whiskey history...the above Milwaukee distilling hx was not that unexpected with the beer tie in...but the number of pre-prohibition companies and product was amazing.


What is interesting from the above list are the German whiskey distillers..not the typical Scots-Irish of the mid-south....certainly taking beer to whiskey was not a huge jump in knowledge...and many may have had distilling experience of other German liqour.

This is just one state....the entire nation could have similar stories...I have to assume most of this product was sold locally...I cannot believe hundreds of brands were widely available in 1905.

11-14-2008, 09:06
Hmm, maybe a future Red Star Bourbon.......

11-17-2008, 22:08
Herbst was based in Milwaukee but he owned the Old Judge Distillery in Frankfort, where he made all of his bourbons including Old Fitzgerald. He sold the brand, but not the distillery, to Pappy Van Winkle during Prohibition. The distillery never reopened and Old Fitzgerald went on to become the flagship of the new Stitzel-Weller company. Herbst had quite an operation at one time, transatlantic if not actually worldwide. I've never seen any evidence that he actually owned or operated a distillery in Wisconsin, but it's possible.