A Brief History of Brewing in Evansville, Indiana
Fulton Avenue Brewery, Cook's,
Hartmetz, Evansville Brewing Association, Sterling, Heilman
Union, Wittekindt, Turoni's Main Street
The two big breweries in Evansville's history have a common ancestor.
Fulton Ave. Brewery
Rice & Kroener
Kroener & Son
Ulmer & Hoedt
|Jacob Rice and Fred Kroener,
established the "Old Brewery" in Evansville in 1837. This was near the
Wabash & Erie canal at the northeast corner of Fulton and Indiana.
In 1853 they split, Rice going with his step-son, F. W. Cook, in the City Brewer (below), and Kroener keeping the Old Brewery with his son. Peak production at this facility was 3,090 bbls.
|Ulmer & Hoedt
1881 - 1884
Ulmer, Reitman & Schulte
Fulton Avenue Brewery
|Ulmer & Hoedt built a new
brewery diagonally across the street from the Old Brewery, on the southwest
corner of Fulton and Indiana. This brewery opened in 1881.
The Fulton Ave Brewery was the site of the first electric lights in Evansville in October 1880. Peak production was 25,000 bbls annually.
Resident agents were hired in many cities including Mt. Vernon
The Fulton Avenue Brewery is one of the three that consolidated into the Evansville Brewing Association in 1894. The others were John Hartmetz & Son and Evansville Brewing Co. (see below)
|Cook & Rice, City Brewery
1853 - 1885
F.W. Cook Brewing
F.W. Cook Company
With $330, City
Brewery was founded by Frederick Washington Cook (right) and his stepfather,
Jacob Rice, at 11 NW 7th St. Rice managed the brewery and Cook looked after
the business details.
the brewery in 1858 including a malt house and a large lagering cellar,
having previously only made ale. By 1885 they had a capacity of 30,000 bbls.
In 1872 Jacob Rice died and when Mrs. Rice died in 1878 F. W. Cook inherited the entire business.
A fire destroyed the brewery and offices in 1891. They were immediately rebuilt, opening in 1893 with a capacity of 300,000 barrels annually.
Upon F. W. Cook's death in 1913 (at the age of 81) his son Henry ran it until his death in 1929. Then Henry's brother, Charles Cook, took over.
F.W. Cook was also the president of the Evansville Suburban Newburgh Traction company (an interurban railroad) and the District Telegraph Company. He also owned the Cook Investment Company and Cook Realty which operated Evansville's largest amusement park - in Cook Park.
There was a tavern, The Rathskeller, in the basement of the brewery building (postcard below). By 1910 production reached 600,000 bbls.
The Louisville & Nashville RR took a case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1912 against Cook because the L&NRR refused to accept shipments from Evansville to dry counties in Kentucky. Cook had won in the Circuit Court and received an injunction forcing the L&NRR to ship kegs and cases of beer.
The plant was closed during Prohibition.
The reorganization in 1933 was done to include the purchase of the abandoned downtown Evansville railroad line of the remains of the Evansville & Princeton Traction Company. This third-mile section of track down 9th St. linked the brewery to the Chicago & Eastern Illinois RR yard at 9th & Division Sts. The new railroad was called the Cook Transit Corporation and had one "box motor" electric locomotive. A 2-person crew would switch out the brewery twice daily - between 15 and 25 cars, Monday through Friday. A replacement locomotive was bought in 1947. This 1915 GE electric unit was retired when the brewery closed and is now at the Transportation Museum in Noblesville.
In 1935 & 1936 they sponsored a semi-pro baseball team, Cook's Goldblumes.
In 1948 Tony Hulman of Indianapolis Motor Speedway fame bought controlling interest. After the workers went on strike in 1955, wanting equal pay with Sterlings' employees, he closed it. At that time capacity was 750,000 bbls. The corporation existed until 1961 but did no brewing.
The former Evansville Jail and Courts building, built in 1965, now occupies the site.
Their Goldblume brand was brewed in other locations until 1972 and revived by the 1988-1997 reincarnation of the Evansville brewery. F.W. Cook also brewed Tropical Extra Fine Ale.
More pictures at Historic Evansville.
Evansville Brewing Association
1863 - 1876
John Hartmetz and Son
|In 1863, Henry Schneider
started a brewery on West Heights Road in "Babytown" (now Harmony Way at
In 1865 Franz Rettig (no relation to the Franz Rettig of the Wabash Brewery) started a brewery in Louisville and produced the Sterling beer brand. The company went through many hands and several bankruptcies. It was sold at sheriff's auctions in 1869 and in 1876 to John and Charles Hartmetz.
John (right) and his brother Charles decided to go their separate ways when Schneider's brewery went up for sale in 1876. Legend says they flipped a coin to see who would stay in Louisville and who would move to Evansville.
The Hartmetz Brewery was moved to near
Pigeon Creek west of what is now Seventh Ave. at the Lloyd Expressway. The
old facility continued to be used as a malt house and was used that way by
the Evansville Brewing Association until 1910.
|Evansville Brewing Co.
1891 - 1894
|The Evansville Brewing Co. at
Fourth & Ingle Streets. It was formed in 1891 by a group of men including
Henry Wimberg who was the President of the company.
After consolidation into the Evansville Brewing Association, Wimberg's sons Henry A. and John G. managed branch sales offices in Indianapolis and Memphis. Son Louis W. became the bookkeeper of the Evansville Brewing Association when aged 19.
1894 - 1918
|When John Hartmetz moved his
family back to Europe, his son, Charles F. Hartmetz inherited the operation
and used it to bring together 3 Evansville breweries to form the Evansville
Brewing Association. This Association was reportedly the result of a price
war between the larger F.W. Cook brewery and the non-affiliated breweries in
The main office went to the largest and most modern facility, the Fulton Avenue Brewery (see above) and the others were eventually closed.
In 1910 the capacity of the EBA was reportedly 20,000 barrels, employing 250 people. Henry Wimburg was president.
Charles F's younger brother Otto eventually became the master brewer and Vice President of the company.
Charles and Otto Hartmetz, along with the mayor of Evansville, Charles Heilman (irony only), were major stockholders in the Simplicity Auto Company from 1907 to 1911. The brewery modified one of the cars to be used as a beer delivery truck.
They established a branch sales office in Indianapolis in September, 1913. The address was 402 Majestic Bldg., telephone 1438. They did both store and home delivery.
By 1910 the plant had a capacity of 20,000 bbls and employed 250 people.
|Sterling Products Co.
1918 - 1933
Sterling Brewers Inc.
Sterling Brewers Association (Associated
|Like many others, the company
renamed itself during prohibition and made soft drinks, near beer, and malt
extract (which was used by illicit homebrewers). After prohibition it was
reorganized and renamed.
In the 1930s they brewed Sterling and Lug o' Ale brands.
From 1933 until 1936 they produced Drewrys beer for Drewry's U.S.A., a subsidiary of Drewrys in Canada. In 1936 Drewrys bought the Meussel brewery in South Bend, Indiana, and moved their production there.
Around 1935 they sponsored a semi-pro "colored" baseball team called the Sterling Beers.
In 1937 they built a second brewery in Freeport, Illinois, to increase production. It made 50,000 bbl per year in addition to the 500,000 made in Evansville. They closed this plant in 1939, the same year Charles F died.
Sterling merged with the Associated Brewing. Co. group of Michigan in 1968 and it passed to G. Heileman in 1972. Sold to Evansville Brewing Company (below) in 1988 after G. Heileman closed the plant due to over capacity in its other plants.
The Sterling Quality Pledge
After G. Heilman bought the company the plant was used to make many of the brands they acquired from other breweries including Cooks from Evansville, Champagne Velvet from Terre Haute, and Drewrys from South Bend. Others included Drummond Brothers, 9-0-5, Falls City, Lederbrau, Pfeiffer, Rheingold, Tropical Ale, Weideman, Katz, Bavarian, and Prager Bohemian.
Prior to 1972, when Falls City Beer production moved to the Sterling plant in Evansville, a friendly local rivalry existed between the two beers. For many years the Evansville brewed Sterling was the #1 selling beer in Louisville, while Louisville-made Falls City was the #1 selling beer in Evansville.
Peak production was 900,000 bbls annually.
The EBA's office's Brucken's Annex, built in 1894, is in the Indiana Register of Historic Sites and Structures. The brewery has been demolished.
1988 - 1997
|A group of local investors
led by three founding owners, John Durnin, Mark Mattingly, and John Bzeznski,
re-opened the brewery on Sept 21, 1988 after G.Heilman closed it due to over
capacity throughout their brewing empire. The local investors wanted to
retain the employee base of the plant.
The brewer was Ken Griffiths and the plant had a 1,200,000 bbl annual capacity. They employed about 90 people. The first CEO was Mark Mattingly and the last was Steven Cook. Headquarters was at 1301 Lloyd Expressway.
Evansville made Cooks, Wiedemann, Drewry's, Falls City, and Sterling beer and brewed beers under contract for many marketing companies including Frontier Brewing (Norway, IA - the first Certified organically brewed beer in the US), Rainbow Ridge Brewing (Marietta, GA - White Ridge Wheat Beer), State Street Brewing (Chicago, IL). They also made "novelty" beers such as 1990's Bicycle Beer's Veri Berry, Misty Lime, and Apricot Stone for a marketing company in Michigan.
The original big-mouth bottle came from Sterling (right). Mickey's, famous for the "big mouth" bottles, also originated at Sterling and is reputed to be named after the wife of the president of Sterling Brewers - the "Mickey part, not the "big mouth" part. It is now part of Miller via Stroh's.
Birell was made in the 1990s, licensed from Hürlimann Brewery in Zürich, Switzerland. Other brands included Coldsburg Gray, Drummond Brothers, Eagle, Evansville, Gerst, John Gilberts, Gringo Light, Hey Mon, Hoosier Red, Jackaroo, Joe's Freakin', Lemp, Lemp Light, Mo's Maxin, New Frontier, River City, Riverfront, Sainsburys, and Zebra.
By 1994 Evansville Brewing sold almost 40% of it's beer overseas. The "ISA" brand was produced for Argentina.
By 1996 they had started a line of beers under the "Old European Brewery Company" name. Many of these had names such as Jacob Rosnberger Munich Ale, Ian Kinross Highland Stout, Gustav Werner Alt Amber, and Otto Bruckman Bavarian Bock. The "Colonial Brewery Company" similarly made Bison Brau Original Wit and Allegheny Cream Ale.
Declared bankruptcy and closed on October 1, 1997. The brands were sold to Pittsburgh Brewing. The Sterling brand is now owned by Iron City Brewing in Pittsburgh, having bought the Pittsburgh Brewing Company.
This was still a large brewery right up to closing. In November/December, 1997 they packaged up the product in house - about 12 million cans. source
1848 - ????
1857 - before 1886
|Owned by L. Rice & Co. That's
Louis Rice, Jacob Rice's stepson. He left the City Brewery (above) to strike
out on his own at the corner of Vine and 4th Street where the courthouse now
State Gazetteer and Business Directory of 1859 lists
The 1868 Business Directory for Indiana lists 12 breweries in Evansville:
It is said that by 1876 there were 17 breweries operating in Evansville.
of United States Breweries 1876-1976 a brewery that closed before 1875.
|A brewery owned by A. & T. Pauli from 1874 until 1878 is referenced in many sources as being in German, Indiana with a production of 265 bbls annually. We have no other information about this brewery but it probably was in German Township of one of Indiana's Counties: Bartholomew, St. Joseph, or most likely Vanderburgh.|
|William J. Wittekindt Brewing Co. Inc.
1935 - 1941
|"Evansville's newest and
third brewery" was the William J. Wittekindt Brewing Co. Inc. It was at 11
S. Kentucky Ave.
Brands included Hi Hop Beer and Wittekindt Muenchener Beer.
1996 - Present
|Brewpub attached to Turoni's
Pizzeria which dates to 1963. Brewing operations added in 1996. Brewer Eric
Watson set the standard and formulated most of the beers. He left in 2004
and was replaced by Jack Frey.
1997 - 1998
The Little Cheers
|At 329 Main St. Evansville,
installed a small brewhouse in the old bank vault for brewer Nathaniel
Cruise. This venture did not last long.
The Firkin was resurrected in 2004 with the same equipment and same brewer but a new name. A downtown bar with little emphasis on their own beers. It stopped brewing in 2006.
Another note about some Evansville brewers
Governor Ralston yesterday refused to honor papers from Governor Ben W Sooper of Tennessee, for the extradition of seven Evansville brewers who are wanted at Memphis on grand jury indictments charging them with violation of the "four mile" state prohibition law of Tennessee.
The men sought by the Tennessee authorities are Charles F. Hartmetz, John Wlmberg, Gust C Meyer and Charles Ullmer, who are officers of the Evansville Brewing Association, and Henry E Cook, F W Cook and G M Caussman of the F W Cook Brewing Company, Evansville.
Papers Declared Faulty.
The extradition of the Indiana men was denied because of gross Irregularities in the papers, but, even with the papers presented in proper form, it's probable that Governor Ralston would have refused to honor them, because there is no showing that the men were in Tennessee at the time of the commission of their alleged, crime and that they actually are fugitives. The Governor cites court decisions to sustain his contention that he can not legally allow the extradition of an Indiana man unless there is a showing that that man fled from the state." - Indianapolis Star, July 12, 1914
Copyright 2004, 2007, 2009, Bob Ostrander