John Hemrich - Brewer

Portrait of John Hemrich


John was born in Uiffingen, Karlsruhe, Baden, Germany. By trade he was a practical brewer and prior to coming to America was employed in a local brewery. He Immigrated in 1848, settling first near Rochester, NY, where he worked at farming until joining Bartholomay & Co. at their new brewery in Rochester. He then moved to Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa in 1854, where he married Miss Anna Katherine Koepple, a native of Bavaria. Their first child, Emilie (Emma), was born in Keokuk on 9 January 1855. The next 20 years would see 10 more children, however five would pre-decease them.

He had erected a brewery in Keokuk and established himself in business. However, in April 1855 the citizens of Iowa vote in favor of Prohibition. The State was to go dry on July 1st, but John opted to relocate to a more beer friendly locale, and packed up for Alma, Buffalo County, WI.

Alma was a new settlement and John established the community's first industry there. Upon arrival in the Summer of 1855 he immediately had a log brewery built on the site of the 800 block of South Main St. between present day Iron & Bluff Sts. He operated as the John Hemrich Brewing Company and named his plant the Union Brewery.

The portrait above is from a book discussing Alma, WI pioneers. The "1855" indicates the year he settled there - not the year the picture was taken.

Twins were born to John & Anna on October 1856 - a girl, Amelia (named for Anna's sister), and a son Andreas (later anglicized to Andrew). Unfortunately, Amelia became the first child they would lose.

In 1876 he erected a brick malt house where he utilized only locally-grown barley in the malting process. In 1880 he had a stone ice house constructed in order to store beer above ground. By now he was employing five men and producing 4000 barrels of beer per year. Much of this brew was marketed in Alma although there were also delivery routes to the farming communities of Herold, Cream, and Praag.

He made at least two kinds of beer, one of which was a bock beer, dark in color and brewed in the winter for release in the spring. The intended name of the other was Alma Pride lager. But due to a batch of misprinted labels it became known as "Alma Bride".

In 1881, John and Anna lost six year old Edmund, the youngest of their seven sons.  Their oldest son, Andrew was now 25, and already operating his own brewery in Glendale, MT (see Andrew's bio.).

Three years later, in 1884, John leased the brewery to his son William as he was planning to join Andrew in Washington State, who had established a strong brewing business there. The senior Hemrichs and their 12 year old son, Louis, relocated to Seattle where, upon arrival, John bought out Andrew's partner, John Kopp.

In 1885 their daughter Emma and son-in-law, Frederick Kirschner, also re-located to Seattle. Frederick, following John's example, bought into Andrew and John's operation. The three then began operating the firm as Hemrich & Co., which was also known as the Bay View Brewing Company.

From 1884 to 1886 William operated the Union Brewery as the Wm. Hemrich Brewing Company. Then when younger brother Alvin (see Alvin's bio.) joined the firm in 1886 it became Wm. Hemrich & Co. Then in 1887 they had a new frame building erected in the place of the old log structure, and also installed a steam engine, elevator, and other fixtures acquired from the Neumeister feed mill.

The following year, 1888, turned out to be a major year for the Hemrich family. Their second oldest son, John, Jr. was married and was still working in the family brewery; but that year also saw the death of John & Anna's daughter, Louise, at the age of 24.

This too was the year that John sold his controlling interest in the Union Brewery to Henry Huber and his nephew Fred Hemrich, who changed the name of the firm to the Alma Brewing Co. William & Alvin then spent two years at the Philip Lorenz Brewery in Durand, WI, then followed the rest of the family west.

1891 brought more sad news with the death of John & Anna's 29 year old daughter, Matilda. By this time sons, William and John, Jr. were managing the Bay View Beer Depot & Bottling Works in New Whatcom (re-named Bellingham in 1904), 90 miles north of Seattle, while son, Alvin, was manager of Victoria Brewing & Ice Co., Victoria, B.C. It was no coincidence that Alvin's older brother, Andrew, was a principal in this firm.

John, son Andrew, and son-in-law Frederick saw their fortunes grow as the Bay View Brewery flourished. Profitability was further enhanced by Bay View's merger with two other Seattle breweries, in 1893, to form the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company.

With thoughts of securing a future for his two youngest sons, John first purchased the North Pacific Brewery and found a manager until such time as Alvin could take over. Then in early July of 1896 he traveled to Aberdeen with Louis to explore plans for a brewery there, but it was not to be. Unexpectedly, John Hemrich died on August 24, 1896.

 Andrew was now the the patriarch of the House of Hemrich.



For any comments, additions, or corrections please contact me:

Brewery Gems - beer stein logo

©Copyright 2004 by BreweryGems ~ All Rights Reserved.