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Early Kalamazoo Breweries

“The Brew from Kalamazoo” (1837-1915)

Newly revised and updated!

Kalamazoo Brewing Company, c.1907 (Tavern Trove)

By the 1980s, American beer had famously become a homogeneous mass-produced Pilsner-style light lager, with little variation among the leading brands. While beer consumption at the time was at its highest rate in US history, the top ten brewers alone accounted for 93% of the total domestic beer production, leaving little room for the few that could then be classified as “craft” beer breweries. Still, a young Kalamazoo entrepreneur named Larry Bell went into the brewing business, armed with little more than a 15-gallon soup pot, a recipe, and a $200 birthday gift from his mom.

Today, Bell’s Brewery, Inc. is not only one of the largest craft breweries in Michigan but ranks among the top 10 in the nation (by sales volume), employing more than 330 people with the capacity to produce more than 500,000 barrels annually. Others have since followed, placing Kalamazoo at the forefront of the craft brewing movement with the nation’s first higher ed program in sustainable brewing, an annual Kalamazoo Beer Week celebration, and significant worldwide recognition, including a nomination for “Beer City USA” in 2013. In 2019 Bell’s celebrated Two Hearted Ale was named the best beer in America for a third consecutive year by the American Homebrewers Association. U.S. News & World Report recently named Kalamazoo among the eight underrated beer cities in the world.

Today’s Kalamazoo brewmasters follow a long line of local brewers and malt makers that reaches back to the early nineteenth century. In fact, the art of crafting fine (and some perhaps otherwise) beers and ales can be traced to Kalamazoo’s earliest days as a frontier village.

Early Home Brewing

With a few noteworthy exceptions, much of the beer that was sold and consumed in Kalamazoo before the Civil War was almost certainly of local origin. American beers—mostly British-style ales—had been brewed stateside since colonial times, but beer as a product didn’t travel well, especially in those days. A stagecoach run from Detroit to Kalamazoo during the 1830s took several days and since those early American ales were highly susceptible to heat and motion, they tended to sour rather quickly. Before the latter half of the 19th century when the arrival of the railroads and important inventions like pasteurization and refrigeration made it practical to bottle and ship the product over greater distances, “fresh” beer was essentially a local product.

“To Make Beer.— Twenty drops of the oil of spruce, twenty do, wintergreen, twenty do sassafras. Pour two quarts of boiling water upon the oils, then add eight quarts of cold water, one pint and a half of molasses, and a half pint of yeast. Let it stand two hours and then bottle.—Lady of Weathersfield, Conn.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 13, 1847

In a time “when each housewife made her own ale” (Kalamazoo Telegraph), many of the first brewers in Bronson (Kalamazoo) Village were do-it-yourself and family operations. Recipes published locally during the summer of 1838 gave instructions for “cheap and agreeable table beer” made with water, molasses, and yeast. “Spruce Beer” was made by adding spruce oil or berries and leaves to the same basic recipe. Some advocated brewing with the shells of green peas, which were said to closely resemble malt. Others added wintergreen and sassafras. A simple recipe for “very excellent sugar beer” called for water, sugar (or treacle), yeast and hops. The brew was “fit for drinking in a week,” but the writer cautioned that “this beer [would] not keep any length of time.” (Safe to say that today’s local brewers aren’t apt to resurrect this recipe any time soon.)

“Beer, Wine, &c.” : Chapter XIV of The Housekeeper’s Guide (*), 1838.

housekeepers-guide-1838-100.jpgLearn more about early home brewing with selections from the nineteenth-century domestic guide, The Housekeeper’s Guide, includes the title page and Chapter XIV: Beer, Wine, &c. (pages 387-423) featuring sections on home brewing, wine making, hot liquor drinks.

Published in London in 1838, the book contains recipes for cheap beer, carrot beer, ginger beer, currant or gooseberry wine, green gooseberry wine, orange or lemon wine, grape wine, raisin wine, metheglin or mead or honey wine, English sherry or malt wine, ginger wine, parsnip wine, cowslip or clary wine, elder wine, damson or black cherry wine, birch wine, essence of ginger, cherry brandy, raspberry brandy, ratafia, noyeau, curacoa, capiliaire, sherbet, etc. Learn more…

*Copyright 2017 Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, all rights reserved.

Brewing Supplies

Kalamazoo Gazette, 25 July 1862

No matter which recipe was used or what quantities were made, all the necessary supplies for would-be home brewers were readily available in nineteenth century Kalamazoo. By 1837, barley was being grown locally, and could be purchased on Main Street at Edwards’ Grocery Store and G. Browning’s—the going rate in October 1837 was 62½¢ per bushel. Hops extract, used as an herbal medicine and in brewing, was available (wholesale & retail) at Dr. Starkey’s Medical Store on Main Street, “nearly opposite the Land Office.”

In October 1841, local distiller and merchant Francis “Frank” March was offering “the highest market price” (Kalamazoo Gazette) for barley, corn and hops at his “Old Brig” dry goods store at 97 Main Street. William T. Campbell was offering “cash or goods” (Gazette) as payment for hops in October 1845, and fresh hops were available by the bale in 1849 at John Dudgeon’s warehouse near the Michigan Central railroad depot.

By 1849, thermometers “graduated for Brewers and Distillers” (Gazette) were available at Jason Platt Clapham’s Drug Store on Main Street and by December 1850, S.K. Selkrig had begun selling them, as well. During the 1860s, Roberts & Hillhouse City Drug Store stocked large quantities of root extracts especially for beer making and by the end of the decade, A.C. Wortley was advertising “a large and varied assortment of barometers, intended expressly for the use of brewers” (Gazette).

“…while the village made no effort to become famous because of the excellence of the brew turned out, those in a position to judge often declared that nowhere could there be found such beers and ales as those made here and that the ales would in fact rival in quality those of the oft praised “nut brown” brew of merry old England, while the beers were, it was declared, as good or better than those of Munich or Old Heidelberg.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, May 30, 1920

Postcard depiction of what a town like Kalamazoo might have looked like in 1836, published c.1906 Author’s collection.

The English Influence

Beers and Ales

Cultural heritage and national origin played a significant role in the brewing styles of early America. Kalamazoo’s earliest non-native settlers were for the most part of predominantly English ancestry, and with them came the brewing styles and traditions of “Merry Olde England.” Popular among these British immigrants at the time were the “mild” (young) English beers (brewed with malted barley, water, yeast, and hops) and lightly hopped ales (brewed with malted barley, water, and yeast, but often without hops). This Old World method employed strains of top-fermenting yeast that worked at higher temperatures and tended to rise to the surface during fermentation, creating a rich flavorful brew. Both were relatively inexpensive to produce and did not require extensive aging. During the 19th century, a typical brewery might produce three or four styles of these “mild” beers and ales, with alcohol content ranging from 5% to 7% ABV.

The First Round (1837-1860)

By 1837, Kalamazoo had within a few short years grown from a handful of log huts into a bustling frontier village with more than 1,300 inhabitants. According to a Kalamazoo Gazette article published in April that year, the village boasted a dozen stores, a weekly newspaper, mills, offices, shops, and at least one established commercial brewery.

Kalamazoo’s First Brewery

The location of that first (c.1837) brewery and the identity of its proprietor is still the source of much speculation. The town’s first brewery could easily have been connected with Frank March or Thomas Clark, who ran the first distilleries in town. Or, it might have been located on Kalamazoo’s Northside near the (then future) Michigan Central depot, a place associated with a known brewer named Jacob Harlan. Years later an early pioneer recalled that Kalamazoo’s first brewery was located on Olmstead Road (Lake Street), while another claimed it was on Kalamazoo Avenue, but evidence in both instances suggests otherwise. In any case, that first brewery was most likely an early homegrown operation that either escaped specific mention in the local newspapers or was made known only after its proprietors became more established.

“Just how much brewed liquor was turned out by these Kalamazoo breweries will perhaps never be known, yet in their palmy days each one did a flourishing business, their owners operating them on the ‘live and let live’ principal, none trying to get rich, and each one finally yielding to the onslaughts of importations from the great brewing corporations in large cities.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, May 30, 1920

“Strong Beer”

Although the exact source of their (most likely local) brew is unknown, merchants Foster & Fish were offering “Strong Beer” by the barrel and half-barrel, along with corn, rye, barley, and other goods at their Cash Store on Main Street in 1842, still years ahead of railroad service in Kalamazoo.

The village continued to grow and by 1850, the population of Kalamazoo Township had increased to more than 3,200. By that time, there were at least two commercial breweries known to be operating within the corporation limits.

Burdick Street c.1867
Location of Jacob Harlan’s Brewery (later Hall & Holmes) (Burdick Street looking west, Kalamazoo Avenue left, M.C.R.R. depot top right) Bird’s-eye-view lithograph, 1867-1868, by Charles Shober, Chicago. Courtesy, Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Earliest Commercial Brewers

U.S. Federal Census records from 1850 tell us there were four professional brewers in Kalamazoo at that time; an Englishman named Benjamin Hall (born 1800), a New Yorker named Jason Russell (born about 1813), a German named Jacob Harlan (born about 1795) and another Englishman named James S. Holmes (born about 1810). Hall and Russell operated a brewery at the west end of the village, while Harlan and Holmes were proprietors of a smaller operation on Kalamazoo’s Northside. A fifth known brewer named John Hall (born 1798) was also living in town at the time. Of these five brewers, Jacob Harlan was likely the first to arrive in Kalamazoo.

Jacob Harlan

According to available records, Jacob Harlan emigrated from Germany and probably arrived in New York about 1832. After the birth of a son about 1836, the Harlans (Jacob, wife Celia, and son Frank) left New York and made their way to Kalamazoo. By October 1838 Harlan was receiving mail at the Kalamazoo post office and is listed on the 1840 U.S. Federal Census as a Kalamazoo resident engaging in agriculture (and most likely brewing). A second son, Theadore, was born in Kalamazoo that same year, further confirming that Harlan was indeed a Kalamazoo resident by that time.

Harlan’s brewery was located on the east side of Burdick Street just north of Kalamazoo Avenue. Given its centralized location and the fact that Harlan was known to have been in town by then, this could very well have been Kalamazoo’s first brewery as described in an April 1837 Kalamazoo Gazette article, but details of its exact origin are still open to speculation.

James S. Holmes

By October 1847, English brewer James S. Holmes (born about 1810) had arrived in Kalamazoo and was probably working with Jacob Harlan at the brewery on Burdick Street. While Harlan’s operation was small, the 1850 U.S. Federal Census non-population schedule tells us that his brewery consumed 1,600 bushels of barley and produced about 10,000 gallons (320 barrels) of beer that year.

Location of Holmes & Hall Brewery (right) near M.C.R.R. Depot (left). (Note: the depot was then located on the north side of the tracks opposite its location today.) Kalamazoo, Michigan 1874. [Madison, Wis., J. J. Stoner]. Local History Room.

Holmes & Hall Brewery c.1853.
Holmes & Hall Brewery c.1853. Map of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Surveyed & Published by Henry Hart, New York, 1853. Local History Room.

Holmes & Hall Brewery & Saloon (Wood’s Brewery)

By 1853, Harlan was out of the brewing trade and his partner James Holmes had joined local brewer Benjamin Hall when the two opened their “new and spacious dining saloon” next door to the Burdick Street brewery. Within a few months, Hall & Holmes were offering market price in cash for up to 5,000 bushels of barley for their brewery. An 1853 Kalamazoo Gazette article describes the location as “Wood’s Brewery,” which indicates it might have been connected with William Wood (probably William A. Wood, b. 1828), who took over Hiram Arnold’s nearby flour mill in 1855, although further details of Wood’s involvement in brewing have yet to be confirmed.

Benjamin Hall died in February 1859, leaving James Holmes as a sole proprietor. Holmes continued to operate the Burdick Street brewery and saloon on his own for a time, consuming 1,000 bushels of malted barley and a quarter ton of hops per year, while producing about 350 barrels (roughly 11,000 gallons) annually until his own death in 1863. Benjamin Hall was buried in Mountain Home Cemetery, James S. Holmes was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery. After leaving the brewing trade Jacob Harlan worked as a cooper in Kalamazoo until at least 1860 but his whereabouts after that is unknown.

John Hall’s ‘Kalamazoo Brewery’ (1845-1852)

Kalamazoo’s other documented pre-1850s brewery was established by an Englishman named John Hall (born 1798). Hall is believed to have been in Kalamazoo as early as January 1837, but it is uncertain whether he was responsible for the community’s very first (c.1837) brewery—most likely not. We do know, however, that by November 1845, John Hall was making vinegar (a product of fermentation) and offering cash for hops at his home on Portage Street, a clear indication that he had something brewing by that time.

In December 1846, the Kalamazoo Gazette referred to the great many improvements being made in the village of Kalamazoo, including the “large brewery of Mr. Hall” which had “just gone into operation.” John Hall’s brewery was located west of the village where the “Genesee Prairie Road” (later known as Asylum Road or Oakland Drive) met the “Paw Paw Road” (Michigan Avenue) next to Arcadia Creek, about where the WMU Physical Plant near Waldo Stadium is today.

Kalamazoo Brewery, c.1853.
Kalamazoo Brewery, c.1853. Map of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Surveyed & Published by Henry Hart, New York, 1853. Local History Room.

Benjamin Hall & Jason Russell

In May 1849, English brewer Benjamin Hall (born in 1800, probably a brother to John Hall) formed a partnership with native New Yorker Jason Russell* under the name of Hall & Russell and took over John Hall’s brewery operation on Arcadia Creek. Within a year’s time Hall & Russell were producing roughly 450 barrels (14,000 gallons) annually.

When the U.S. Federal Census taker came around in July 1850, Benjamin Hall and Jason Russell—described as equal owners in the brewery property at that time—were both living on the brewery property near Arcadia Creek, along with Russell’s wife Caroline and their three children. Former owner John Hall and his wife Elizabeth were living next door to brewer James Holmes and his family by then. After leaving the brewery at the west end of town, John Hall may have gone to work for Holmes and Harlan at the brewery on Burdick Street.

*Some accounts refer to Jason Russell as “Rupell” or “Rupello,” likely due to the census taker’s stylistic handwriting on the 1850 form.

For reasons yet unknown, Benjamin Hall & Jason Russell gave up the brewery on Arcadia Creek and in April 1852, real estate agent Ansel K. Post put the “celebrated Kalamazoo Brewery” up for sale, describing it as “one of the best and most convenient establishments of the kind in the state” (Gazette). Jason Russell and his family apparently moved on, while Benjamin Hall joined James Holmes et al at the brewery on Burdick Street.

When the assistant marshal came around to collect census information in July 1860, John Hall told him he was still a brewer by trade, but there is no indication that Hall was actively pursuing the occupation by that time. John Hall passed away in March 1866 at the age of 67 and is buried in Mountain Home Cemetery.

“Small Beer”

John Williams bottle, c.1852, courtesy, Jeff Scharnowske

“Small beer” (sometimes called table beer) is a lager or ale that contains less alcohol by volume (ABV) than its “strong beer” counterparts. Small beer was embraced by the temperance (early prohibition) movement during the 19th century and became especially popular among families and laborers.

John Williams’ “Small Beer Manufactory”

In May 1852, John Williams began advertising his “Small Beer Manufactory” on Main Street between Rose and Park, opposite the courthouse. Low alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks like soda water, lemon pop, and “Dr. Cronk’s compound Sarsaparilla Beer” were Williams’ specialties. While primarily a soft drink manufacturer, Williams and his successors are included in this discussion simply because their names are often listed among other local “strong beer” brewers.

City Bottling Works

Myron W. Seymour (born 1840) eventually took over John Williams’ operation and by 1860 he was manufacturing “Cronk Beer,” sassafras (root beer) and lemon pop at Williams’ old location on Main Street. By 1867, the operation had moved a block north to the 200 block of North Church Street and was known by then as the City Bottling Works. J.W. Rose was the proprietor until about 1876, when the company was taken over by a local root beer maker named William H. Russell. Russell remained in charge for some seventeen years until he was succeeded by Henry F. Schoenheit in 1893.

The Progressive Herald, 22 November 1913

Henry F. Schoenheit

City Bottling Works, 210-212 N. Church Street, c.1904. Progressive Kalamazoo. Local History Room.

Henry Schoenheit was no stranger to the bottling industry. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, he had been “engaged in this line of business in cities all over the United States” since about 1870. In 1883 he was partnering with Charles South DeWitt at their Mineral Water Bottling Works in the 300 block of East Main Street. That business ceased by the end of the decade, but Schoenheit reemerged soon after as a manufacturer of soda and mineral waters when he purchased the City Bottling Works on North Church Street.

In 1905, Schoenheit built a new building and moved the City Bottling Works to Portage Street. He expanded his business to include a line of quality bar glassware, which was sold in many states, along with carbonated and mineral waters, orange cider, lemon sour, cream ale, sherbet, birch beer, root beer, strawberry and cream soda, and other soft drinks. Schoenheit’s own brand of ginger ale was a local and regional favorite.

Henry Schoenheit became a strong industry advocate. In 1912 he helped organize and became president of the Michigan State Bottlers’ Protective Association with bottlers from all parts of the state, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, Bay City, Traverse City and Lansing. Schoenheit retired in the spring of 1918 and sold the City Bottling Works to the Michigan Coca-Cola Bottling Company. While visiting relatives a few weeks later in Rochester, New York, he suffered a stroke on May 13 and passed away shortly after at the age of 58. He was returned to Kalamazoo and laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery.

City Bottling Works (interior), Portage Street, c.1909. Labadie’s Souvenir of Picturesque Kalamazoo, p.99. Local History Room.

“The Temperance Pledge: ‘We, the undersigned, do pledge ourselves’ to each other, as gentlemen, that we will not, hereafter, drink any spirituous liquors, wine, malt or cider, unless in sickness, and under the prescription of a physician.’”

Kalamazoo Gazette, April 15, 1842

Michigan’s First Round of Prohibition

Today, we tend to associate Prohibition with the gangsters and speakeasies of the 1920s but in fact, the movement against the consumption of alcohol (known as temperance) began in the United States nearly a century beforehand, during the 1820s. While many temperance supporters advocated moderation rather than total abstinence, the movement to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol grew steadily, especially during the 1840s. Maine passed one of the nation’s first liquor laws in 1851, which prohibited the sale of all alcoholic beverages “except for medicinal, mechanical, scientific and sacramental purposes” (Gazette). In 1853, Michigan passed a similar law banning the sale of alcohol.

“Pledge of the Kalamazoo Cold Water Army.

A Pledge we make, no wine to take;
Nor brandy red, that turns the head;
Nor whisky hot, that makes the sot;
Nor fiery rum, to ruin home;
Nor will we sin, by drinking gin;
Hard cider too, will never do;
Nor sparkling ale, the face to pale;
Nor brewer’s beer, the heart to cheer;
To quench our thirst,
we’ll always bring
Cold Water from the well or Spring;
So here we pledge, perpetual hate
To ALL that can INTOXICATE.”

Michigan Telegraph, 10 April 1846

Some parts of Michigan took immediate action to enforce this new “dry” mandate, but the law lacked broad support and many judges refused to enforce it, including Kalamazoo judge Abner Pratt. Defiance became so widespread that by 1875 the law was dissolved and replaced with a statewide liquor tax program. Although efforts to re-enact the prohibition law in 1877 and 1879 both failed, the movement continued to gain momentum.

Kalamazoo Temperance Reform

Song sheet published by Daniel C. McAllister, Kalamazoo, c.1884. Library of Congress

The “Union Sunday School Temperance Reform Army” was organized in Kalamazoo about 1872. Under the leadership of Sunday school superintendent D.O. Roberts, members worked hard to further the temperance cause among village youth. In June 1875, New Hampshire temperance evangelist and “eloquent temperance lecturer” (Telegraph) Francis Murphy held a series of lectures in Kalamazoo, which prompted local supporters to organize the “Kalamazoo Temperance Reform Association” with local probate judge George M. Buck as president.

Temperance supporters typically opposed most forms of strong drink, but their primary focus (at least in the beginning) was on moderation rather than abstention (hence the term “temperance”). Early followers rallied strongly against the excessive consumption of hard spirits (rum, whiskey, etc.), but many stopped short of total abstinence when it came to beer. The brewers soon used this trend to their advantage and sought to distance themselves from the distillers by portraying beer as a healthy alternative to hard liquor. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, brewers began to promote their product as a “family beverage” and a “temperance drink.” Some called it “liquid bread.”

A Second Round (1860-1893)

Commercial distilling in Kalamazoo ceased after 1858, but Kalamazoo’s brewery business witnessed unprecedented growth during the late 1850s and 1860s in spite of the statewide alcohol ban. In 1856, there were still just two known “strong beer” breweries in Kalamazoo County but by the end of the Civil War, that number had tripled. By then there were at least* six known commercial breweries operating within the confines of the “Big Village.”

*There may have been other, perhaps smaller, undocumented operations, but that appears unlikely.

One holdover from the early days remained at the west end of the village near Arcadia Creek, while other newcomers had gone into operation on North Street west of Burdick, on East Main Street near the river, on Walnut Street east of Burdick, “at the foot of Portage Street” on Winstead, and on Olmstead Road (Lake Street) east of Portage. Two additional family brewers were well-known for their work outside of the corporation limits—one became a favorite among Kalamazoo beer lovers during the Civil War years, the other supplied the village of Pavilion southeast of Kalamazoo. Most were established well before the Civil War and many enjoyed modest success until the late 1870s.

family picnic c.1890s
Picnickers in or near the Burchnall Woods c.1890s. Local History Room photo file P-11.

Passenger list from the “John R Skiddy” (McKay & Pickett) w/ arrival of Joseph and Dorothy Burchnall, New York, 3 May 1849. Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 078; Line: 9; List Number: 391 via Ancestry Library.

Burchnall Brewery (1858-1878)

Kalamazoo Telegraph, May 1, 1873

One of Kalamazoo’s most popular early breweries was actually an out-of-town operation located south of the village limits along the “Kalamazoo and Three Rivers Plank Road” (Lovers Lane) near Portage Creek, just north of where Milham Park is today. The spot later became known as the Burchnall Woods, a favorite of local picnickers.

‘Old Joe’ & Dorothy Burchnall

Already brewers by trade, Joseph and Dorothy (Nichols) Burchnall (Burchnell) departed from Liverpool, England, aboard the packet ship “John R. Skiddy” and arrived at the Port of New York on May 3, 1849. By 1858, the Burchnalls had found their way to Kalamazoo (probably from Wisconsin) and soon after established a brewery on their nine-acre farm in section 34 of Kalamazoo Township just south of the village. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, “This establishment was not a large one, in fact, it was a rather enlarged ‘home brew’ outfit, but the excellence of its product was scattered by all who loved beers and ales made in the real old English way.”

“Old Joe’s XX”

Kalamazoo Gazette, February 24, 1865

But the Burchnalls’ output during the 1860s was indeed significant and by 1865, the couple had become the second largest beer producer (by taxable value) in Kalamazoo, averaging up to sixty barrels or more each month. Burchnall’s “Home Brewed Ale” (known famously around the area as “Old Joe’s XX”) was available by special arrangement at Joseph Moore’s Portage Street Grocery and was “always on draught” at the Messmer & Seiler Billiard Saloon on South Burdick Street. (‘XX’ indicated the strength of the product, which commonly ranged from ‘X’ (the weakest) to ‘XXXX’ (the strongest).)

Thomas's Kalamazoo Directory 1867-1868
Thomas’s Kalamazoo Directory 1867-1868. Local History Room.

Dorothy Burchnall

By 1867 Joe’s health had begun to fail and Dorothy was superintending the brewery with Andrew Lewis employed as a hired hand. After Joe Burchnall’s death in April 1873, Dorothy continued to operate the brewery on her own and offered “to furnish private families with beer in quantities to suit.” Dorothy’s ginger ale became her specialty and could be ordered at Underwood’s Bakery inside Union Hall on Portage Street.

Burchnall Brewery on the Schoolcraft plank road (Lovers Lane), c.1873. Local History Room

Joseph Burchnall Westnedge

As an interesting side note, Joe and Dorothy’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth Burchnall (b.1847), met and married a Kalamazoo man named Thomas Westnedge (b.1834). If that name sounds familiar, it should. In 1872, Mary Westnedge gave birth to a son they named Joseph Burchnall Westnedge in honor of the boy’s grandfather. He later grew to become “Colonel Joe” Westnedge, Kalamazoo’s beloved World War I hero.

Joseph Burchnall (“Joseph Burchnal”) c.1870, and Dorothy Burchnall (“Dorothy Burchnal”) c.1865. Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Robert Walker’s ‘Plank Road’ Brewery

Kalamazoo Gazette, 1 January 1878
Kalamazoo Gazette, 1 January 1878

But the Burchnall story doesn’t quite end there. In 1876, three years after her husband’s death, Dorothy Burchnall married an Englishman named Robert Walker (born about 1820). The Walkers continued to engage in the brewery trade on the Burchnall property at least until 1878. The township directory that year listed Robert Walker as the proprietor, but it was Mrs. Dorothy Walker who paid $52.79 in taxes to the township in 1877 for the “manufacture of malt liquors” (Gazette) under a “Class B” brewer’s license.

Little else is known about Robert Walker or the “Plank Road” brewery. When the census taker came around in June 1880, Robert and Dorothy Walker were identified as married and living in Kalamazoo Township; he was a farmer and she was “keeping house.” There was no mention of a commercial brewery on the Burchnall property after that time.

By 1881, Dorothy Walker was a lone resident on her farm, perhaps widowed once again. Dorothy (Burchnall) Walker passed away a widow at the age of 67 in April 1892 and was laid to rest beside her husband Joseph Burchnall in Riverside Cemetery. A few months after her death, a fire—said to be accidental—destroyed the house and barn that once served as the old Burchnall brewery.

Slater’s Brewery (1875-1879)

During the 1870s a second out-of-town brewing operation appeared in rural southeastern Kalamazoo County near the village of Scotts. McKain’s Corners is a ghost town that was once located at the intersection of 34th Street and ‘S’ Avenue in Pavilion Township. The village itself, also known as Pavilion, predates the village of Scotts and flourished until the 1890s with a hotel, blacksmith shop, dance hall, schoolhouse, post office, cemetery and a handful of other businesses, thanks to a stop on the Chicago, Kalamazoo & Saginaw railroad line. After the CK&S line was sold in 1910 the village all but disappeared.

McKain’s Corners (Pavilion Township) and Joseph Slater’s property (Brady Township), Kalamazoo County c.1873. Atlas of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Published by F. W. Beers & Co., 1873. Local History Room.

McKain’s Corners

Joseph Andrew Slater (born 1840) owned a 38-acre farm just south of McKain’s Corners where he ran a small brewing and malt making operation. Slater was a Civil War veteran who served in the Michigan 1st Cavalry Regiment, but little is known about his brewing operation other than the liquor tax assessments he paid between 1875 and 1879. Slater evidently operated a popular dance hall (known as “Slater’s hall”) and his tax assessments were typically somewhat less than those of his counterparts, indicating that he probably brewed just enough to supply the local taverns, his dance hall, and perhaps a nearby farmer or two. After suffering the loss of a leg Slater apparently ceased brewing about 1880. He died on September 18, 1885 following a long illness, leaving his wife Rachel (Hampton) Slater and seven sons. Joseph Slater was laid to rest in McKain Cemetery just south of where the village once stood.

Kalamazoo Malt House (1857-1886)

Back in the village of Kalamazoo, an Englishman named George Judge established the Kalamazoo Malt House during the mid-1850s, a place that remained a favorite among the locals for more than three decades. Born in Kent, England about 1820, George Judge became a successful malster (malt maker) before emigrating to the United States in 1850. In 1857, Judge opened his celebrated Kalamazoo Malt House at 82 North Street in Isaac Moffatt’s former distillery building near the corner of Frank Street and Burdick (where Judge Avenue now stretches between West North and Frank streets). Judge’s operation likely supplied many of the smaller breweries in town with malted barley, hops, and other brewery grains.

Passenger list from the “Ocean Queen” (Vanderbilt European) w/ arrival of George Judge (Judd), New York, 28 October 1850 Year: 1850; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 094; Line: 18; List Number: 1230.

Judge’s Kalamazoo Malt House, c.1867 (looking west between Frank and North streets) Bird’s-eye-view lithograph, 1867-1868, by Charles Shober, Chicago, IL; published by the Gazette Office, Kalamazoo, Mich. Courtesy, Kalamazoo Valley Museum

George Judge’s Kalamazoo Malt House campus, c.1887. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Sanborn Map Company, Jul, 1887. Library of Congress

Kalamazoo Directory, 1876. Local History Room

By 1880, George Judge was a major supplier of malt to the Goebel Brewing Company in Detroit and doing business with his son-in-law John Bommerscheim, a saloon operator and proprietor of the Detroit Bottling Works on Main Street in Kalamazoo (the local bottler and distributor for Goebel). Judge’s Kalamazoo Malt House was primarily a wholesale and retail supplier of malted barley and rye (used for animal feed, brewing, and baking), but locals knew the establishment well for its small batches of light amber and “black as ink” dark ales, both of which were said to be very good.

Judge retired about 1882, leaving Joseph Steiner to run the operation until John Bommerscheim purchased the property in 1886 and moved his saloon and beer bottling operation to that location. By 1891 the old grain warehouse and kiln were gone, but a separate warehouse, wood hopper, and malt floor were still standing, although apparently unused. George Judge remained at his home on the corner of North and Burdick streets until his death in April 1893 at the age of 72. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery.

Goebel Brewing Company wagons
Geo. Judge was a major supplier of malt to the Goebel Brewing Co. Postcard image courtesy, Don Harrison, Up North Memories

By the 1890s the Bommerscheims had developed several thriving business on the property. In addition to John’s beer bottling operation and saloon, Frank and Henry Bommerscheim had their offices there, as well. Both were agents for Fleischmann & Co., a major yeast supplier. But in June 1895, disaster struck when a massive fire wiped out most of the block, including Bommerscheim’s saloon, warehouse, cold storage facility, and offices, along with several other businesses. According to the 1902 Sanborn fire insurance map the remaining structure was being used as a “Celery Shipping House,” but by the time the 1908 map was drawn, the building had been replaced by an alley called Judge Court and several new residential buildings.

George Judge Malt House c.1870s.
George Judge Malt House c.1870s. Published by F.W. Beers & Co., 1873. Local History Room

The German Influence

While Kalamazoo’s earliest brewers were for the most part of English descent and their British-style ales dominated local brewing until the mid-19th century, immigrants from German began to arrive in Kalamazoo around 1850, bringing with them a vibrant culture of hard-working laborers, merchants, craftsmen, and brewers. Beer played an important role in German culture, and most Germans preferred their own style of lager over the heavier English-style beers and ales.

“American lager beer breweries have adapted their manufacture of beer to comply with the demand of the popular taste at was formerly met by ale, and there are many thousands of gallons of strong beer or winter beer brewed each year as a substitute for ale.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, July 19, 1904


Unlike British ales, German-style lager or “Lagerbier” (German for storeroom or warehouse) is made with a bottom-fermenting yeast, which ferments at relatively cold temperatures and tends to settle to the bottom during the process. The beer is then kept under cold storage for several weeks after brewing to produce a mild, lightly colored beverage. Lagers were relatively inexpensive to produce and typically kept longer than the heavier “young” ales. While the cold storage requirement did add an element of complexity to the process, the overall popularity of German-style lager grew quickly, especially among the working class. Lager styles (especially Pilsner) would in fact come to dominate American brewing throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Frank’s Brewery (1855-1884)

During the 1850s nearly a million Germans fled their native homeland in search of a brighter future in North America. The year 1854 alone saw more than 215,000 Germans migrate to the Americas, including 26-year-old Richard Frank (born 1828) and his 22-year-old fiancé Caroline Himmel (born 1831). The couple packed their belongings that summer and traveled west from the state of Baden in southwest Germany to Le Havre, France, where they boarded the packet ship “William Tell” in September and set sail for New York. After nearly six weeks at sea they arrived at the Port of New York on October 23rd, 1854, and were married soon after.

Passenger list from the passenger ship “William Tell” w/ the arrival of Richard Frank and Carol [sic] Himmell, Port of New York, 23 October 1854. Source: Year: 1854; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 147; Line: 29; List Number: 1458, via Ancestry Library.
After spending a few months working in Rochester, New York, the Franks moved on to Kalamazoo, where Richard established a small “class B” brewery and saloon on the south side of Main Street (Michigan Avenue) near the intersection of Kalamazoo Avenue, just west of the Kalamazoo River bridge. Frank’s operation began small, averaging between 10 and 30 barrels per month—roughly one quarter (in terms of taxable value) that of the largest brewery in town—but his reputation as a brewer remained solid, especially among the factory workers and laborers near the east end of the village.
Schroder’s (Frank’s) Brewery, c.1867
Schroder’s (Frank’s) Brewery, c.1867 (looking west, corner of Main Street and Kalamazoo Avenue) Bird’s-eye-view lithograph, 1867-1868, by Charles Shober, Chicago, IL; published by the Gazette Office, Kalamazoo, Mich. Courtesy, Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Henry Schroder

Richard Frank passed away unexpectedly in April 1865 at the age of 37, leaving the brewery, his wife, and four young children; Joseph, John, Albert, and Francis. A local brewer named Henry Schroder (born in Prussia about 1834) took over the brewery and married Frank’s widow, Caroline, soon adding two more children to the family; Anna, and John H. During their teen years the two oldest boys worked in the brewery, assisting brewer John Geipel. Brewers George Foegele and William Koehler also joined Schroder’s operation for a time.

Thomas’ Kalamazoo Directory and Business Advertiser, for 1867 and 1868.
Thomas’ Kalamazoo Directory and Business Advertiser, for 1867 and 1868. Local History Room.

Henry Schroder was a true craftsman, a “manufacturer of superior ale, lager and porter” who took great pride in his small batch operation. Schroder himself was a lively character, too, who often decorated his brewery wagon and took part in many of the local holiday parades. But Schroder also found himself at odds with the authorities at times when it came to obeying local ordinances. More than once Schroder was seen in front of a judge for selling beer on Sunday.

Village tax rolls indicate $50 was collected from Schroder (as a Class ‘B’ brewer) for 1877 and 1878, and $65 for 1881, but at some point, evidence suggests that Schroder’s tax payment schedule went awry. “Many thousands of gallons of brew went into the placid Kalamazoo,” recalled the Kalamazoo Gazette, “when revenue officers breached the barrels and sent their contents into the ditch when this place went out of business.”

Frank’s Brewery c. 1873. F. W. Beers & Co., 1873 Map of Kalamazoo Co., Michigan. Local History Room.
In November 1884, the remainder of the Schroder Brewery was sold to Albert Frank (Caroline’s son) for $3,400. The 1887 Sanborn fire insurance map identifies the building at that location as “1 Fr. Malt Ho.” (one frame malt house) but offers no further details. Caroline Schroder passed away in 1912, and Henry left town soon after. In 1913, the site was purchased by the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad (G.R.& I.) to make way for a new interurban line. The old brewery building, long considered a local landmark, was torn down at that time.
“The brewery ceased business because the great concerns in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis shipped in their products much cheaper than the home product could be sold for,” explained a writer for the Kalamazoo Gazette in 1920. “Other breweries here ceased operations for the same reason.”
“The Old Frank Brewery” as pictured in the Kalamazoo Telegraph, 4 October 1913. Local History Room

Kalamazoo Brewery (1857-1879)

Lorenz Brentano, c.1849 Lithograph by Ludwig Wagner

The community’s second so-called “Kalamazoo Brewery” was established during the 1850s by “Count” Lorenz Brentano, a political refugee from Germany. Brentano’s Kalamazoo Brewery was built (possibly by Nicholas Baumann) about 1857 along the south side of Walnut Street on a portion of the old denBleyker homestead just east of John Street, roughly where Bronson Hospital’s emergency room is now located.

Lorenz Brentano

Born in Mannheim, Germany in 1813, Lorenz Brentano studied law at universities in Heidelberg, Freiburg, and Giessen, and was widely recognized for his rhetorical skills and sharp logic as a supreme court lawyer. During the early part of his career he became a leader of Baden’s democratic left and was an outspoken critic of the moderate German government.

An active supporter and participant in the 1848 revolution against Germany’s conservative aristocracy, Brentano was elected president of the short-lived provisional republic. The revolution failed, however, and Brentano fled to Switzerland to avoid imprisonment. In 1849, he emigrated to the United States and settled in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, where he became a journalist and publisher of the German anti-slavery journal, Der Leuchtturm.

Passenger list from the schooner “Splendid” w/ arrival of Lorenz Brentano in New York City, 6 December 1849 Year: 1849; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 085; Line: 24; List Number: 1571.
Brentano spent a year or so in Pennsylvania before moving to Kalamazoo County where he became a farmer and eventually a brewer. According to the Detroit Free Press, “His life in Michigan was a very quiet one.”

Lorenz Brentano’s property, c.1858. Map of Kalamazoo, Michigan. C.F. Miller, New York : McKenzie & Simmons. Local History Room.

“Bavarian Lager Beer and Ale”

Kalamazoo Brewery ad c.1858
Kalamazoo Telegraph, 20 January 1858

By the end of 1857, Brentano was residing in the village of Kalamazoo and advertising that he had “the entire control” of the Kalamazoo Brewery on Walnut Street. Brentano wrote that his “excellent establishment” was by then “prepared to fill all orders for his celebrated Bavarian lager beer and ale,” which would be delivered free of charge if ordered at the brewery or at Stofel’s Lager Beer Saloon on Burdick Street. Brentano offered to pay the “highest market price” for hops and barley, and called special attention to his featured product, “a choice article of Ale and Beer, expressly for family use… (an) excellent, wholesome, healthy beverage” (Telegraph).

Brentano operated his Kalamazoo Brewery for about a year before turning it (back) over to fellow local brewer come real estate dealer Nicholas Baumann in 1859. Brentano then moved on to Chicago, where he planned to become a lawyer and resume writing and publishing.

Kalamazoo Brewery c.1860. Geil & Harley, et al. Map of Kalamazoo Co., Michigan. Philadelphia: Geil & Harley, 1861. Library of Congress.

Peter Herboldsheimer

By year’s end, Brentano was practicing law in Chicago, where he was eventually elected to Congress and became a prominent politician. Meanwhile, John Peter Herboldsheimer (Heirboldsheimer, Harboldsheemer) (born in Germany in 1807) had taken over ownership of the former Brentano brewery on Walnut Street from Nicholas Baumann. By 1860, Herboldsheimer’s two-person operation was consuming 300 bushels of barley malt and 400 pounds of hops per year, and producing 150 barrels (roughly 4,700 gallons) of lager, with annual revenue of $900 (just over $27,000 in today’s dollars).

Passenger list from the “Ericsson” (Collins Line) w/ the arrival of Bernard(sic) Locher, New York, 5 November 1857 Year: 1857; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 180; Line: 24; List Number: 1288, via Ancestry Library.

Bernhard Locher

Kalamazoo Gazette, 29 July 1864

Born in Württemberg, Germany in August 1838, Bernhard “Barney” Locher was already a brewer by trade at the age of 19 when he boarded the steamship “Ericsson” in Bremerhaven on the northern coast of Germany and set sail for the United States. Locher arrived in New York on November 5, 1857 and within a year’s time, he had applied for immigration and was headed for Illinois.

By the fall of 1862, Peter Herboldsheimer had moved on and was brewing beer in Topeka, Kansas, where he died a few months later. Meanwhile, Barney Locher made his way west, stopping short of Illinois and settling instead in Kalamazoo, where he became proprietor of the brewery on Walnut Street, selling “good Hay and Harvest Ale and Beer” at $9 per barrel. When Locher and his resident brewers Albert Fogt and Michael Henkee took over, theirs was the smallest of the four local breweries (in terms of taxable value). By 1865, Locher’s operation had grown to be the second largest brewery in the village.

Barney Locher’s Kalamazoo Brewery, c.1874 Ruger, A, et al. Kalamazoo, Michigan 1874. [Madison, Wis., J.J. Stoner, 1874] Map. Local History Room | Library of Congress

Following the death of his first wife Louise in April 1868, Locher married Theressa Sarah Robischung, daughter of a well-known local cooper and saloon keeper. While struggling to keep the brewery afloat the couple raised eight children: Minnie, William, Adolph, Edward, George, Bertha, Louisa, and Estella. Locher was an active member of Kalamazoo’s vibrant German community. He often participated in programs put on by the German Harmonia Society, and was treasurer of the local German Workingmen’s Benevolent Association. He was also an active fireman, and treasurer of the local fire department’s Empire Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1.

Thomas’ Kalamazoo Directory and Business Advertiser, for 1867 and 1868.
Thomas’ Kalamazoo Directory and Business Advertiser, for 1867 and 1868. Local History Room.

Locher’s Brewery, c.1873. F. W. Beers & Co., 1873 Map of Kalamazoo Co., Michigan. Local History Room.

By the 1870s, Locher’s Brewery had been producing high quality lager and ale for nearly a decade. A German brewer named John Pedler (born in Württemberg about 1841) lived next door by then and was most likely employed by Locher. Business was good, which prompted Locher to expand his operation by adding a new brick building to the brewery campus during the early months of 1874. This would allow his production capacity to exceed 15,000 barrels per year, and make Locher’s “Lager Beer Brewery” the largest of the local breweries at the time.

Federal and state tax assessments show that Locher operated consistently through 1878, when he was advertising the release of his “celebrated Bock Beer.” But competition was stiff and by 1879, Locher’s luck had apparently run out. After losing one of his buildings to an accidental fire and with his 1878 state liquor tax listed as “uncollected,” Locher defaulted on a mortgage. In October 1879, the brewery on Walnut Street and all of its contents went up for public auction.
Barney Locher’s Kalamazoo Brewery (post expansion), c.1879 Wellge, H, et al. Bird’s eye view of Kalamazoo, Mich. 1883. Madison, Wis., J.J. Stoner, 1883. Map. Local History Room | Library of Congress
Remains of Locher's brewery, 1968.
Remains of Locher’s Brewery, November 1968. Kalamazoo Gazette. 4 November 1968.

The following June, Locher opened a wholesale and retail ale house and bottling works at 73 Main Street, but his health had begun to fail. Locher traveled to Petoskey that summer, hoping to get some rest and a breath of fresh air but on September 8, Barney Locher died of consumption (tuberculosis) just two weeks after his 42nd birthday. His body was returned to Kalamazoo and buried at Riverside Cemetery.

Sarah Locher continued to operate the brewery on her own for a brief time, but eventually the land was sold and platted for residential use. Portions the old Kalamazoo Brewery survived as an apartment building known as the Bostwick flat until 1968, when the last remaining brick walls were town down to make way for a Bronson Hospital expansion project.

Portage Brewery (1856-1873)

The Portage Brewery was yet another small neighborhood outfit that went into operation during the 1850s near the outskirts of town in an area then known as the “lower end of Portage Street” (Gazette). Built in 1856 by Nicholas Baumann, the brewery stood along the west side of a street called Winsted that used to run southward from the intersection of Lovell and Portage streets through a residential neighborhood that was later absorbed by a parking lot.

Portage Brewery, c.1874 Ruger, A, et al. Kalamazoo, Michigan 1874. Map. Local History Room | Library of Congress

Nicholas Baumann

Nicholas Baumann (Bauman, Bowman) was a local entrepreneur and developer who became involved in several local breweries during the early part of his career. Born in Schifferstadt, Germany in January 1828, the bright 21-year-old arrived in New York aboard the passenger ship “Hector” in April 1849 and by 1855 had found his way through New York’s Allegheny Mountain region and on to Kalamazoo. After working in a local boarding house for a brief time, Baumann opened the Portage Brewery on Winstead Street just south of Lovell in 1856 and managed it for three or four years.

Passenger list from the “Hector” w/ the arrival of Nicholas Baumann in New York, 26 April 1849 Year: 1849; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 078; Line: 55; List Number: 321 via Ancestry Library.

Portage Brewery c. 1861.
Portage Brewery c. 1861. Geil & Harley, et al. Map of Kalamazoo Co., Michigan. Philadelphia: Geil & Harley, 1861. Library of Congress.

Burr Oak Brewery

Kalamazoo Gazette, 6 May 1859.

In 1859, Baumann took over Lorenz Brentano’s Kalamazoo Brewery on Walnut Street for a brief time before passing it on to Peter Herboldsheimer as previously noted. Baumann continued to operate his brewery on Winstead Street during the changeover, but the transaction with Herr Herboldsheimer evidently left some bad blood between the two enterprising brewers.

In early March, an argument with Herboldsheimer ensued and Baumann was severely scalded after being doused with a bucketful of hot beer. Herboldsheimer was found guilty, sentenced to 40 days in jail for the incident, and ordered to pay a $100 fine. He left town soon after. While recovering from his injuries, Baumann turned his Portage Brewery operation over to Gustav Sesemann & Co.

Passenger list from the “Hermann”
Passenger list from the “Hermann” w/ the arrival of Gustav Sesemann and family in New York, 13 June 1853. Year: 1853; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 127; Line: 53; List Number: 554 via Ancestry Library.

Sesemann & Co.

Kalamazoo Gazette, 15 April 1864

During the early months of 1853, Gustav Sesemann (born in Saxony about 1823) and his wife Wilhelmina packed up their baby daughter Caroline, boarded the barque “Hermann” in Hamburg, Germany, and set sail for the Americas with hopes of making a better life for themselves abroad. The Sesemanns arrived in New York in June that year and within months they were in Kalamazoo, where Gustav evidently found work in Nicholas Baumann’s brewery.

After Baumann’s burn incident, Sesemann took over the brewery in 1859 with help from fellow brewers Lewis Leovert and John Honser. Much like Lorenz Brentano at the Walnut Street brewery, Sesemann offered his own “celebrated ale and lager beer,” delivered promptly “free of charge.” Sesemann—like Brentano—advertised “a choice article of Ale and Beer, expressly for family use,” once again emphasizing that the product was an “excellent, wholesome, healthy beverage” (Gazette). During its first year of operation, Sesemann’s three-person outfit consumed 2,000 bushels of malt and half-ton of hops, producing 850 barrels (just over 26,000 gallons) of lager, with annual revenue of $5,100 ($154,000 today).

Hughes & True

By the end of 1862 Sesemann had returned to New York City and was working in a brewery in the Bowery neighborhood of southern Manhattan. Meanwhile, William L. Hughes & Samuel True had taken control of the brewery at 6 Winsted Street and had begun calling it the “Burr Oak Brewery.” In the fall of 1864, Sam True left the brewery and opened a saloon in the basement of Fireman’s Hall on South Burdick Street.

Seyfferth & Son

William Hughes continued to operate the Burr Oak Brewery on his own until about 1870, when veteran Kalamazoo brewer Fred Seyfferth became proprietor. Seyfferth and his son Charles kept the small brewery running until about 1873 or so. (More about Fred Seyfferth in the following section.)

Portage Brewery c.1873.
Portage Brewery c.1873. F.W. Beers & Co., 1873 Map of Kalamazoo Co., Michigan. Local History Room.

“The old brewery opposite Egleston’s”

Though clearly shown on the 1873 village map, the Portage Brewery did not appear on the 1876 or 1877 liquor tax assessments and by then, Seyfferth was working as a bookbinder. In September 1881, “the old brewery opposite Egleston’s” (Kalamazoo Spring and Axle Company) was purchased by W.H. Gibson for use as a machine shop at his Kalamazoo Elevator Works.

W.H. Gibson’s Kalamazoo Elevator Works (former Portage Brewery location), c.1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Sanborn Map Company, Jul, 1887. Library of Congress

Kalamazoo Directory ad, 1860
Loomis & Talbott’s Kalamazoo Directory for 1860-61. Local History Room

Kalamazoo Spring Brewery (1856-1867)

Established by John Hall in 1847, the Kalamazoo Brewery on Arcadia Creek at the west end of the village failed and was put up for sale in 1852, although it remained vacant for several years. Lovett Eames ran a sawmill on the property nearby and in 1856, he erected “a very large building” (Gazette) next to the old brewery complex where he opened a foundry. (WMU later used the Eames building for its Manual Arts Department and “Playhouse.”) The brewery finally changed hands around the same time and was soon back in operation.

Eames Mill c.1923.
Eames Mill c.1923. Western State Normal School (Western Michigan University) Brown and Gold 1923. Local History Room

Syke & Foegele

Kalamazoo Gazette, 29 March 1861

Born of German parents in Barcelona, Spain in 1794, Sebastian Samuel Syke (Syikes, Zeug) arrived in Kalamazoo from Rochester, New York about 1856 and took over Hall & Russell’s old Kalamazoo Brewery on Arcadia Creek. Soon after, Syke went into partnership with a young French master brewer named George Foegele (Foegle, Voegel) (born about 1828), also from Rochester. Together, they called their new operation the “Kalamazoo Spring Brewery.”

Seyfferth & Stearn

By 1860, Syke & Foegele’s Kalamazoo Spring Brewery had added two new resident brewers to its ranks; an immigrant from Württemberg, Germany named Frederick William Seyfferth (Seyferth, Syford) (born about 1829), and a young New Yorker named John Stearn (born about 1838). According to 1860 records, Syke & Foegele’s three-person operation consumed 3,700 bushels of barley malt and 2,500 pounds of hops that year, and produced “a superior article of ale and lager beer” (Gazette), with annual output of approximately 1,500 barrels (roughly 48,000 gallons) and yearly revenue of $9,000 (roughly $272,000 today). An 1861 advertisement emphasized the healthful (even medicinal) qualities of their product, promising a “pure and lively tonic beverage, unsurpassed [for] those suffering from debility, ague and chill fever” (Gazette).

“On leaving Main Street, the first object of interest that meets the eye is Bauman’s large brewery, which is not only a prominent feature in the landscape, but somewhat suggestive, especially if one happens to be a little thirsty.”

Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, August 6, 1868

Sebastian Syke

Kalamazoo Gazette, 24 February 1865

Around 1862, Sebastian Syke stepped aside to become a hotel keeper and liquor dealer. Once a soldier who fought with the coalition army against Napoleon and was wounded in the famous 1813 Battle of Leipzig (the largest battle in Europe before World War I), Syke spent his final years quietly tending his farm on the Paw Paw Road (Michigan Avenue) west of Kalamazoo, about where Kalamazoo College’s Angell Field is today. Sebastian Syke passed away in January 1884, just days before his 90th birthday, and was buried in Kalamazoo’s Catholic Riverside Cemetery.

Foegele & Baumann

Following Syke’s departure, George Foegele was joined by local brewer and saloon keeper Nicholas Baumann, who had not been “able to leave his room for some time” (Telegraph) due to injuries he suffered in the altercation with Peter Herboldsheimer at the Portage Brewery. Their business progressed nicely and by 1865, Foegele & Baumann were the largest producers (according to taxable value) of the four local (licensed) brewers.

Kalamazoo Brewery complex c.1874. Looking northeast, Michigan Central RR and Michigan Ave (left), Asylum Ave (top), Henry Montague House (right). Kalamazoo, Michigan 1874, published by J.J. Stoner, Madison, Wis. Library of Congress, Local History Room

Kalamazoo Steam Brewery (1868-1881)

N. Baumann & Co., 1869. Local History Room

Late one night in October 1867, disaster struck when fire broke out at Baumann’s Asylum Road brewery. Although it was a “distance from the main part of town [and] it was sometime before the alarm was sounded” (Telegraph) the Burr-Oak Engine Company eventually responded. Firemen and bystanders managed to save the house next to the brewery and a few of the outbuildings, but the large main (wooden) structure burned to the ground and was declared a total loss.

Over the following summer, Baumann engaged a respected local architect and builder named Henry W. Coddington* to rebuild his brewery. During the $25,000 reconstruction process (roughly $445,000 in today’s dollars), a new below ground ice-chilled lagering cellar was added. Ice cut from a nearby pond during the wintertime was stored and used to cool the 150 large wooden storage tanks (called butts), each of which held roughly 3 barrels (130 gallons) of lager. The cellar provided ideal conditions for the lagering process, which required the beer to be stored below 60 degrees for several weeks after brewing.

George Foegele

George Foegele left the operation around the time of the fire and went on to become a prominent local fireman and saloon keeper. When Foegele passed away in April 1874, the entire town mourned. The press called his funeral “a very imposing affair” (Gazette) that was “very largely attended” (Telegraph). Many downtown businesses closed for the day as a procession of more than 50 carriages followed all three local fire companies and the city band to his interment ceremony at Riverside Cemetery.

*Henry W. Coddington (1828-1895) was responsible for many well-known local buildings, including St. Luke’s church and parish on Lovell Street, the Michigan Female Seminary, the Kalamazoo College Ladies Hall (or Lower Hall), and the Post Office on Burdick Street.

Nicholas Baumann & Co.

Baumann named his rebuilt operation the “Kalamazoo Steam Brewery” and continued brewing under the Nicholas Baumann & Co. banner. Steam brewing was a relatively new process that became popular during the mid-19th century to compensate for the lack of refrigeration. Steam brewing (so called for the signature cloud of steam that rose as the wort cooled) employed a strain of lager yeast that fermented at warmer temperatures like ale yeast, creating a light and bubbly lager-style brew that was especially popular among the working class. William S. Downer became head brewer at the Kalamazoo Steam Brewery, while Matthew Carroll and Martin Carl worked as resident malsters. 

“Messrs. Baumann & Co. are honorable men, and thoroughly acquainted with the business, and intend their goods shall always be of the purest quality. Already Baumann’s ale, porter and lager have attained an enviable reputation for their agreeable flavor.”

Kalamazoo Telegraph, 21 May 1869

Brewing With Maize

Corn (maize) has been used as an adjunct ingredient in American beer brewing since colonial times. Substantial percentages (20-30% of the total fermentables) of such an ingredient helps achieve the lightness in color, clarity, and taste typically found in mass-market lagers.

In May 1869 Nicholas Baumann received a patent for his “Improved Process of Using Unmashed Indian Corn in Brewing Beer, &c.” According to Baumann’s patent, “it is not a new thing to apply unmashed Indian corn in the manufacture of beer; but difficulties have arisen everywhere in endeavoring thoroughly to mix the unmashed corn with the mash, and thus to utilize the whole transforming power of the malt” (US Patent Office). The extent to which Baumann employed this process at his Kalamazoo Steam Brewery and the amount of corn he used in his local brew (if any at all) is not known.

Nicholas Baumann’s patent #90,066, “Improved Process of Using Unmashed Indian Corn in Brewing Beer, &c.” 18 May 1869. United States Patent and Trademark Office.

In 1871, Nicholas Baumann sold his interest in the Kalamazoo Steam Brewery for $42,000 (roughly $750,000 today) and went on to become a successful local real estate developer and entrepreneur. He built the Baumann block on Burdick Street in 1870, two additional stores on Water Street in 1872, and a saloon, restaurant and billiard hall known as the Peninsular Building on the north side of Main Street (Michigan Avenue) in 1875. (The Olde Peninsula Brewpub draws its name from Baumann’s building although contrary to popular belief, it is not in the same location.)

Baumann later formed the “N. Baumann & Sons” company in 1879 with his sons Frank and James Baumann, who had by then become successful local saloon keepers. The Baumanns touted themselves as the first in town to offer lager beer brewed by the famous Anheuser-Busch company of St. Louis.

Nicholas Baumann passed away in 1895 at the age of 67. His funeral ceremony was officiated by The Reverend Caroline J. Bartlett before burial at Mountain Home.

Local History Room, Brown´s Directory of Kalamazoo, Mich, 1871-72

Charles W. Minard

Johnston’s Detroit City Directory, 1881
Johnston’s Detroit City Directory, 1881

In February 1871, it was announced that an English brewer and malster from Detroit named Charles W. Minard (born about 1847) had leased the brewery on Arcadia Creek. Minard was well known in the Detroit area for producing high quality present-use (“cream”) ale, stock (aged) ale, “X, XX and XXX” ales, and porters.

Minard called his operation the “Kalamazoo Steam Brewery and Malt House,” and immediately began soliciting “orders from town and country” (Gazette) for his cream and stock ale, brown stout, porter and lager. Later that fall, Minard exhibited a half-barrel of porter, a keg of lager beer, and a half-barrel of ale in the twenty-third annual Exhibition of the Michigan State Agricultural Society (Michigan State Fair), which was held in Kalamazoo during September that year.

Kalamazoo brewery complex c.1880 Wellge, H, et al. Bird’s eye view of Kalamazoo, Mich. 1883. Madison, Wis., J.J. Stoner, 1883. Map. Local History Room | Library of Congress

“Three of our boys went to Long Lake Sunday. On their return home, they became very dry and stopped at the steam brewery for a glas [sic ] of ice water [their emphasis]. While enjoying the invigorating glass a train of cars approached, which so frightened their horse that he started for home, but had gone but a short distance before the carriage and horse were both upset. When found the horse was under and a somewhat demoralized carriage on top. The horse had none of the ice water either.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, July 29, 1879

Michigan Liquor Tax Law

The 1853 liquor ban might have helped curtail local distilling, but it evidently had little effect on the brewers. According to the 1874 census, the four breweries in Kalamazoo Village kept ten people employed and produced a total of 4,400 barrels of beer that year—nearly twelve gallons for every man, woman, and child in the township.

In 1875, the State of Michigan repealed the 1853 liquor ban and instead imposed an annual tax on beer and liquor retailers, wholesalers, distillers and brewers. For a “class B” brewer (producing less than 1,500 barrels per year), this meant a flat annual tax of $50. For a “class A” brewer (producing in excess of 1,500 barrels per year, but less than 5,000 barrels), the annual fee was $100. Manufacturers producing more than 5,000 barrels per year would be charged $200.

“This [Liquor Tax Law], like prohibition, is an experiment, and experience alone can demonstrate its utility or impracticability. In the execution of the law it may be found that deficits exist which can be remedied at some future time, but there is little doubt but that the people have struck upon the right method of dealing with this question. The traffic should be taxed, and then dealers ought to receive protection in their business.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, May 7, 1875

George Neumaier & Leo Kinast

There were five local brewers on the 1875 tax collection list for Kalamazoo County; Nicholas Baumann, Barney Locher, Henry Schroder, Dorothy Burchnall, and another recent arrival from the Rhineland, George Neumaier. Born April 27, 1842 in the historical territory of Baden in South Germany, George Neumaier trained as a cooper and a brewer in his native land before immigrating to the United States in 1866.

Passenger list from the French ship “Floride” (Caird & Co.), arrival in New York City, 22 November 1866 w/ passengers George Neumaier, Valentina Siefert (future Mrs. Neumaier) and Leo Kinast. Year: 1866; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 274; Line: 31; List Number: 1297 via Ancestry Library.

In November that year, George Neumaier, Valentina Siefert (the future Mrs. Neumaier, born in Baden-Württemberg in 1847), and fellow brewer Leo Kinast (born in Baden-Württemberg about 1842), arrived in New York City together aboard the French ship “Floride.” Neumaier (and presumably Kinast) soon found work in various New York City breweries and malt houses. George and Valentina were married in Manhattan in March 1868. After the birth of their daughter Emma later that year, the Neumaiers moved to Adrian, Michigan where George became a foreman at one of the breweries there.

Kalamazoo Telegraph, 20 May 1876

Bock Beer

Bock is a lightly hopped bottom fermenting German lager that’s been around in various forms since the 14th century. The beer is typically kept in cold storage during the winter months and served in the spring for special occasions. Bock is somewhat stronger than a typical lager and is noted for its dark amber color and robust malt flavors. Early Kalamazoo brewers like Barney Locker and George Neumaier were well known for their “celebrated” springtime releases of bock beer.

After the birth of their son Alfred in 1872, the Neumaiers moved on to Kalamazoo, where George went into partnership with his old friend Leo Kinast and took over Charles Minard’s Steam Brewery on Asylum Road. The following May, “Geo. Neumeyer [sic ] & Co.” began distributing its “Bock Beer,” along with their “fine Lager for Family use” (Telegraph). During the town’s annual Fourth of July celebration in 1878, the Spring Brewery helped represent the “trades and industries” portion of the annual holiday parade with “a wagon embowered with boughs and kegs of beer giving forth the foaming beverage” (Telegraph). The Neumaiers welcomed two more daughters after arriving in Kalamazoo; Carrie in 1874, and Ida in 1876, but lost their oldest daughter Emma that same year.

Kalamazoo Steam Brewery. Published by F.W. Beers & Co., 1873. Local History Room

Typical 19th century brewery/icehouse configuration w/ lagering cellar. The Western Brewer, 1882.

“Howard’s Brewery”

George Neumaier left the Kalamazoo Steam Brewery in the fall of 1878 to begin his own brewing venture across town. (More about George Neumaier in the coming sections.) Meanwhile, Leo Kinast continued to maintain the brewery as a sole proprietor with help from brewer Frederick Beck (b. abt 1855).

Production at the Steam Brewery on Arcadia Creek ground to an unexpected halt in March 1881 when Leo Kinast died of consumption (tuberculosis) just days before his 40th birthday, leaving his wife Mary and three children; Emma, Victoria, and Edward.

The property was owned by Robert R. Howard from Detroit, who attempted to revive the brewery in 1883 by renting it to a firm from Marshall, but his efforts were to no avail. After Kinast’s death, the brewery sat vacant for a few years, save for “a number of casks and vats” (Gazette).

On a warm Saturday afternoon in June 1886, a stray ember from a passing Michigan Central locomotive landed on the roof of the old brewery building and quickly ignited a blaze, which gutted the building and destroyed the Root brothers’ nearby icehouse. By late afternoon all that remained of the once “celebrated Kalamazoo Brewery” were portions of its “cracked and crumbling” (Gazette) brick walls and a solitary chimney left standing on its own. Loss of the buildings, including some 300 tons of ice, was valued at $12,000 (roughly $320,000 in today’s dollars). The growing local temperance movement celebrated the event, declaring that “it was an act of providence to do away with the nefarious business of brewing the devil’s drink” (Gazette).

Ruins of the burned-out brewery building remained until July 1890 when “Marshall Owens and a force of men lowered the dangerous brick walls that [had] stood there since the building burned” (Gazette). A decade later, the land was cleared and platted for residential use. Western Michigan University’s Waldo Stadium and Seelye Center complex currently occupy the location.

Kalamazoo Brewery complex c.1880
Looking west from Kalamazoo College Lower Hall (southeast corner of South Street and Michigan Avenue) c.1880. Brewery complex and ice houses in the distance on the left, Michigan Avenue on the right. Local History Room photo P-283.

Cold Stream Brewery ad, c.1885. Local History Room

Cold Stream Brewery (1865-1894)

Taylor, Thackwray & Co.

Reuben J. Taylor, Richard Taylor, and brother-in-law John Thackwray were all Englishmen who arrived in Kalamazoo near the end of the Civil War, about 1865. Together, they formed Taylor Thackwray & Co. and established a brewery at 6 Lake Street, just east of Portage Road on the south side of Olmstead Road (Lake Street), near a portion of what was then Merrill & McCourtie’s mill pond. The brewery, listed among five local brewers in the 1869 Kalamazoo city directory, operated until at least 1870 before closing. In February 1872, the parcel of land along Lake Street, including the brewery, was sold by the village of Kalamazoo for unpaid 1869 taxes.

George Neumaier

George Neumaier (?) c.1877-1891
(likely) George Neumaier c.1877-1891. Courtesy, WMU Archives and Regional History Collections

In September 1878, George Neumaier left the Kalamazoo Steam Brewery on Asylum Road and took over the remains of the old Taylor Thackwray operation on Lake Street. George Neumaier & Co. “overhauled, renovated and enlarged” (Telegraph) the old brewery building and soon had it back in full operation.

Eventually, Neumaier’s brewery became known as the “Cold Stream Brewery” after Merrill & McCourtie’s nearby flour mills of the same name. As time went by Neumaier’s brewery earned a solid reputation and by 1884 his was the only such operation left in Kalamazoo, producing between 900 and 1,500 barrels annually. Columbia Reister (born in Baden about 1854) was boarding with the Neumaiers around this time while working as a brewer. New York native Uriah Wheeler (born about 1820) lived around the corner on Jackson Street and worked as a cooper.

Major improvements during this time included the addition of a new icehouse in 1886 with a capacity of 100 tons. During the winter months ice was cut from Merrill & McCourtie’s mill pond and stored away for use in the brewery’s lagering process.

Cold Stream Brewery, c.1873.
Cold Stream Brewery, c.1873. F. W. Beers & Co., 1873 Map of Kalamazoo Co., Michigan. Local History Room.

A Third Round (1894-1915)

Kalamazoo Union Brewing Company

After a successful career that spanned more than three decades, the elder Neumaier decided to retire in the fall of 1894, and turned the brewery operation over to his son, Alfred George “Fred” Neumaier (born 1872). Fred Neumaier had worked for several years at the Finlay Brewing Company in Toledo, Ohio, a well-established and considerably larger outfit than the Kalamazoo brewery at the time. Neumaier formed a partnership with Leo Wagenman (Wagemann), a foreman at Finlay in Toledo and a brewmaster with twenty years of experience. Together they formed a stock company called the Kalamazoo Union Brewing Company and made significant changes within the organization. After four months of work perfecting its product, the first kegs from the new company were tapped in January 1895, and according to the local press, the firm was “turning out a fine article” (Gazette).

City Union Brewery c.1896. View from Portage Street. Courtesy, Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections

Wagenman’s Brewery

The initial 1895 brewing run under the Neumaier/Wagenman partnership was apparently successful—so successful, in fact, that Leo Wagenman announced soon after that the “location near the corner of Lake and Portage streets [was] entirely too small for his growing business” (Telegraph). Wagenman clearly intended to move the entire Kalamazoo Union Brewing Company’s operation to a new location, but it doesn’t appear that Fred Neumaier agreed.

In November 1895, Wagenman purchased the former Galligan & Horn Cart Company’s factory building at the northwest corner of Vine and Mill (now Mills) streets with plans to turn it into an “extensive brewery” (Telegraph) to be operated “as the Kalamazoo Union Brewing company” (Gazette). Wagenman planned to have the new larger facility up and running by the first of February.

Leo Wagenman’s Kalamazoo Union Brewery, c.1896rary of Congress
Leo Wagenman’s Kalamazoo Union Brewery, c.1896. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Library of Congress

City Union Brewery

Just as production at the Kalamazoo Union Brewing Company was getting underway at the new Mill Street location, cracks in the Neumaier-Wagenman partnership began to appear. The conflict came to a head in February 1896 when Fred Neumaier announced that he had severed his connection with Leo Wagenman and the “Kalamazoo Union Brewery.” Neumaier was about to begin a “new concern” (Telegraph) back at the old building on Lake Street called “City Union Brewery.” His new partner was an experienced Detroit brewer named Steve Zanda, a recent graduate of the Chicago Brewers Academy. By May, Neumaier was advertising that his new operation was in full production at 823 Lake Street and making a “fine stapletry of choice beer for family use” (Telegraph).

Local History Room

Back on Mill Street, Wagenman went ahead and released the first batch of his own Kalamazoo Union brew during the early weeks of 1896. Although his skills as a brewmaster were highly regarded, his salesmanship and public relations abilities apparently fell short.

After more than a quarter-century of local brewing, the Neumaier family had become well respected members of the Kalamazoo community. George Neumaier was active for many years as an officer and trustee in the local German Workingmen’s Benevolent Association (Arbeiter Unterstützungs Verein, or A.U.V.) and was a strong advocate for its members. When an electrical worker became disabled after an accident, George Neumaier took it upon himself to purchase an empty lot near his brewery and erect a building so the injured worker could operate a grocery store while recovering. Neumaier then worked with the association to purchase stock so the man could get back on his feet. That kind of loyalty resonated deeply within the tightly knit community, something Wagenman had clearly underestimated.

City Union Brewery, c.1896
City Union Brewery, c.1896. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Michigan. September 1896. Library of Congress

When Fred Neumaier announced his split from the Kalamazoo Union Brewery, Wagenman tried to undercut his former partner by selling his beer “bottled for less than the regular price” (Gazette). But the local barkeeps and shop owners wouldn’t have it, and they retaliated by boycotting Wagenman’s product and buying Neumaier’s beer instead. Without the ability to sell his product, several hundred barrels of Wagenman’s beer sat in storage over the summer and went sour as a result.

When revenue agents came around to collect taxes in mid-November, Wagenman was not about to pay the $1 per barrel tax on his unsaleable stock so all 465 barrels of it (14,400+ gallons valued at more than $1,000* at the time) “was turned out of the barrels and ran down Portage creek into the Kalamazoo river” (Gazette). Wagenman appeared in court the following spring for violating the liquor law, but the charges were ultimately dismissed. Wagenman ceased his brewing operation thereafter and eventually returned to Toledo.

*In today’s market, 14,400 gallons (115,200 pints @ $5 per pint) would amount to roughly $576,000 retail.

“A night shift has been put on at the local brewery. Kalamazoo is certainly now on the high road to prosperity.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, (n.d.) c.1899

Kalamazoo Brewing Co., c.1908.
Kalamazoo Brewing Co., c.1902. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Library of Congress

“Extensive Improvements”

Neumaier made “extensive improvements” (Kalamazoo Evening News) in the Lake Street building during February 1899, including the installation of a new 80-horsepower boiler by the Clark Engine & Boiler Company. By April, Neumaier’s City Union Brewery was producing roughly 140 barrels per day.

“The City Union Brewery, of Kalamazoo, owned by Alfred G. Neumaier, has just completed a new three-story brick brew house and a 75-barrel outfit complete, put in by the Huetteman & Cramer Co., of Detroit. A 20-ton ice machine and a new cellar have also been put in.”

American Brewers’ Review (Chicago), January 20, 1901

In October 1900, Neumaier announced that he planned to invest in an additional $30,000 worth of improvements. The brewery was to be rebuilt and made one full story higher in order to accommodate new machinery and equipment. Production at the Kalamazoo brewery was expected to double.

City Union Brewery, c.1902. (North side of the building looking southwest from Lake Street.) From Commercial Kalamazoo. Published by Doubleday Brothers & Co., A.H. Berry Co. 1902. Local History Room.

Kalamazoo Brewing Company

In October 1904, the City Union Brewery was converted to a new stock company and incorporated on January 1, 1905 as the Kalamazoo Brewing Company with capital stock of $75,000. Albert Doll, a prominent local saloon owner and future president of the Kalamazoo Liquor Dealers Association, was elected company president; Carl Schanz, vice president; Henry Buechner, secretary; and Fred Neumaier, general manager. William Farley, Frank Flaits and William Pendleton rounded out the board of directors. Herbert Davis, Vern Yost, Bernard Schwarze, Bamhart Schwarze, Anthony Schwarze, Clinton Gembering, Edward Kem, Leonard Kochler, Phoebe Buchner, Augustus Stevens, and Albert Allgaier were all employed at the brewery around that time.

Kalamazoo Brewery c.1910
Kalamazoo Brewing Company racking room c.1910. Albert Allgaier, brewmaster (left), other unidentified. Courtesy, Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections

Albert Allgaier

Born in Unterjettingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany in November 1878, Albert Allgaier was a lad of fourteen in July 1892 when he boarded the steamer “SS La Champagne” at the Port of Le Havre in northwestern France and sailed to the United States. Once in Kalamazoo he roomed with the Neumaier family and went to work in the brewery, first caring for the horses that pulled the beer wagons, then later assisting in the brewing process itself. After months studying brewing in Germany and training at the American Brewing Academy in Chicago, Allgaier returned to Kalamazoo in 1906 and became Neumaier’s head brewmaster.

George Neumaier remained active in the company for several years after his retirement. According to Fisher’s Compendium of History and Biography of Kalamazoo County (1906), the elder Neumaier “made it his chief ambition to produce beer of superior quality and purity, and by doing so he popularized his product and gave it a high and wide-spread reputation which brought him a large and profitable trade.” George Neumaier passed away in August 1907 at the age of 65 and is buried in Riverside Catholic Cemetery.

Kalamazoo Brewing Co., c.1908.
Kalamazoo Brewing Co., c.1908. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Library of Congress

Kalamazoo Beer Styles

Along with its standard Kalamazoo lager that was sold by the barrel and in clear glass embossed quart bottles, the Kalamazoo Brewing Company marketed several additional select styles of bottled beer, including “Royal Export,” “Royal Beer,” “Crystal Cream,” and its “Celebrated Berliner Weiss[sic ] Beer.”

“Royal Export” (European-Style Export)

“Export” beer typically refers to a style of pale to golden pre-prohibition pilsner that originated in Dortmund, Germany. Produced and marketed between 1907 and 1909 as “Royal Export” and later as “Royal Beer,” Kalamazoo Brewing packaged both products in clear 12-ounce bottles with multi-color lithographed labels in an effort to compete with the influx of strong rivals like Conrad Seipp (Chicago), Anheuser-Busch (St. Louis), Muskegon Brewing Company (Michigan), Pabst (Milwaukee), and others. “Royal Export” was specifically marketed to “the family trade” and said to be ideal for picnics and “noon-day lunches” (Gazette).

“Crystal Cream” (American-Style Cream Ale)

“Crystal Cream” was most likely an American cream-style ale, designed as an inexpensive ale alternative to the overwhelmingly popular lager styles. Cream ale (or present-use ale) was usually made with ale or lager yeast using a warm fermentation process, then stored like lager at cold temperatures to produce a mild, pale, light-bodied ale. “Crystal Cream” was produced by the Kalamazoo Brewing Company from about 1910 until the brewery closed in 1915 and packaged in clear 12-ounce bottles using multi-color lithographed labels.

“Berliner Weiss” (Berliner-Style Weisse)

Berliner Weisse is a sour wheat beer style that was especially popular in Northern Germany during the late 19th century. Weisse beer was typically fermented with pale malts and a mixture of yeast and lactic acid bacteria to produce its unique taste. The Kalamazoo Brewing Company packaged its “Celebrated Berliner Weiss[sic ] Beer” in amber 12-ounce embossed bottles that carried the “Pure And Without Drugs Or Poison” label, indicating they were probably packaged after the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.

“The Kalamazoo Brewing Co. aims to supply the better class of trade—those who appreciate quality and the value of a first class, healthful refreshing beverage.”

— Kalamazoo Gazette, January 17, 1909

“Strictly A Temperance Beverage”

Facing formidable competition from much larger firms in Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee, along with the ever growing opposition to alcoholic beverages, the Kalamazoo Brewing Company made every attempt to appeal to a mass audience by positioning its product as a healthful “temperance” drink, a suitable alternative to hard liquor. Brewers both locally and nationally tried to downplay the alcohol content while emphasizing food value.

Kalamazoo Brewing Company c.1910
Kalamazoo Brewing Company lagering cellar c.1910. Courtesy, Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections

“You know what is in it…”

Kalamazoo Brewing made additional attempts to promote its product as a “safe” alternative to the highly competitive national and regional brands by implying that unlike locally made beer, those out-of-town products could be contaminated with unknown or “cheap” ingredients. In line with the food and drug act of 1906, labels on the local product clearly stated that Kalamazoo beer was made “pure and without drugs or poison.” A 1911 article cited an “unsolicited recommendation” by the United States Health Bulletin, commending the Kalamazoo product for its “high degree of perfection from its care in preparation, its freedom from adulteration, purity of water used in its manufacture, and the sanitary and hygienic methods employed in the handling of it during both its production and delivery” (Gazette). Other advertisements boldly claimed that the “Famous Brew of Kalamazoo” was “highly recommended by physicians for its purity and quality” (Telegraph).

Kalamazoo Brewing Co., c.1909. (North side of the building looking southeast from Lake Street.) Local History Room. From Picturesque Kalamazoo, published by E.E. Labadie, 1909,

“Call for the Brew from Kalamazoo”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 2 August 1907

By 1909, a major advertising campaign was underway in hopes of attracting “the better class of trade—those who appreciate quality and the value of a first class, healthful refreshing beverage” (Gazette). Ads attempted to emphasize the advantages of Kalamazoo beer by promoting it as a clean and well-made local product crafted by brewers like German native Leonard Kochler and Charles Grothen from Ohio, “brewers who ‘know how’” (Gazette). Recent renovations were cited that called attention to “the most up-to-date” equipment, including a new filter, which was installed “at enormous cost,” and a “Deckenbach cooler of the latest design” (Gazette).

“In manufacturing the ‘Brew from Kalamazoo’ we use hops and malt,” stated Henry Buechner, “and extend all a cordial invitation to pay us a visit so that we may show just how good pure beer is made” (Gazette). Advertisements urged the locals to “enjoy the best beer brewed,” and “continue to build up your hometown and patronize home industry by calling for The Brew from Kalamazoo” (Gazette).

Kalamazoo Telegraph-Press, 6 April 1915, page 1. Local History Room

Last Call (1915): Kalamazoo Goes ‘Dry’

Kalamazoo Gazette, 25 April 1915

In April 1915, Kalamazoo County voters elected to outlaw the production and sale of alcoholic beverages—still five years ahead of the nationwide Eighteenth Amendment. On May 1st, 1915, sixty-five business establishments across Kalamazoo County closed their doors, including thirty-four saloons within the city of Kalamazoo, along with the Kalamazoo Brewery, the only remaining alcohol manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo County.

“Malt to Milk”

After the brewery equipment was dismantled and sold, Alfred Neumaier retired. The building remained vacant until 1917 when the stockholders voted to sell the brewery property and liquidate the firm. The Kalamazoo Creamery Company bought the former brewery and converted it into a pasteurization plant, which went into operation at the new location in 1919.

When the Kalamazoo brewery closed, Al Allgaier moved to Detroit, where he worked the night shift for a time at Ph. Kling’s Brewery. When Michigan went dry in May 1917, Allgaier returned to Kalamazoo and went to work as an engineer for the Kalamazoo Creamery Company in the same building where he had previously served as brewmaster. Albert Allgaier passed away in September 1942 at the age of 63 and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kalamazoo. Alfred Neumaier, the last of Kalamazoo’s original brewers, passed away in January 1937 at the age of 64, just three years after the sale of beer in Kalamazoo was once again legalized. He was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery.

“Needed repairs have been made on numerous store buildings in Kalamazoo, but no new stores have been erected in the heart of the city this year. Kalamazoo is not in need of more stores at this time. Many downtown places of business, especially on East Main street and North Burdick street, are still vacant as result of the great draught[sic] that hit this town when state-wide prohibition prevailed.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 31 August 1919

End of an Era

After nearly eighty years of use, the creamery was closed in 1997 and the remaining building complex gradually fell into a state of disrepair. The old brewery building was finally razed in November 2011 to make way for a new housing and mixed-use development called The Creamery, slated to open in 2021.

Kalamazoo Brewery building from Portage Street c.1890s (left) and November 2011, shortly before demolition (right). Photo credits: WMU Archives (left), Keith Howard (right)

Kalamazoo Brewery building from Lake Street c.1909 (left) and November 2011, shortly before demolition (right). Photo credits: Kalamazoo Public Library (left), Keith Howard (right)

Bootleggers and “Blind Pigs”

When Kalamazoo’s local option went into effect in 1915, the police made it known that they intended to “close down hard on every ‘club’ operating after May 1,” and that “bootleggers” would “receive drastic punishment if caught” (Gazette). The first such offender to face charges was Thomas Westmoreland, who was arrested in July for selling liquor on Portage Street. He and others were believed to have been manufacturing a mixture of alcohol, water, and coloring, which was then sold as “whiskey.” A subsequent raid on a “blind pig” (aka a blind tiger or speakeasy) in a second-floor room above North Rose Street found “a large quantity of whiskey, beer and other intoxicants” (Gazette). Hattie Evans, who was operating a “blind pig” in the basement of her home on North Pitcher Street, was the first woman to be arrested in Kalamazoo County for violation of the local option.

Prohibition made it unlawful to manufacture, sell, or otherwise distribute alcoholic beverages, but that didn’t necessarily mean it was illegal to consume. Once the electric interurban lines were established in and out of Kalamazoo, travel between communities like Battle Creek and Grand Rapids became much easier. This also made for interesting trade routes during the times of local options, when certain areas remained “wet” while their neighboring communities went “dry.”

Souvenir postcard of revelers in Detroit, October 1916, after Kalamazoo went “dry” but before statewide Prohibition. Author’s collection.

“Booze Special”

By 1910, 37 Michigan counties had gone completely dry under local option laws, including neighboring Calhoun County. But thanks to the newly opened interurban railroad line between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, “a lively interurban trade” (American Brewers’ Review) went on between the two cities. Riders from Battle Creek could easily catch a car to Kalamazoo, drink their fill, then return home without breaking any laws, so long as they returned home empty handed.

“With this announcement all hopes, that have been entertained by many, for a ‘booze special’ over the Kalamazoo-Grand Rapids interurban line, are shattered for officials of the Michigan Railway Engineering company announce that this line will also observe the law to the letter.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 1 May 1915

A similar scheme went on for a brief time between May 1915 when Kalamazoo went “dry” and November 1916 when most of Kent County followed suit. During that eighteen-month period, Kalamazooans who wished to imbibe could simply take the interurban to Grand Rapids where drink was still legal, although they were warned that “intoxicated persons found aboard any train [would] be subject to arrest” (Gazette). This also applied to those who attempted to return with packaged liquor, as Kalamazoo police were instructed “to maintain a close watch for ‘wet goods’ coming into the city” (Gazette). After a string of alcohol-related arrests, certain “arrangements” were supposedly made with the conductor to slow the train down when it reached Kalamazoo’s north side, so those who desired could jump off with their “goods” before entering the city.

“The Kalamazoo police were forever on the lookout for people who would board the interurban in Kalamazoo with large, very light, suitcases and return later that night with large, very heavy, suitcases.

Kalamazoo residents who remember say that heavy suitcase-carriers usually made friends with the motormen on the interurban. He’d slow way down as the cars squealed around the curve at Gull Road near North and Harrison so the carrier and his suitcases could hop off into the night.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 28 December 1969

Kalamazoo Plat Map, 1928
Spot where passengers could exit the incoming interurban car. Kalamazoo Plat Map, 1928. Local History Room | Library of Congress

“Malt Extract and Hops”

Over time fresh beer became increasingly more difficult to come by. Rather than risk detection by buying and transporting bottled beer, some simply went back to the old ways of brewing their own …without telling anyone, of course.

“Sign in a West Main street window ‘This place will open with a full line of brewery supplies on or about August 6th. Malt, hops, crowners and cappers. Phone us. We deliver.’ What is your best guess as to what it is all about?”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 4 August 1919

As prohibition expanded, a cottage industry soon developed around the manufacture and sale of malt syrup or extract. While marketed above board as a tonic for use by bakers, candy makers, and soda fountains, enterprising individuals immediately recognized the stuff as a basic ingredient for beer making. Some companies advertised openly using familiar beer names like “Budweiser,” “Stroh’s,” and “Blatz,” while others were a bit more covert, opting for “proper” sounding names like “Puritan” and “Pilser” [sic ].

Malt extract and hops were sold individually at first, but they were later blended into a malt flavored syrup “with the hops and sugar right in it.” (Gazette). When combined with warm water and given time to “age,” a 16-ounce can of malt extract could yield a gallon or so of suitable home brew. By 1929 the Bureau of Prohibition estimated that Americans were brewing up to 700 million gallons of homemade beer each year.

Location of Mastak & Burr, 104 Eleanor St., c.1920. Sanborn Map Company, 1932. Library of Congress

Mastak & Burr

Kalamazoo Gazette, 22 August 1920

In early 1919, a machinist for the Fuller & Sons Manufacturing Company named Joseph Mastak and cigar maker Frederick Burr went into business near the corner of Burdick and Eleanor streets selling extracts of malt and hops. Their ads emphasized just how easy and inexpensive it was to make soft drinks, but their list of product offerings made it clear what their “real” products were. Quarts of malt extract sold for $1.00 and packages of fresh hops were 34¢ each. A $10 bill would buy a dozen quarts of extract and enough hops to go with them.

Burr & Burr

In September 1920 Mastak and Burr parted ways. Mastak sold his interest in the firm to Harry P. Burr and moved to Portage Street where he opened a similar business as Mastak & Heiney. That operation only lasted a short time, but Frederick and Harry Burr continued as partners on Eleanor Street until the mid-1920s, branding their business as “The Old Reliable Malt House.”

Burr & Burr advertised the “Best Grade Malt” and the “Purest 1920 Hops,” but they also carried a complete line of brewing equipment; bottle capping machines, rubber stoppers, empty barrels, bottles, caps… seemingly everything a home brewer might need. By 1926, Frederick Burr had become a sole proprietor and continued as a malt extract dealer until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

“It has been suggested that in the near future some time that certain well known people get together and lay a wreath at the foot of the former brewery in Lake Street.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 4 August 1926

“Wildcat” Breweries

Most home brewers followed the rules and made just enough for personal use, while others saw an opportunity and decided to push the limits. But large-scale beer brewing was a risky proposition; it required the right equipment, large quantities of ingredients, adequate transportation, and room to work where the producers wouldn’t be seen. When combined with the pervasive smell of brewer’s yeast, illicit brewing operations known as “wildcat” breweries became prime targets for detection. So, did anyone in Kalamazoo attempt large-scale commercial “home” brewing? Yes, of course. Did anyone get caught? Absolutely.

VanLoo’s Brew

During the summer of 1920, an enterprising Dutchman named Christian VanLoo was working for the King Paper Company when he began brewing and bottling beer at his home on Lake Street. According to VanLoo, several other individuals from Kalamazoo supplied him with the raw materials, which he then brewed in exchange for a portion of the final product. Each batch of VanLoo’s brew took approximately three weeks to complete and was then bottled and sold in quarts for $10 a case, or in pint bottles for $5 per case.

Chris VanLoo was evidently well skilled at his craft. “In fact,” reported the Kalamazoo Gazette, “so good was the beverage considered that VanLoo is alleged to have enjoyed a lucrative patronage and disposed of many cases.” Acting on a tip, officers raided VanLoo’s home on August 12th and found more than 100 bottles of “very good beer,” along with quantities of malt, hops, yeast, sugar, cooling vats, bottles, and other “evidence that a flourishing business had been done.” VanLoo was fined $200 for violating the liquor laws and set free. “I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with me again,” he told the judge (Gazette).

“The ax was applied to the beer vats and beer gushed in streams over the basement floor. All the 10-gallon containers were brought to the county building for storage. The contents will be dumped and the containers destroyed.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 21 June 1931

Barnard Street Brewery

Numerous raids were conducted on bootlegging operations and “blind tigers” during the years that followed, but most paled in comparison to a large Kalamazoo brewing operation that was uncovered in June 1931. Officers conducting a Saturday morning raid at the home of Harold Curry on Barnard Street in the Oakwood Neighborhood discovered some 2,000 gallons of beer and $6,000 worth of brewing equipment (more than $106,000 in today’s dollars).

Curry and his partner Paul Butler were arrested as they were leaving the house with a truckload of ten-gallon beer containers. (Trucks disguised as gasoline tankers were also said to have been used.) A secret entrance to the basement under the front porch steps revealed “a complete and high grade brewing outfit… one of the most complete and elaborate outfits ever confiscated here” (Gazette). Their equipment included six 500-gallon wood and copper vats and 71 ten-gallon pressurized containers. The raid also produced 31 five-gallon cans of liquid malt, ten gallons of alcohol, a package of filter paper, plus other assorted pumps, filters and equipment. One longtime neighborhood resident recalled seeing beer “flowing like a river” down the street when the place was raided. Some residents also knew of a similar operation on nearby Adams Street. The two men were turned over to federal officials in Grand Rapids. According to the sheriff, Curry had “been doing a big business” (Gazette). Butler was questioned and released. Curry was sentenced to 15 months in the Chillicothe, Ohio penitentiary. Urban legend tied their operation to Al Capone’s syndicate, but that connection has yet to be proven.

“(Capone) coordinated the importation of alcohol from different locations, including other states and even Canada, as well as the operation of hundreds of breweries and distilleries, many of which resided in Chicago. Capone also devised a system to distribute his alcohol, which involved delivery truck drivers, salespeople, speakeasies (equivalent to a bar), and of course heavily-armed bodyguards to protect these investments.”

—Taylor Hales and Nikolas Kazmers, 2004

Cullen-Harrison Act

The Cullen-Harrison Act of March 1933 authorized the sale of “3.2” (low alcohol) beer, which allowed the first legal beer sales in the United States since the beginning of Prohibition. The Twenty-first Amendment, ratified later the same year, brought an end to Federal Prohibition, although certain forms of local prohibition lasted much longer. While the sale of beer in its various forms was legalized, the sale of liquor by-the-glass was banned in Kalamazoo until 1964. Sunday by-the-glass sales were prohibited until 1970.

Kalamazoo Gazette, 7 April 1933
Kalamazoo Gazette, 7 April 1933, page 1. Local History Room

Oberon bottle capSome 70 years would pass between the closing of the old Kalamazoo Brewing Company and the time when a new “Brew from Kalamazoo” would bring one of the local community’s earliest industries back to life. A lot has changed since local brewers like Barney Locher, Nicholas Baumann, Dorothy Burchnall and George Neumaier walked the streets of Kalamazoo, but thanks to careful craftsmanship and basic ingredients like water, malt, hops and yeast, things somehow remain the same. Cheers!

Continuing Research

Like many of our Local History essays, this article is by no means a definitive study; rather it is a continuing work-in-progress. If you have new information, corrections, photos, or items you’d like to share, please contact the author or the Local History Room.

An adaptation of this article appeared in the Autumn 2015 issue (Number 163, ISSN 0267 6753, pp. 66-75) of Brewery History, Journal of the Brewery History Society (Surrey, Great Britain).

Written by Keith Howard, Kalamazoo Public Library Staff, 2011. Revised and updated, March 2020.


Special thanks to Mary Hodges of Kalamazoo, Joseph and Dorothy Burchnall’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who alerted us to the photos of the Burchnalls in the KVM collection.

Thanks, also, to Kalamazoo Valley Museum for providing the newly scanned photos.

Special thanks to Judy Kirk of Kalamazoo, John Bommerscheim’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who brought new information to light about George Judge and his son-in-law, John Bommerscheim.



Johnston’s Detroit City Directory and Advertising Gazetteer of Michigan

James Dale Johnston & Co. 1861.
Harvard University Library, p.266

Labadie’s Souvenir of Picturesque Kalamazoo

Labadie, E.E. 1909.
Call Number: H 977.418 P62L, p.99

Kalamazoo, The Place Behind the Product : an illustrated history

Massie, Larry B. 1981.
977.418 M417A

Last Call : The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Okrent, Daniel. 2010.
363.41 O418

Yes, There Were Germans in Kalamazoo

Mayer, Elizabeth M. 1979.
325.243 M468


“Improvements in Kalamazoo”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 15 April 1837, p. 2.

“Summer Beer”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 5 May 1838, p. 1.

“…improvements now going forward…”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 4 December 1846, p. 2.

“To Make Beer”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 13 August 1847, p. 2.

“Brewery for Sale”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 2 April 1852, p. 2.

“Kalamazoo, Its Business”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 17 October 1856, p. 2.

“Peter Herboldsheimer…”

Kalamazoo Telegraph. 9 March 1859, p. 3, col.2.

“Syke & Foegele”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 29 March 1861, p. 3, col.5.


Kalamazoo Telegraph. 16 October 1867, p. 4.

“Ale, Lager Beer, and Porter”

Kalamazoo Telegraph. 21 May 1869, p. 4.

“List of Liquor Dealers Who Have Taken Out the Liquor Tax License”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 11 June 1875, p. 3.

“Centennialities: The Brewers…”

Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph. 2 March 1876, p. 2, col 2.

“Report of Tax Collected on the Business of Selling and Manufacturing Liquors in Kalamazoo County for the Year Ending December 25, 1877”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 1 January 1878, p. 4.

“Kalamazoo. A General Review of the Business and Commercial Interests of the ‘Big Village.’”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 4 July 1878, p. 3.

“Mortgage Sale”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 30 September 1879, p. 4.

“A Scarcity of Water. Old Brewery Building Totally Destroyed By Fire”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 13 June 1886, p. 2.

“Local Gleanings”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 17 July 1890, p. 5.

“He Was a True Patriot (death of Lorenz Brentano)”

Kalamazoo Telegraph. 24 September 1891, p. 6.

“On Draught Saturday”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 18 January 1895, p. 1.

“Where Beer Is Made”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 26 April 1899, p. 6.

“$30,000 In Improvements”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 28 October 1900, p. 8.

“City Union Brewery”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 14 February 1904, p. 10.

“Irish Pioneer Is Ninety Today”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 3 June 1905, p.8, col.2.

“George Neumaier”

Compendium of History and Biography of Kalamazoo County, Mich. 1906, p. 268.

“Brewing Company Directors”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 January 1907, p. 9.

“Call For The Brew From Kalamazoo”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 2 August 1907, p.5, col.5.

“High Approval Given Kalamazoo Brewing Co.”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 20 August 1911, p. 6.

“Home Made Beer, Its Advantages”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 19 June 1912, p. 24.

“Kalamazoo County Goes Dry With Majority of 890”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 6 April 1915, p. 1.

“Your Last Chance”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 25 April 1915, p.11, col.4.

“Booze Specials Into This City Tabooed”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 1 May 1915, p.1, col.8.

“County Bars Close Their Doors, Friday”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 1 May 1915, p. 9.

“Kazoo Brewing Property Sold”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 3 May 1917, p. 1.

“Brewing Company Is Now Dissolved”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 5 September 1917, p.7, col.4.

“Creamery Buys Brewery Plant”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 25 February 1919, p. 5.

“Kazoo in Olden Days Had Five Breweries…”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 30 May 1920, p. 7.

“One-time Brewery Tumbles”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 4 November 1968, p. 21:3.

“The Impact of Organized Crime in the City of Chicago”

Taylor Hales and Nikolas Kazmers, English 217 Student Projects
University of Michigan, 2004.

“Michigan’s beer boom: For craft brewers, the glass isn’t just half-full, it’s overflowing”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 20 February 2011, p. 1.

“Former Kalamazoo Creamery Co. building being razed with plans for property redevelopment in the future”

Kalamazoo Gazette. 15 November 2011.


Ancestry Library (In Library Only)

New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957
United States Federal Census (1850, 1860, 1870, 1880)
U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918
Michigan Census, 1827-70

Census Records

Nicholas Bauman household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 108, dwelling 788, family 788.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Nicholas Bauman household, 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 47, dwelling 498, family 498.
57 Burdick Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Joseph Burchnal household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 10, dwelling 148, family 139.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Joseph Burchnal household, 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 19, dwelling 67, family 69.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Foegle household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 86, dwelling 634, family 634.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Foegle household, 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 35, dwelling 10, family 10.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Benjamin Hall household, 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 16, dwelling 122, family 124.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

John Hall, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 132, dwelling 963, family 965
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Jacob Harlan household, 1840 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Page 5, Line 25
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Jacob Harlan household, 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 48, dwelling 362, family 375.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Jacob Harlan household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 107, dwelling 783, family 783
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Jacob Harlan household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 107, dwelling 783, family 783
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Benjamin Hall household, 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 16, dwelling 122, family 124.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Peter Harboldsheemer household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 28, dwelling 207, family 205.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Judge household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 111, dwelling 807, family 807.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Judge household, 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 227, dwelling 1387, family 1349.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Judge household, 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 39, dwelling 492, family 492.
Residence: 132 North Burdick Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

C.W. Minard household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: Census Place: Detroit Ward 9, Wayne, Michigan, page 36, dwelling 243, family 260.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Alfred Neumaier, 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 7, dwelling 60, family 60.
Address: 6 Lake Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Alfred Neumaier household, 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 13, dwelling 170, family 178.
Address: 825 Lake Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Alfred Neumaier household, 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 2, dwelling 12, family 12.
Address: 825 Lake Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Alfred Neumaier household, 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 22, dwelling 252, family 279.
Address: 803 Lake Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Neumaier household, 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 7, dwelling 60, family 60.
Address: 6 Lake Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Jason Russell, 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 16, dwelling 122, family 124.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

J Sessaman household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 23, dwelling 169, family 169.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Joseph Slater household, 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: BradyKalamazooMichigan, page 11, dwelling 87, family 87
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Joseph Slater household, 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: BradyKalamazooMichigan, page 2, dwelling 13, family 14
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

John Stern, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 86, dwelling 634, family 634.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Sebastian Syke household, 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 72, dwelling 535, family 535.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Sebastian Sykes household, 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: KalamazooKalamazooMichigan, page 38, dwelling 395, family 395
Address: 1 Lovell Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Leo Wagenman household, 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
Census Place: Toledo Ward 1, Lucas, Ohio, page 27, dwelling 296, family 306.
Address: 1825 Ontario Street
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Peter Harpoldshimer, 1860 U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, [database on-line].
Census Place: Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Page: 1; Line: 11; Schedule Type: Industry
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Syke & Fogle, 1860 U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, [database on-line].
Census Place: Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Page: 1; Line: 16; Schedule Type: Industry
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Gustavus Sipaman (Sesemann), 1860 U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, [database on-line].
Census Place: Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Page: 1; Line: 8; Schedule Type: Industry
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

James S. Holmes, 1860 U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, [database on-line].
Census Place: Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Page: 1; Line: 20; Schedule Type: Industry
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Nonpopulation Census for Michigan – Industry (1850, 1860)

Other Records

Nicholas Baumann, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: Apr 1895, Burial: Mountain Home Cemetery, Lot 6 Sec 22 Grave 4
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Lorenz Brentano, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line].
Year: 1849; Arrival: New York, New York; Ship Name: Splendid
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Joseph Burchnell, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: 20 Apr 1873, Burial: Riverside Cemetery, Section E
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Dorothy Nichols Burchnell, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: Apr 1892, Burial: Riverside Cemetery, Section E
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Benjamin Hall, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: 12 Feb 1859, Burial: Mountain Home Cemetery, Lot I Sec 416 Grave 6
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

John Hall, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: 14 Mar 1866, Burial: Mountain Home Cemetery, Lot I Sec 416 Grave 12
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Judd, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957  [database on-line].
Year: 1850; Arrival: New York, New York; Ship Name: Ocean Queen
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Judge, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: 7 Apr 1893, Burial: Riverside Cemetery
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Leo Kinast, New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943 [database on-line].
Declaration Date: 22 Oct 1868
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Leo Kinast, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line].
Year: 1866; Arrival: New York, New York; Ship Name: Floride
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Alfred Neumaier, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: 26 January 1937, Burial: Riverside Cemetery
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Neumaier, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: 10 Aug 1907, Burial: Riverside Catholic Cemetery
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

George Neumaier, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line].
Year: 1866; Arrival: New York, New York; Ship Name: Floride
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Gustav Sesemann, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line].
Year: 1853; Arrival: New York, New York; Ship Name: Hermann Chevdorg
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Gustav Sesemann, New York, Emigrant Savings Bank Records, 1850-1883 [database on-line].
Transaction Date: 4 Oct 1862; Emigrant Savings Bank Transfer, Signature, and Test Book.
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)

Joseph Slater, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line].
Death: 18 Sep 1885, Burial: McKain Cemetery, Pavilion, Kalamazoo County, Michigan
Online database, Ancestry Library (in library only)


Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Co., Mich. 1853.
Surveyed & Published by Henry Hart, New York, 1853. Lith. of Sarony & Major, New York.
Local History Room

Map of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Co., Mich. 1858.
C.F. Miller, New York : McKenzie & Simmons. 1858.
Local History Room

Map of Kalamazoo Co., Michigan. 1861.
Published by Geil & Harley, et al, Philadelphia. 1861.
Library of Congress.

Kalamazoo, Michigan, Bird’s-eye-view lithograph, 1867-1868
Charles Shober & Co. – Chicago Lithographing Co., Chicago, Illinois.

Atlas of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1873. From Recent and Actual Surveys and Records.
Published by F. W. Beers & Co., New York. 1873.
Local History Room

Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1874
Chicago Lithographing Co. – Stoner, J. J. – Charles Shober & Co. – Ruger, A. 1874
Courtesy, Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Bird’s eye view of Kalamazoo, Mich. 1883.
Wellge, H. – Beck & Pauli – Wellge, H. (Henry) – Stoner, J. J. – Poole, A. F. 1883
Local History Room

Bird’s eye view of Kalamazoo, Mich. 1883.
Wellge, H. – Beck & Pauli – Wellge, H. (Henry) – Stoner, J. J. – Poole, A. F. 1883
Local History Room

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. 1887.
Sanborn Map Company, Jul 1887
Library of Congress

Illustrated Atlas, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. 1890.
Published by WM. C. Sauer, C. E., 1890
Local History Room

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. 1891.
Sanborn Map Company, Oct 1891
Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. 1896.
Sanborn Map Company, Sep 1896
Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. 1902.
Sanborn Map Company, Apr 1902
Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. 1908.
Sanborn Map Company, 1908
Library of Congress

Illustrated Atlas, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. 1910.
Published by Geo. A. Ogle & Co., 1910
Local History Room



The Michigan Beer Film (2014) Explores the artistic and economic explosion of the Michigan craft beer industry in 2013. (119 minutes)


Kalamazoo Beer Week
An annual weeklong series of events that support the craft beer experience through special tastings, dinners, and interactive events.

West Michigan Beer Tours 
Celebrating and promoting the world class breweries through unique public and private tours.

Commercial Breweries currently operating in Kalamazoo:

Bell’s Brewery  A regional craft brewery that employs over 100 people over an 18 state area.
Bilbo’s Pizza and Brewing, Established in 1976, brewery now located at 3307 Stadium Drive.
Brite Eyes Brewing Co. Established in 2013 at 1156 South Burdick.
Final Gravity Brewing Co. Kalamazoo location opened in 2017 at 246 North Burdick.
Gonzo’s Biggdogg Brewing  Opened in the fall of 2013 at 140 South Westnedge Avenue.
Lattitude 42 Brewing Company  Established in 2013 at 7842 Portage Road.
Olde Peninsula Brewpub & Restaurant  Kalamazoo’s first brewpub, opened to the public in 1996.
One Well Brewing Established in 2014 at 4213 Portage St.
Presidential Brewing Co. Established in 2018 at 8302 Portage Road.
Saugatuck Brewing Co. Kalamazoo location opened in 2019 at 140 South Westnedge.
Texas Corners Brewing Co. Opened in 2015 at 6970 Texas Drive.
Tibbs Brewing Company  Established in 2013 at the corner of Lovell and South Burdick streets.
Wax Wings Brewing Co. Established in 2018 at 3480 Gull Road.

Local History Room Files

History Room Michigan File: Michigan – Breweries.

History Room Subject File: Breweries.

History Room Subject File: Bell’s Brewery Inc.

History Room Subject File: Buildings – Kalamazoo – Lake, 706.

History Room Subject File: Kraftbrau Brewery.


“Your essay on the Kalamzaoo breweries was very informative. My ancestors left Rochester, NY in 1856 or so and settled in Kalamazoo. My 3x Great Grandfather was Benedict Labigan(G), he was related through marriage to George Foegele, Matthew Grabenstetter, George Nagel. All of whom settled with him and his family in Kalamazoo. I believe they were all connected through Sebastian Sykes (Zeug) and his brewery. The various family members were cooper and involved in the lumber business. They also knew each other in Rochester. I have traced them together through church records on (the Rochester Churches Indexing Project). My Grand Father (Labigan) was married to a Nagel, whose mother was a Foegele (Voegel). I always wondered what drew them to Kalamazoo. Again, thank you very much for the research you have made available online.”
—William Labigan, California, May 2016

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