At the outset of the twentieth century, the predominant trend in the brewing industry was toward the formation of stock companies, many of which were operated by local saloon owners. The Akron Brewing Company began as one of these, when in October 1902, approximately fifty saloonkeepers from the Akron area banded together to create a new brewery in the city. Many of them had argued for years that the prices they had to pay for beer from the existing breweries were too high, which made it more difficult to realize a profit. Therefore, with the creation of their own company, they would have a guaranteed supply of beer at a reasonable cost. It was also assumed that many of the 250 saloons in Summit County would also patronize this new establishment.
The new company was incorporated in April 1903, with a capital stock of $200,000. The initial president was John Koerber, the owner of the Bank Caf╚ in downtown Akron, and who had previously been involved with the formation of other brewery stock companies elsewhere before coming to Akron. Vice-president was Fred Horix, who had previously operated a small brewery on East Exchange Street, as well as what was now known as the Renner brewery on North Forge Street. A native Prussian, he had more experience with the brewing of beer than anyone else in the group, and was currently the operator of a small delicatessen and saloon on South High Street.
The company's treasurer was John Lamparter, a local real estate dealer and owner of the Palace Drug Store. Secretary and general manager was F. Wm. Fuchs, the proprietor of the Buckeye Supply House, who had previously been an Akron agent for the L. Schlather Brewery of Cleveland. Other initial directors included John Backe, Ed Kearn, Christian Koch, Jacob Gayer, Adolph Kull, George Good, William Evans, Frank Selzer, William Carter, Sam Woodring, Ed Curran, and brothers Jacob, John, and Louis Dettling, all of whom were local businessmen or saloon owners.
Construction of a new modern brewery building, costing $150,000, began in September. The site was at 841-869 South High St., at the corner of Voris St., although High St. was renamed South Broadway in later years. This new plant, made primarily of steel, was considered to be fireproof and it contained storage cellars that were made of enameled steel. Eliminating wood from the storage vats meant no need for frequent varnishing, and the beer would never taste like wood. The plant's five-story brewhouse initially had an annual capacity of 30,000 barrels, but it could be enlarged to 100,000 barrels if necessary.
The plant's brewmaster was John Hau, and his first brew took place on February 24, 1904. Three months later, White Rock Export Beer made its debut in the Akron market. In addition to sales in many local saloons, the beer was also bottled and marketed heavily for home consumption, the latter being an emerging trend in the industry at the time. A decade later, Wurzburger Beer would make its appearance as an alternative to White Rock.
In 1906, Koerber sold his share in the company and was subsequently replaced by John Backe, another saloon owner. Koerber then moved to Ionia, Michigan, where he purchased and rebuilt a small local brewery that had recently burned. The rebuilding was successful, but when the county voted itself "dry" by local option in 1909, the business collapsed, and Koerber was ruined. He died of kidney disease just two years later. His family remained in the business, however, later operating the Koerber Brewing Co. in Toledo and two breweries in Michigan after Prohibition ended.
By 1911, Louis Dettling had become president of the brewery. With his brothers Jacob and John, Dettling was the proprietor of The Rathskeller, a prominent restaurant and tavern in downtown Akron. When Louis died in 1917, he was replaced as president by his brother Jacob. Also joining the company during this period was new master brewer Ernst Hafenbrack. He was replaced shortly thereafter by Walter Gruner, who would eventually become the company's president in 1921 upon the death of Jacob Dettling.
In 1913 came the appearance of the Diamond Land and Improvement Co., a real estate development company owned by the brewery's stockholders. It began as a management office for the 82 saloons in Akron that were owned by the brewery, although other non-saloon properties were later acquired by the company.
Despite indications that Prohibition was inevitable, the company undertook a major ex-pansion in late 1916, building a large new four-story brewhouse and expanding the cellars into the original brewhouse. This radically changed the appearance of the plant, as it lost a great deal of the original ornate architecture. Soon after this, the company's capital stock was increased to $400,000.
When statewide Prohibition took effect in May 1919, the company reincorporated as the Akron Beverage and Cold Storage Co., with capital stock of $500,000. This would continue to produce White Rock Cereal Beverage, with less than 0.5% alcohol, as well as a new cereal beverage known as Tiro, which apparently met with disappointing sales, as it did not last for long. In addition, the original bottling house was converted into the new White Rock Dairy, producing a wide range of dairy products. Walter Gruner remained president of the company until 1923, when he was replaced by Fred W. Fuchs, son of F. Wm. Fuchs, one of the company's original officers. Fred had begun working for the brewery in 1914 upon graduating from nearby Buchtel College, later known as the University of Akron.
A long-standing legal feud between the brewery and the White Rock Mineral Water Co. of Wisconsin erupted during this period. The brewery had previously won the right to use the White Rock name for its beer despite a claim of copyright infringement. However, with soft drinks now being produced, the mineral water company (which also produced its own line of soft drinks) returned to court again with a similar claim. However, in 1924 a federal judge ruled again in favor of the brewery, allowing them the use of the name.
Ironically, that use only continued for another few months, as the dairy business merged with the local People's Dairy Co. in late 1924. With this, the production of cereal beverages came to an end for good, and the entire dairy operation moved to a new plant on Bellows Street. It continues to operate today as the Borden Dairy Co. Fuchs remained with the dairy company for many years before leaving to join the Kramer Clothing Co.
The plant remained vacant for two years until a portion was purchased by the local Sumner Dairy Co., which continues to operate there to this day. The large brewhouse and cellars were utilized for many years by a cold storage company. Some of the smaller buildings on the south side of the plant were razed in the 1950s for construction of Inter-state 76/77, which still runs a few feet south of the main buildings. The main plant, however, remains a well-known landmark on the south side of Akron.
After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the city of Akron had two well-established breweries that resumed full production. The original Akron Brewing Company had completely dissolved, however, leaving a void in the local brewing industry which was soon to be filled by a new company.
Emmanuel Wiener had been in the wholesale produce business for over thirty years, originally with the Wiener Bros. Co., and more recently with his own E. H. Wiener Corporation. This was a successful business, but as an enterprising capitalist, he was looking for other ways to make money in the early days of the Great Depression. With the end of Prohibition becoming more and more likely, Wiener decided to go into the field of brewing beer, and on March 29, 1933, a charter was filed for the formation of The Akron Brewing Company. The name "White Rock Brewing Company" was also briefly used. A new charter was filed in early 1934, however, renaming the firm as "Akron Brewing Company" (no "The"), to avoid confusion with the previous firm. Wiener was the company's initial president, with Walter S. Billman as vice-president, Harry Englehart as treasurer, and A. J. Hammerl as secretary. The company's initial capital was $350,000, with 250 shares of stock offered.
The Wiener Corp. had been operating out of a refitted factory building at 260 S. Forge Street. This had originally been built in the mid 1860s as part of J. F. Seiberling's Excelsior Mower & Reaper Works, which was one of early Akron's largest employers. Excelsior (later called Empire) had disappeared by 1905, and the large complex then housed several different businesses before Wiener occupied it in the late 1920s. The three-story building was ideal for the development of a brewery ˇ its solid construction would certainly be able to hold heavy vats and tanks. In addition, the plant was along the city's primary north-south railroad line, which facilitated the transport of products elsewhere. During late 1933 and into 1934, the empty factory space was transformed into the city's newest brewing establishment.
Charles A. Kraatz was chosen to be the company's brewmaster. He had over thirty years of experience in the field, much of it with the Lorain Brewery of the Cleveland & Sandusky combine before Prohibition. Kraatz would remain as the brewmaster throughout the new company's existence. By April 30, 1934, the first brew was ready for marketing as White Crown Lager. White Crown Ale would follow in October, with both brews showing good sales.
Despite early suc-cess in this new field, Wiener soon encountered difficulties with organized labor. In addition, his company had built a three-story warehouse adjoining the brewery building in 1929, but by 1935, he was unable to make payments to the builder, the Carmichael Construction Company. As part of a settlement, the latter company thus took over ownership of the brewery by the middle of 1935. The brewery's new officers were all from Carmichael: Cornelius Mulcahy as Chairman, John J. Mulcahy as President, and Harry Ulrich as Secretary. Harry Englehart remained as the vice-president and treasurer.
Throughout all of this turmoil, the brewery continued to function, doing a good business both with home sales and in local bars. The plant's annual capacity was 75,000 barrels, which made it the smallest brewery in the city, although it remained a profitable operation. The beer was packaged only in bottles, and while White Crown Beer and Ale remained the flagship brands, Old German Lager also had appeared by 1936.
By 1940, F. Charles Bristol had been hired as the new general manager, and he was assisted by Tom LaRose, who was originally the local sales manager, and his brothers Joe and Peter. Business continued through the onset of World War II, when grain rations took effect, limiting production somewhat. In 1943, the Leisy Brewing Co. of Cleveland purchased the company's grain rations to increase its own production, and this brought the Akron company's production to an immediate halt. Unable to sustain itself with any other products, the company existed only in name after that. The plant was dismantled, the equipment was sold, and in 1947, the building was also sold, at which point the company officially disappeared into history.
Englehart and Ulrich continued to work for the Carmichael Construction Co., while the LaRose Brothers built their family's beverage distributorship into what is now known as The House of LaRose, which remains one of the nation's largest distributors of Anheuser-Busch products. Joe LaRose contin-ues to run the company to this day.
The factory building and adjoining warehouse later held several other businesses before being purchased in the late 1970s by the University of Akron. The oldest factory section was razed in the early 1980s, while the warehouse was renovated into the Olsen Research Laboratory building, which is still standing. None of the area has even a slight resemblance to its industrial nature of the 1800s.
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