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Renner & Weber Brewing Company, Mansfield, Ohio

From the new book, "Brewing Beer In The Buckeye State, Volume I" by Dr. Robert A. Musson.

Founded in 1857 by John Harvey, an Englishman born in 1820, and John Long (see the previous listing), the Eagle Brewery originally consisted of an old grain warehouse which had been remodeled and enlarged. The brewery was established initially for the production of both ale and whiskey, but lager beer was introduced several years later, and underground cellars were blasted out of the underlying sandstone. The distilling of whiskey was abandoned around the same time.

The brewery was located between Temple Court and East 4th St., on a hillside. This site was desirable for the formation of a brewery because of its proximity to the "Big Spring", which was an early source of water for locals. In fact, all three of Mansfield's eighteenth century breweries developed within a half mile of the spring and each other. As the brewery grew, however, the spring could no longer supply all the water needed, so two on-site wells were dug. The later address of 75 Temple Court corresponded with the plant office, which was across the alley from the main brewhouse.

In 1859, Harvey sold his interest in the brewery to Theodore Aberle, a native of Wurtemburg, Germany, born in 1823. Five years later, Long rented his interest in the brewery to Martin Frank, and then in 1866 he sold his interest to Andrew Reiman. Reiman was a native of the village of Ida, in the state of Hesse, Germany. Born in 1826, he emigrated to the United States as an adult and came to the city of Mansfield in 1857. A well-respected citizen, he was a city councilman for many years while operating the brewery. Reiman and Aberle continued to operate the plant until 1883, when Henry Weber purchased Aberle's interest.

Henry Weber was born in Schillingstadt, Baden, Germany, into a family of brewers. The Weber family brewery was fairly small, producing only ten barrels of beer per day, but its image would later grace the label of the American company's "Grossvater" Lager Beer label. Weber came to the U. S. in 1859, and worked in the Eberhardt Brewery in Pittsburgh for one year before coming to Mansfield, where he worked in the Eagle Brewery for two years. He then spent time working in breweries in Sandusky and Bucyrus, Ohio, before returning to Mansfield. He then worked at the Leuthner & Schmutzler brewery for two years before helping to found the Union Brewery across the street with Martin Frank in 1866. Seventeen years later, he returned to the Eagle Brewery, this time as a part owner.

One year later, in September 1884, Reiman sold his interest in the brewery to George J. Renner, another native of Germany, for $11,000 (for background information on him, see the George J. Renner Brewing Co. in Akron). Until this time, the brewery had slowly grown, to the extent that annual production was around 2,500 barrels. Both Renner and Weber had capital to infuse into the company, such that it was subsequently enlarged and modernized significantly. In fact, within a decade of the formation of this partnership, the brewery's annual production was nearly 8,000 barrels. In 1888, however, Renner placed his control in the hands of John Weaver, while he moved to Akron to purchase the Horix brewery there. Renner would continue to live in Akron for the rest of his life, while retaining a large business interest in the Mansfield brewery.

In 1895, a large four-story brewhouse was built at a cost of $25,000, with a large building behind that housing the cellars. The company was incorporated on July 1, 1902 as the Renner & Weber Brewing Company, with a capital stock of $40,000. At this time, George Renner was elected president, with Weber as vice-president, and John Weaver as secretary and treasurer. Weber died of a stroke in 1910, to be replaced by his son Julius.

Before the turn of the century, the company's primary brand of lager beer was Red Band. This had been mentioned as early as 1895, in an advertisement urging local residents to patronize their home industry. Also mentioned was that the brewery provided employment to Mansfield residents and gave local farmers a market for their barley, stating, "Keep your nickels from building up Milwaukee, Chicago, and Cincinnati." Even in the early days, the brewery's need for barley was so great that farm wagons loaded with it often lined up along Temple Court, waiting to unload the grain into storage bins.

Around 1912 came a new "anchor" brand of beer: Grossvater Lager. This brand was also produced at the Akron brewery and at the Youngstown brewery operated by Renner's son, George J., Jr. Also produced in Mansfield around this time was Eagle Export Beer. Both brands were produced by brewmaster John Scior, who had joined the company just prior to the turn of the century. He remained in charge of brewing operations for nearly twenty years before being replaced by Sherman Weaver, the son of John., who was now the company's secretary and treasurer.

Production continued until Prohibition, at which time production briefly was converted to the making of Red Band Cereal Beverage. This did not last for long, however, and the large brewhouse soon shut down all operations. The company continued to function in the production of ice and soft drinks, and was a distribution center for the Renner Products Co. of Akron, which was producing Grossvater and Zepp near beers throughout Prohibition.

After Repeal in 1933, the plant was completely refitted and modernized for beer production, while expanding significantly. The new stainless steel aging tanks doubled the plant's annual capacity to over 50,000 barrels. The first brews were made late in the year, and were on the market by March 10, 1934. Their return on that Saturday was advertised by a brass band hired by the brewery from the local German society. The band rode around town on one of the company's delivery trucks playing typical German songs such as "Ach du lieber Augustine".

Red Band Beer briefly returned after Prohibition, but was soon replaced by new brands of beer such as Old German Lager, Lord Mansfield Ale, Lucky Shoe Beer, and Weber's Beer. The Grossvater brand name, however, did not return to Mansfield after Pro-hibition's end, being produced only in Renner's Akron brewery. A loose association had remained between the Mansfield, Akron, and Youngstown Renner plants after Prohibition, with Renner family members serving as directors of all three companies, although each one ran more or less independently. The Mansfield company's president throughout the era was Julius Weber, with Adolph Weber as vice-president, and Julia Renner as secretary and treasurer. All three were Henry Weber's children. In addition, John Steinkirchner was the master brewer, and Al Brooker was chief engineer.

Grain rations during World War II curtailed the plant's growth, while allowing some of the national and regional brewers to gain ground in the local market. During this time, the plant's extensive underground storage caves were made available to the public as potential bomb shelters, with a capacity of nearly 1,000 people. After the war, brewing in Mansfield was gradually scaled back, with the majority of beer actually brewed in the Akron Renner plant, for distribution by the Mansfield company.

Ninety-four years of brewing came to an end in 1951, when all remaining operations ceased. Renner & Weber had become another victim of the regional competition in the industry, which had accelerated after the end of the war. The space was briefly occupied by a beer distributor before being vacated for good. The plant remained standing for many years, and plans were made for it to be renovated into shops and restaurants. It had been entered onto the National Registry of Historic Sites, and $200,000 of state and federal aid had been approved for the project by 1978, but these plans never came to pass. A fire damaged most of the plant in June of that year, and the remains were later razed. Except for the main office and storage building and a few of the scattered underground storage cellars, nothing remains of it today.

Copyright 2005 by Zepp Publications

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