STEVENS POINT BREWERS OF THE PAST

STEVENS POINT BREWERS OF THE PAST

Editor’s Note: The following article was prepared by John Stastny - former Assistant Editor of the Pinery. John is currently living in New Lisbon and is employed as a City Clerk. Reprinted from The Pinery Feb. 1979

Point Special Beer, brewed by the Stevens Point Beverage Company, has received a great deal of notoriety in recent years. The Point brewery is built on the oldest brewery foundation in Stevens Point. It was not without local competition however.

In 1857, George Ruder and Frank Wahle were brewing beer on the site of the Point brewery. Their operation continued, expanded and changed hands through the years. In 1859, Ruder moved to Wausau where he set up a brewery. Wahle sold the brewery to Andrew and Jacob Lutz in 1867. The Lutz family ran the brewery’ until they sold it to Gustav Kuenzel in 1897. Kuenzel organized the Gustav Kuenzel Brewing Company in 1901. It was reorganized as the Stevens Point Brewing Company the following year. During prohibition, in 1924, Ludwig Korfmann purchased controlling interest and reorganized the company as the Stevens Point Beverage Company, which remains in operation today under Felix and Ken Shibilski.

Through its history, this brewery was not without local competition. Adam Kuhl, a cabinet maker, began brewing beer in 1866 in a brewery on the corner of Brown (now College Avenue) and Prentice Streets. Kuhl was an effective competitor. At the time of his death, in 1883, he was producing between six and seven hundred barrels of beer a year. The Kuhl family continued to run the brewery until they leased it to George Ellenberger in 1885. Ellenberger ran a brewing operation in the Kuhl brewery until 1888 when he built his own brewery on Michigan Avenue (between Jefferson and Center Streets). The Ellenberger brewery operated until 1892 when it became unprofitable. Ellenberger then went to work in the Lutz brewery where he remained until shortly before his death in 1906. The Michigan Avenue brewery was run for a short time by Neuberger and Ritter in 1895.

The Kuhl family again operated the brewery under the management of Kuhl‘s son-in-law, Stanley E. Kellar. Kellar operated the Kuhl brewery until 1892. In that year, fire destroyed the brewery. Christina Kuhl, matriarch of the Kuhl brewing and real estate empire, chose not to rebuild the brewery. The Kuhl family turned to mercantile pursuits.

Shortly after Ellenberger ceased brewing operations, Frank Michalski began refitting a brewery (possibly the Ellenberger brewery, although this is not clear from the sources). Michalski ‘s efforts ended in a fire in 1895 which destroyed the brick veneer brewery, two ice houses and a barn, as well as damaging a residence according to the Stevens Point Journal (29 June 1895, p. 5, col. 7). This brewery was known as the Central City Brewery, according to both the Journal and the Portage County Gazette (3 July 1895, P. 1, col. 3) reports of the fire. Michalski returned to his saloon business, on the square, until his death about a year later.

Shortly after the Central City Brewery fire, H. L. Barkowsky operated a bottling plant at 309 Main Street, just off the square (recently this was Pasternacki‘s Clothing Store). Little information is available about this operation except that Barkowsky had bottles with his name in raised glass on the side. These were bottles of clear glass, manufactured by Streator Glass and Bottle Company of Streator, Illinois. They were very rare according to bottle collector Wayne Kroll in his book, Badger Breweries, Past and Present.

The most recent local competition for the Point Brewery was the Polish Brewery, which began operations before 1908 (their plant suffered severe damages in the cyclone of November 25, 1908). The company was reorganized in 1914 as the National Brewing Company. It went out of business about 1920 when many breweries closed completely due to prohibition.

So it was that Stevens Point was an area with many brewers in the early years. Of them, the Stevens Point Beverage Company remains. The others passed into the memory of the days when teams of horses pulled brewery delivery wagons through the streets to local “watering holes” on the square and elsewhere.

This article was written using the Stevens Point Journal, Portage County Gazette, Wayne Kroll’s Badger Breweries Past and Present (1976), John Stastny’s "A History of the Stevens Point Company" (Masters Thesis - UWSP 1976), and Elizabeth A. Temple’s “The Castle: A genealogical Study of the Kuhl House” (1977). These sources are all available in either the Archives collections of the University and Portage County Historical Society materials or in the University Learning Resources Center.
 

(Return to top)  (Return to Stevens Point)