Grand River Brewing Company (1865-1896)

Grand River 1885

Located on the south side of East Madison and the Grand River. The map is from 1885. Adam Forester’s home is in the lower left of the image. Notice how the Bottling Works are just north of the plant.

Many histories consider the Grand River Brewery as the first real brewery to be established in Lansing; its founding date of 1865 was in fact preceded by John G. Schoettle and the City Brewery. In 1865 Frederick Yeiter built a production facility at the foot of East Madison Street on the Grand River. The business was known as the Grand River Brewery and operated until 1880 when the company was sold to Adam Foerster. (Durant, 140)

“New Brewery. — Mr. Yeiter has erected a new brewery in the fourth ward of this city the past season, which is now ready for occupancy. The building is of brick and is a large and commodious structure” (LR 10/4/1865).

There seemed to be three partners in the Grand River Brewery, Frederick Yeiter, John Hertel and Adelbert R Thayer. (Michigan Gazetteer, 1866-1867) Hertel continued working in the brewery until his retirement in 1879 when his share was sold to Adam Forester. (LJ 11/6/1879)

John Andrew Hertel was born in Rehau, Bavaria on June 20, 1828 he immigrated to the East Saginaw, Michigan in 1855 where he engaged in business, later in 1860 he moved to Lansing and later partnered in the Grand River Brewery with Yeiter and Thayer. In 1868 (1869) John married Miss Elizabeth A. Daarbacher, the couple had three children; John M., Frederick H., and George J. Hertel. After leaving the brewery John worked a variety of jobs until he passed away on February 11, 1907. (LJ 2/11/1907 and SR 2/11/1907)

Grand River Brewing 1892

Grand River Brewery in 1892. In the 1885 and 1892 image you can see the Bottling Works located north of the brewery on Madison.

Yeiter, F & Company, Proprietors of Grand River Brewery, manufactured stock ales, cream ales and lager beer all from an artesian well of pure spring water at a depth of 135 feet located on property. (County Atlas of Ingham, Michigan, 1874 and LRTW 1/13/1880)

On May 5, 1880 Frederick Yeiter sold his interest in the Grand River Brewery to Adam Foerster owner of the Peninsular Brewery. (LR 5/8/1880) Frederick was born in Germany on July 1, 1811 at the time when Napoleon ruled Europe. He immigrated to Richland, Ohio and later moved to Lansing in 1847. Based upon Frederick’s gravesite at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Lansing, Frederick was married to Elizabeth who passed away on January 24, 1860, proceeded by their eleven-year-old daughter Emily who died on July 12, 1859. After retiring from the brewery Frederick purchased a farm in Delta Township, Michigan. Frederick died on October 23, 1889 survived by four children, Elizabeth, Mary, Katherine and Frederick. (SR 10/24/1889)

One last note before we move on to the Grand River Brewery under Adam Foerster. Just what happened to Adelbert Russell Thayer? Born in Chenango County, New York on June 22, 1847 he moved to Lansing with his family to Lansing in 1854. His father Dr. Russell Thayer worked as a druggist for many years in Lansing. Dr. Russell Thayer died on August 21, 1865 at which point Adelbert assumed management of the business. In 1889 Adelbert left Lansing for Saginaw where he worked as a travel agent. Adelbert Russell Thayer passed away in Saginaw on July 22, 1901. (LJ 7/23/1901)


Grand River Brweing 1898

Grand River Brewery in 1898. The Brewery is noted as closed and so is the bottling works that was located just north of the Grand River Brewery.

After the closing of the Peninsular Brewery in 1882 Foerster devoted himself to the Grand River Brewery. Previous to the arrival of Foerster the Grand River Brewery manufactured only ales. Foerster refitted the brewery to produce lager beer and dropped the line of ales that the brewery previously manufactured. The Grand River Brewery produced 6,000 barrels annually and it was consumed in Lansing, Mason, Dimondale, Grand Ledge, DeWitt, Chesaning and surrounding communities. During the winter months the beer was brewed using water from an artesian well, while in the summer only filtered water is used [From the Grand River?]. The brewery employed six men full time. (SR 4/17/1889)

In March of 1895 there was a plan floated in Lansing to create a stock company in Lansing to purchase the Grand River Brewery, modernize the plant and increase its production capacity to 30,000 barrels annually. It seems the Grand River Brewery had reached its maximum level of production and needed a complete remodeling. If it was to survive, it was essential for the brewery to expand otherwise it would shut down. (SR 3/28/1895) Ultimately the plan failed.

“Adam Foerster’s brewery has closed down and during an interview with the State Republican reporter this morning Mr. Foerster said: ‘I have stopped brewing because there is no money in it.’ When asked if he intended to open up again he said ‘Times will tell’” (SR 7/13/1896).



Grand River Brewery advertisement from the Lansing City Directory 1888

Within five years the Grand River Brewery physically ceased to exist. The brewery was purchased by the Hugh Lyons Company and torn down for its bricks, which were used in the building of the new Hugh Lyons factory that was built on the site of the old Potter Manufacturing Plant. It is unknown how many of the original brewery’s bricks remain at the site of the old Hugh Lyons plant at 701 E. South Street. (SR 10/3/1901 and LJ 10/3/1901)

Michigan state gazetteer and business directory for ...

Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1887

Adam Foerster was born in Heidelberg, Waterloo County Canada on February 22, 1848. At the age of eighteen Foerster was apprenticed to a brewery in Preston, Ontario. He next traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1866 where he worked as a brewer for four years. In 1870 he moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan where he partnered with his brother Louis. Together the brothers purchased a brewery, which they operated as the Grove Brewery until 1877. After leaving the brewery in Ypsilanti, Adam retuned to Cincinnati where he worked as a brewer until late 1877. Adam relocated to Lansing in 1878 where he purchased the Peninsular Brewery from August Galler. Later Foerster bought the Grand River Brewery from Frederick Yeiter. Foerster expanded the Grand River Brewery adding an icehouse, storage warehouse, and a new facility to brew lager beer. One building measured 25×75 feet the other 24×60 feet. By 1891 the capacity of the brewery had grown to 12,000 barrels a year. While in Cincinnati Adam married Miss Catherine Spaeth, the couple had five children, Charles, George, Ida, Albert and Lucia Foerster. The Grand River Brewery continued under Foerster’s guidance until 1896 when he decided that is was no longer profitable to produce and sell beer in the Lansing area. After the closing of the brewery Adam retired to his farm in Clinton County and for a time lived in Ypsilanti helping his brother with the management of the Louis Foerster Brewery that he helped to found in 1870. Adam Foerster passed away at his home at 129 E. Madison directly across from the site of the old Grand River Brewery on May 9, 1922 (LSJ 5/10/1922, Cincinnati City Directories, 1867-1877, Ann Arbor City Directories, 1870-1877 and Portrait and Biographical Album of Ingham, 445)

Next the Christ Wolf Brewery

© Lost Lansing 2015

Jacob Weber Brewery 1860

The Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1860 listed Jacob Weber as operating a brewery on Grand Avenue in Lansing, Michigan. The 1860 Federal Census listed Jacob Weber’s profession as a brewer. Just what happened to Jacob Weber’s Brewery is unknown. It may have been a beer garden and not a full fledge brewery. The 1870 Census listed Jacob as working in a hardware store as a clerk and married to Caroline. The 1873 Lansing City Directory reinforced this, and shows Jacob Weber listed as working for the Dart & Davis Hardware Company and living on Cherry Street. The 1878 City Directory listed a Mrs. Caroline Weber as living on Cherry but there is no mention of her husband. There was a Jacob Weber who served as brew master at the Blue Island Brewing Company prior to 1900 and the Baier & Ohlendorf Brewery in Freeport, Illinois, after 1901. But in a 1904 court case involving Jacob Weber it was stated that Weber had been a brew master for eight or nine years but it fails to link this Jacob Weber with the Jacob Weber of Lansing. So at best the brewer, Jacob Weber who operated a brewery in Lansing in 1860 is lost to history.


City Brewery (1863-1880)


City Brewing 1885

The 1885 Sanborn Map of the City Brewery Property

The City Brewery was located at the foot of Jefferson Street and the Grand River and was built by John G. Schoettle in 1863. (Durant, 140, Adams, 436) By far the City Brewery has one of the most obscure histories of any of the breweries that operated in Lansing; in fact the confusion is exacerbated by the names of the principals involved, Schoettle and Schlotter.

City Brweing 1892

The 1892 Sanborn Map of the City Brewery Property

John G. Schoettle opened the City Brewery in 1863; it was listed in the Michigan Gazetteer 1863-1864 as Schoettle, John G., brewery Jefferson, Lansing, Michigan. There is no record of the type of beer the brewery produced; in fact there was almost no marketing of the brewery. John was married to Mary Briesch; the couple had four children Mary, Carrie, Louis and Louise Schoettle; all of the children predeceased their mother. John was listed as a veteran; just what war he served in is unknown at this time. John passed away at his home on March 30, 1868 at the age of 31. The City Brewery may have been the first fully functioning brewery in the history of Lansing.



The only known advertisement for the City Brewery in Lansing

With the death of John management of the brewery was taken over by his (brother, partner?) George Schlotter who ran the brewery until 1880-1881. There is some confusion over George’s last name. He is listed as Schoettle in the 1860 Census and in Mudge’s Directory of Lansing City, 1878. In the 1870 Census George’s name is listed as Schlotter and in the majority of the later listings. Oddly John’s wife in the 1870 Census is Mary Schoettle with her four children by John and one son George by her current husband, George Schlotter. The same occurred in the 1880 Census with the four children by her former husband and two by her current husband, named George and Anna. What is interesting is that according to the 1880 Census the home was in Mary’s name. In the marriage record for two of the children, Louisa Schoettle records her father as John Schoettle and her mother as Mary Briesch while Anna B. Schlotter’s marriage record listed her father as George Schlotter and mother as Mary Briesch. The City Brewery ceased operation in 1880. George either died or left Mary in 1881-1883 because in the Lansing City Directory 1883-1884, Mary is listed as a widow. A review of the records at Mt Hope Cemetery in Lansing shows that Mary is buried with John and John’s children and other members of the Briesch family. No record of has been located regarding George Schlotter’s death. It is interesting that Mary lived on the property of the brewery until around 1895 and that even on the 1892 Sanborn Map the property is still listed as John Schoettle estate (see images).

Next the Grand River Brewery

© Lost Lansing 2015

Old_Lansing 1890

Lansing in 1890

Recently a friend asked a question concerning the location of a brewery on South Washington Avenue. To be honest, I was unaware that a brewery ever existed on South Washington so I decided ask Jim in regards to what breweries existed in Lansing prior to the Lansing Brewing Company, founded in 1898, and where were these early breweries located. Little did I know that he had worked on this question for a book on that he and Craig were considering writing on the History of Michigan Breweries prior to Prohibition. Here is an excerpt from their research.

Just a short note before we begin. There is a lack of bottles and ephemera that survived from these local breweries. Why? Well prior to 1890 breweries handled their beer differently than they do today. The simple explanation is that brewer’s kegged beer and bottlers bottled the beer. A brewery was prohibited from bottling their beer onsite. Brewers were taxed on the number of barrels of beer produced because it was easier for the Internal Revenue Service, and bottling onsite was verboten. Breweries paid the tax, then sent the barrels to an independent bottler or set up a separate bottling plant off site from the brewery. All this changed when the Pabst Brewery lobbied its congressman to modify the law.  The Ferment Liquors Act of June 18, 1890, revised the law. Simply, in Lansing when beer was bottled it was done independently of the brewery. So in the years 1863 to 1890 a bottle that survived has the name of the bottler not the brewery. Additionally the top seal for a bottle, a crown cork or crown cap was not developed until 1892 when William Painter patented his idea. This is what we know today as the twenty-one teeth (ridges) of a beer cap. What this means is there is little that survived from these breweries in the way of ephemera. If you do find anything, consider purchasing it but keep in mind it may be a reproduction.


Weinmann Brewery (1856-1873)

Weinmann Brewery

North East Corner Pine and Maple Streets 1873

The first brewery established in Lansing was the Weinmann (Weimanns) Beer Garden (Biergarten), which operated between 1856-1878 and was located on the North East corner of Pine and Maple Streets. Frederick and Anna Weinmann owned the Beer Garden.[1] There has been quite a bit of misinformation concerning the operation of the Weinmann Beer Garden, the first being in the true sense in was not a full-scale brewery. It was more like todays brew pubs, think Midtown Brewing Company rather than Bell’s Brewery. A beer garden produced only enough beer to meet the needs of its clientele and did not manufacture beer for distribution to off-site retailers. The second myth is that Abigail and Delia Rogers, proprietors of the Michigan Female College, forced the closure of the Beer Garden. David Votta successfully dismissed this legend in his paper Pioneer Brewing, where he verified that the Beer Garden was operating well after the death of Abigail Rogers and the demise of the Michigan Female College. [2] The precise date when Frederick sold the Beer Garden to Augustus Galler is unknown but is seems to have occurred between 1873 and 1874. The Beer Garden disappeared from all records in 1878 and no images or ephemera survived.

Frederick Weinmann passed away from dropsy at his farm six miles northwest of Lansing on November 12, 1878. (LRTW 11/15/1878) Frederick’s wife Anna was born in Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany on February 21, 1830. In 1855 Anna came to the United States and settled with her brother Jacob Seeger (Seager or Seiger) in Lansing. Oddly enough Anna may have been a distant cousin of the Rogers sisters, which may help explain the location of the Beer Garden. Shortly after her arrival in Lansing, Anna married Frederick Weinman. Anna passed away on March 3, 1914. (LSJ 3/6/1914)


Galler & Reber Brewery (1875)

The County Atlas of Ingham, Michigan 1874 not only contained the map shown here of the Weimanns Brewery on Pine and Maple Streets but also a description of the brewery under the management of Galler & Reber, which placed the date of the sale of the Brewery from Weinmann to August Galler and Jacob Reber in 1873. One year later in 1874 August Galler began construction of a brewery on South Washington Avenue that he sold in 1875 to Adam Foester. (Durant, 140) Just where the brewery was located on South Washington is a bit of a mystery. The Lansing City Directory from 1878 placed its location at Hazel and Elizabeth Streets, Elizabeth was the old name for Washington Avenue south of the Grand River Bridge. Durant placed the location of the brewery just north of Grand Trunk Railroad Line, while an article in the State Republican sited the brewery’s location on the Oviatt Property, the south half of Lots 1-4, Block 195 and in 1886 the site of the Lansing Street Railway Company Car Barns. Today the address is 1114 S. Washington Avenue.[3] Galler & Reber continued to operate the Beer Gardens in North Lansing until 1878, when the business ceased operations. There is a census record for August Galler in 1880 where he is listed as a laborer, but Jacob Reber has vanished from all records.

Next Jacob Weber Brewery and City Brewery

[1] State Republican 5/8/1886

[2] Listed in the 1856-1857 Michigan Gazetteer as Frederick Weiman, his death notice list Wineman other sources listed Weimanns.

[3] David Votta has graciously agreed to allow his paper Pioneer Brewery to be reproduced at the end of this paper.

© Lost Lansing 2015