Grand River Brewing Company (1865-1896)
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 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 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 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
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