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27 Aug 2021, last revised 06 Nov 2021

The Calumet Branch of the Minneapolis Brewing Co. was listed in the Unknown Brewers and Bottlers section of the bottle book, Old Copper Country Bottles. It appears that the Calumet Branch was a distributor for the Minneapolis Brewing Co. ran by an agent as opposed to having been a local brewing operation. A brewery would have been labeled on the Sanborn maps as such and would have received lots of newspaper exposure.

The brewery in Minneapolis, MN organized in 1890 as a consolidation of the four largest breweries in Minneapolis: John Orth Brewing Co., founded in 1850; Heinrich Brewing Association, founded in 1866; Frederick D. Norenberg Brewery, founded in 1870; and Germainia Brewing Association, founded in 1884 (1,11). Operations were consolidated at the Orth Plant, the largest of the four (11), in a new brewery building constructed in 1892 (1,2). In 1893, the business was incorporated under the name, Minneapolis Brewing Co. (1,11). Its annual capacity in 1902 was 500,000 barrels (1). Its trademark was the Golden Grain Belt Beer (1). It survived Prohibition by producing near-beer, malt syrup, and soft drinks, and became one of the largest breweries in the U.S. by 1970 (1). Increased competition, however, lead to its closure in 1976 (1).

Given the success of the Minneapolis brewery, we can see how it could have expanded distribution to Calumet during Calumet's peak population years. Yet, with only two known bottles from the Calumet Branch, its presence in Calumet was evidently short-lived. We found it listed in the Houghton County Polk directory for 1901-02 (6), but not prior or later (9,10). The directory specified the location to be at the corner of Hecla & Torch Lake Railroad west of Osceola Rd (6). The Sanborn map of Sep 1900 shows a small building labeled "Beer Depot" at this location. Thus, the branch probably started in 1900 and closed by 1903. It would be interesting to learn if the Minneapolis Brewing Co. expanded to other locations as well, and if they had signature embossed bottles.

Sanborn map - Sep 1900
Sanborn map - Sep 1900

The Minneapolis Brewing Co. was not the only regional brewing company that had a local branch. Brewing companies from Milwaukee, WI had a strong presence in the Copper Country. Holland's Houghton directory for 1887-8 lists a Houghton branch of the Phillip Best Brewing Co. (7). The Sanborn maps of 1893 show depots for Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz, and Miller in Red Jacket; and Schlitz in Ontonagon. The Houghton County Polk directory for 1897-8 lists a Val Blatz Brewing Co in Hancock (8). In 1897, an announcement in The Copper Country Evening News stated that Blatz was closing its Red Jacket branch but its Hancock branch will remain in operation (5). In later years, the Houghton County Polk Directory for 1916-17 lists Blatz Brewing Co. in Hancock, Pabst Brewing Co. in Calumet, and Schlitz Brewing Co. in Calumet (3), and the Sanborn map of 1917 shows a Duluth Brewing Co. beer depot in Hancock.

It is evident that at least some branches were bottlers. However, it is unlikely that brewing actually occurred locally, since the Sanborn maps labelled them as depots. The Aug 1909 issue of The Western Brewer noted that Blatz completed installing machinery in its new bottling plant in Hancock (4). The 1908 Sanborn map of Red Jacket shows Schultz at a different location with a building labeled, "Bottling Works". The Houghton County Polk directory for 1897-98 listed Pabst Brewing Co as "brewers and bottlers" with John Knivel as manager (8). We suspect that the Calumet Branch was also a local bottler, given that the bottles have signature embossing for Calumet. Numerous bottles from Blatz, Schlitz, and Pabst have been found locally, but they lack embossing of a local town name. Thus, they cannot be distinguished from the bottles of other branches. The Calumet name on the Minneapolis Brewing Co. bottle is what solidifies it as a Copper Country bottle.

References

  1. anonymous. 2003. The Minneapolis Brewing Company. www.historyontheweb.org/minnbrew/mplsbrew.html
  2. Heller, H. 2016. Smashing the Stills: The Rise and Fall of Beer Brewing in Minneapolis. historyapolis.com/blog/2014/10/08/smashing-stills-rise-fall-beer-brewing-minneapolis/
  3. RL Polk & Co. 1916. Polk's Houghton Country Directory 1916-17. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  4. anonymous. Aug 15, 1909. New plants and improvements. The Western Brewer vol. 34 (8)
  5. anonymous. (1897, Jan 16). Business Card. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 4.
  6. R. L. Polk & Co. 1901. Houghton County Directory 1901-02. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  7. Holland, A. H. 1887. 1887-8 Hand-book and Guide to Houghton, Mich. Mining Journal Book and Job Print, Marquette, MI.
  8. R. L. Polk & Co. 1897. Houghton County Directory 1897-98. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  9. R. L. Polk & Co. 1899. Houghton County Directory 1899-1900. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  10. R. L. Polk & Co. 1903. Houghton County Directory 1903-04. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  11. anonymous. 1903. One Hundred Years of Brewing. H. S. Rich & Co., Publishers. Chicago and New York.

128
Calumet Branch Minneapolis Brewing Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - tooled
maker's mark: S B & G Co (base)
other marks: (none)
date: 1900
rarity: rare
  • same plate for 128 and 129

129
Calumet Branch Minneapolis Brewing Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: crown top - tooled
maker's mark: S B & G Co (base)
other marks: (none)
date: 1900
rarity: rare
  • same plate for 128 and 129
  • different top