Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Local Brewery Figures in National Lore

Naperville was first settled by New Englanders, but German immigrants were right behind them -- and they brought the beer.

Although Naperville was first settled by New Englanders of Irish and Scottish extraction, a wave of German immigration occurred soon after and they brought their beer-brewing tradition with them.

One of the early brewery operators was Peter Stenger. Peter and his wife Barbara arrived from Bavaria with most of their large family. The oldest daughter, Anna, remained in Bavaria with her husband, but the other nine children immigrated with their parents to America.

Peter Stenger purchased a small brewery already in operation in Naperville and with his sons, built it up into the largest brewery in Naperville. Peter also hired a young master brewer who had been apprenticed in Dortmund and worked as a brewer in several German cities.

This young man impressed Peter with both his brewing and business skills. The legend has it that Peter was so impressed, he encouraged the young man to become a permanent employee of the Stenger Brewery by marrying one of the boss's daughters.

Apparently, the young brewmaster was not interested in becoming Peter's son-in-law, because in 1872 he left Naperville and traveled west to Colorado where he purchased a share in a Denver bottling company. Soon, he acquired the entire company, and by 1873 he had also bought the Golden City Tannery, turning it into the Golden Brewery.

That brewery in Golden, Colorado still brews beer bearing the young brewmaster's name, which was Adolph Coors. Some Illinois folks remember when one couldn't buy Coors beer on this side of the Mississippi, but few remember that he started his American career in the Chicago area.

Adolph Coors died in 1929 at the age of 82 after falling from a Virgina hotel window. Some accounts say it was an accident, but others say it was suicide. The 1929 date is suggestive, but the Crash was still some months off. Perhaps the old brewmaster, forced to manufacture malted milk because of Prohibition, had simply had enough.

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