The Full Story
About the Walter Brothers
With the help of the Oshkosh Beer Blog we've created a page to celebrate the Walter Brothers Brewing Company which was located on Doty Island. To help celebrate Menasha's history, Bare Bones Brewery (downtown Menasha) will release the historic Gold Label Beer for everyone to enjoy starting
March 5, 2024.
The Building of Island City Brewery
Peter Caspari started the Island City Brewery. It was at the corner of Nicolet Blvd and Ahnaip Street. Joseph A. Mayer and Jacob F. Mayer (born in Germany) purchased the brewery in 1868.
Island City Brewery 1898.
Sold the brewery for $20,000 to Habermehl and R. Mueller (Milwaukee). One of Habermehl's first decisions was to demolish the Island City Brewery. By the fall of 1880, he started building a new brewery on the site using the Schlitz Brewery in Milwaukee as his model. By investing $50,000 including new equipment, the new brewery could produce 30,000 barrels a years.
Island City Brewery's
Habermehl piled up debt exceeding $30,000 (more than $750,000 today). The financial stress was too much and the partners split by 1883. On August 7, 1884, the first of the series of lawsuits was filed that would lead to Habermehl losing the brewery.
Bird's eye view of brewery location.
The Island Brewery was sold at auction and purchased by Edward Fueger, the son of the partner in the J. Obermann Brewery of Milwaukee. He attempted to expand the sales to include Appleton, Chilton, Stevens Point and Waupaca, but the sales were not enough to support the expense of the large brewery. Fueger owned the brewery for less than two years before he went bankrupt in 1888.
Walter Brothers Purchase Island City Brewery
Frank Fries (Appleton), with his partners Christian and Martin Walter, purchased the brewery for $9,000. The brewery was worth four times that amount! After a year, the brothers bought out Frank Fries and renamed the brewery Walter Brothers Brewing Company.
Walter Bros. Brewing, 1896
Martin Walter purchased he Pueblo Brewery for $7,000. He became the brewery's president and brewmaster.
Christian Walter remained in Menasha as the president. Their brother, Jacob, took over Martin's position as vice-president in Menasha. The two breweries shared board members but operated as individual entities.
Investing in the Walter Bros. Brewery
In the first ten years they owned the brewery, the Walter Brothers remodeled the entire brewery. The brewery was designed by Wilhelm Griesser of Chicago, Illinois (LEFT PICTURE in 1896). By 1891, a new malt house was added. Then they continued expanding by adding their own bottling plant and a warehouse that could store 1,000 cases of beer.
Walter Brothers Brewing, 1913
The Beers of Walter Bros. Brewery
Pre-Prohibtion Beer Brands
Dry Cure (1920-1933)
Eagle's Special (1891-1920)
Export Beer (1891-1920)
Gold Label Beer (1908-1920)
Gold Label Bottle label
The Passing of Christian Walter
Walters stayed afloat by selling soda and "near beer". The brewery was fined for making real beer during prohibition. Christian Walter died in 1932 - five months before the repeal of Prohibition. Christian Walter's son, John, took over as president
Christian Walter, President
The Oshkosh Beer Blog states, “Walter Brothers was the first to stray outside the law. On Saturday, July 24, 1920, federal agents visited Menasha to sample Walter Brothers’ near beer. As they suspected, it was nearer to real beer than it ought to be. The brewery was hit with an $1,100 fine. After it was discovered that four hundred barrels of the beer had been brewed, penalties were increased to nearly $6,000. The brewery persisted, and in January 1923, Walter Brothers officials were charged with thirteen counts of selling beer and two counts of manufacturing beer. Another stiff fine was passed down. That was the end of Walter Brothers making beer during Prohibition—or at least getting
caught doing it.”
Gold Label ad (Pre-Prohibtion)
Walter Bros. Brewing Co. obtained their permit to reopen operations in May 1933. John Walter, the president of Walter Brothers Brewing, sold his controlling interest in the brewery to Charles Kulnick. Charles leased the grain elevators to Chilton Malting (today's Briess Malt Company) for the next 25 years. Kulnick died in 1938.
Walter Brothers Delivery Wagon Pre-Prohibition (1913)
Little Gem Pilsener
The brewery went through many ownership/manager changes for the next ten years after the passing of Kulnick. Walter H. Peirce, the son-in-law of Christian Walter (married Mollie Walter in 1900), moved up into the president role after serving as secretary, treasurer and vice-president.
The Little Gem Pilsener was introduced in 1941. Gem was among the first Wisconsin beer packaged in 7-ounce bottles (PICTURED) and became one of the fastest growing brands of beer in Wisconsin. Gem replaced Gold Label as the brewery's flagship beer. The Gem Pilsner 7-ounce package placed 8th in bottling and sales in Wisconsin in November 1950.
Walter Brothers Delivery Wagon Pre-Prohibition (1913)
Charles A. Hopefensperger bought his way into the brewery in 1948 and took over as president in 1951.
Brands such as Miller, Pabst and Schlitz demanded a premium price, about $3.40 a case. At the same time, beer from smaller Wisconsin breweries typically sold for $1 or so less. In 1951, the brewery had its highest production reached at 31,000 barrels. Production was up; profits were down.
Walter Brothers Brewing Company sign.
Beer Brands Post-Prohibition
Post-Prohibition Beer Brands
GEM Beer (1933-1950)
GEM Bock (1933-1950)
GEM Pilsener Beer (1933-1950)
Gold Label Beer (1933-1950) PICTURED
Holiday Special Beer (1933-1950)
K Pale Beer (1933-1950) PICTURED
Walter Bros Bock (1937-1950)
Walter Bros Pilsener Beer (1933-1950)
Walter's Bock (1933-1950)
Kurbstor Special Beer (1937)- produced specifically for Kurbstor Gardens, a beer garden and beer retailer in Menasha.
The End of an Empire
From Oshkosh Beer Blog, "Walter Brothers took an aggressive approach to pricing, often selling its beer much cheaper than others. At times, the brewery was literally giving it away, offering two free bottles of beer in exchange for a newspaper coupon. In Sheboygan, Gem Pilsener was advertised as the “Lowest Priced Beer in Town.” If that wasn’t good enough, they’d give you four bottles free if you bought a case. Walter Brothers attempted to shake the “cheap beer” image by reformulating its recipe in 1953 and undertaking an ad campaign promising that the new Gem beer had “revived that old-fashioned, real beer character.” It was too late for that. People weren’t buying Gem based on its flavor, they were buying it based on price. Walter Brothers had gone as low as it could on that front."
Sales plummeted. In June 1956, it was announced the head of sales for Walter Brothers Brewing left and was selling Chief Oshkosh Beer.
The brewery was purchased by St. Patrick's congregation and razed in 1960.
The Walters Brothers operated breweries in Wisconsin: Menasha, Eau Claire, Appleton, West Bent as well as in Colorado: Pueblo and Trinidad.
Christian Walter - President of Walter Brother's Brewing Company, Menasha, WI
Martin Walter - Vice president of Walter Brother's Brewing Company, Menasha Wisconsin. He then moved west and become owner/president of Pueblo Brewery in Colorado.
John Walter - Vice president of Walter Brother's Brewing Company, Menasha, WI. He then established the John Walter Brewing Company in Eau Claire.
George Walter - Settled in Appleton where he ran the Star Brewery (later renamed George Walter's Star Brewery). Known for Adler Brau.