Dan and Cindy Stolt are responsible for the latest reincarnation of the Bloomer Brewery.
Dan, owner/ brewmaster, began brewing beer as a hobby, which quickly escalated to his passion.
The Stolt’s started Bloomer Brewing Co. in April 2013, remodeling a portion of the historic brewery building.
In 1875 Fred Adler and John Wendland built the original brewery in Bloomer. It burned in 1883. A replacement brewery was built, and burned again in 1888. In 1889, the existing brewery building (the chimney in the current location marks the date) was built by Leihe and Koepp.
In 1898, Valentine Schoen and Charles Althaus formed a parntership and purchased the brewery. They hired Cornelius Schwartz as the Brewmaster. In 1873, Althaus learned the tinner’s trade and beginning making copper mugs. Althaus kept a keg tapped in the brewery at all times for the customers and employees – he would use his handmade mugs to serve the brew.
After 14 years of brewing, Althaus retired and sold the brewery to Jacob Breunig and his two sons, John and George. Brewmaster Schwartz worked with the Breunigs, teaching John the art of brewing beer. Upon the death of Jacob, John purchased the brewery.
On October 18, 1919, the Volstead Act was passed in the US, outlawing alcohol – this was Prohibition. No alcoholic beverages, over 1/2 of 1% alcohol, could be manufactured and sold. The Breunigs started making soda pop and near beer. In order to make near beer, regular beer was brewed and the alcohol was pulled off. The Breunigs attempted to make a living, peddling their soda and near beer in the area. Times were tough. John Breunig was approached by some men who wanted to rent the brewery, so he discontinued brewing and rented out the brewery.
Several months later, federal agents riding the train going through Bloomer noticed smoke coming from the brewery stacks. Casper Hassemer was in charge of the brewery when the renters were not there. He saw a number of cars stop in front of the brewery. He suspected something and fled out the back door and over the hill. The federal agents found an operating moonshine still, 12 feet long and 50 inches in diameter, with a capacity of 900 gallons. And, an additional still, with a capacity of 200 gallons. Both stills were boiling at full capacity. Officers seized both stills and additionally, 3000 gallons of mash, 500 pounds of yeast, 600 pounds of corn sugar, 125 gallons of finished 180 proof alcohol, and 250 one gallon tin cans. The renters were nowhere to be found. Investigators discovered purchase orders of sugar were billed to either Breunig or Hassemer. The evidence was strong enough to arrest both men despite their proclaimed innocence. Both Breunig and Hassemer hired lawyers, for their federal trial in Superior, WI. Hassemer was not found guilty. Breunig was sentenced to a year in jail in the House of Corrections in Milwaukee.
When John Breunig returned to Bloomer a year later, he started making a new brew. While serving his time, John had made friends with another inmate that had worked for Al Capone. This man described how to make a non-alcoholic beer called Wert beer. The Breunigs started brewing and distributing Wert beer around Bloomer. Wert was bottled, but mainly available in kegs. When the brewery kegged this beer they would run the beer over a filter to remove the yeast. Every tavern in Bloomer had his tapped beer. By 1932, Breunig was having a hard time keeping up with the demand for Wert beer because of the lengthy brewing process the brewery struggled to keep up.
In the fall of 1932, Roosevelt was elected President. In March of the following year, Roosevelt immediately worked with Congress to repeal the Volstead Act. Prohibition was over! With that, Breunig’s Wert Beer business was also over. Breunig went to Madison to obtain a license to make beer in his brewery. His application was denied because he was a convicted felon. Breunig sold the brewery.
The Bloomer Brewery was purchased from Breunig by a man named Lipschultz from St. Paul. The brewery was renovated in order to begin brewing beer again. The first beer was ready to drink on July 4th, 1934. This beer was called “Yankee Beer” and had a reputation for being very good. Within a year the brewery was in financial difficulties. Leinenkugel from Chippewa Falls and Walter from Eau Claire were already on tap in area taverns, making it difficult for Bloomer Brewery to distribute locally. Another St. Paul man, Al Tankenhoff took over the finances and the Bloomer Brewery in the summer of 1935. He sold the beer at a discount throughout the area. Tankenhoff was building a strong business, selling at a discount over other breweries.
When the war started in 1941, Al Tankenhoff made smart business decisions. One of the main ingredients in brewing is hops. Hops were imported from the Philippines and countries in the Caribbean, which during wartime could be a problem. Al purchased all the hops he could find at a low price, and had a surplus to support his brewing. At the same time, the war imposed a shortage on metal production for bottle caps. The brewery received a large quota of caps based on the volume of beer production prior to the war. Some breweries were forced to quit operating due to the lack of hops and bottle caps. Tankenhoff purchased breweries in order to capture more of their quota of bottle caps, since he had a hops surplus.
During the war, the Army began buying Bloomer Brewery beer and shipping to camps across the country. The government could afford to pay top dollar for beer and wanted as much as could be brewed. Tankenhoff was limited by the lack of manpower in the Brewery. At this time few men were exempt from the draft, and those that were, worked in the brewery. The publication of the “The Buckingham Bulletin’ was produced bi-monthly by Tankenhoff, to highlight letters he received from soldiers who received his Bloomer Brewery Buckingham Ale. Any area soldiers on leave were welcome to a free case of beer if they were home on leave.
Germany surrendered in May of 1945, and by August, Japan surrendered. The Army camps were no longer in need of the beer, so the contract was cancelled. The production at the Bloomer Brewery slowed. By spring of 1947, Al Tankenhoff brewed his last beer. The beer was bottled and shipped to England. The brewery equipment was dismantled and shipped to St. Paul. That was the end of the historic Bloomer Brewery.