Brewing in Milwaukee isn't the usual brewery or brewing highlight pictorial. Magee truly understands that brewing can’t be separated from history and lays the ground work for Milwaukee’s rich brewing history by starting in 1673 with some of the earliest written records of the American wilderness. These early maps and illustrations help describe why explorers, hunters/trappers and eventually brewers found this region so inviting
Using historical illustrations and photographs, Brewing in Milwaukee begins its exploration of Milwaukee’s brewing history when three separate, unincorporated settlements merged to create Milwaukee on January 31, 1846. From this point, Magee uses immigration, transportation and census records to illustrate the explosive growth of Milwaukee and its brewing culture.
Within 20 years, Milwaukee was becoming a brewing powerhouse and by 1890 it was being referred to as “the beer capital of the world”. Public and private records as well as photographs help to explain how Milwaukee earned this reputation. These records and Magee’s thoughtful organization also illustrate how that reputation drew the rich and powerful from all over the world to Milwaukee in hopes of turning big profits, by opening a brewery.
The interconnectedness of the Milwaukee breweries was perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this book. Breweries in Milwaukee merged, were bought out and sometimes married together, in order to create bigger, more powerful companies. I won’t spoil that teaser, here; you’ll have to read the book to find out who married who, to create what!
As with all brewing history, Prohibition ruined or nearly ruined every legal, operating brewery before its repeal in 1933. A long lasting consequence of prohibition is that today, Milwaukee is better known for its world-dominating-multinational-conglomerate-independent-brewery-swallowing-macro-brewery than its rich brewing history. However bleak, the post-prohibition brewing history is, Magee closes the book with a hopeful chapter about Milwaukee’s craft beer renaissance that highlights the burgeoning, local craft beer scene. It’s quite apparent that some of Milwaukee residents are digging deep into the past and channeling their historical brewing roots in an effort to reestablish Milwaukee as “the beer capital of the world”.
Brewing in Milwaukee, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing