810 Texas Ave., Suite B
El Paso, TX 79901

(915) 262-0687
Historic El Paso Brewing Co.

History of El Paso Brewing & Ice Co.


THE TROUBLED LIFE OF THE EL PASO BREWING ASSOCIATION
By Trish Long

Derived from “Tales from the Morgue” http://www.elpasotimes.com/
Sunday, April 12, 2015

I got a call last week from Nacho Vasquez, who has dug up, among other things, a 1905 sign for the El PasoBrewing Association. He was looking for information on the company and a photo of the sign.

I was unable to find a photo of the sign, but I did find an article by Bill Lockhart in Password, the El PasoCounty Historical Society’s publication. Here is part of that article, lightly edited. My own comments are in italics.

In 1899, the El Paso Herald predicted that “an up-to-date brewery will soon be a reality in El Paso.” The president of the proposed corporation was to be a local man, Alfred Courchesne, with H. Lindlohe of Montana as vice president and general manager. El Paso Brewing and Ice Co. was to have a capital stock of $150,000.

According to the paper, an existing local firm, the El Paso Ice and Refrigerator Company, had already “been absorbed by the new concern.” Projected capacity was 20,000 barrels of beer a year with an increase in ice production.

Courchesne, already president of the El Paso Ice and Refrigerator Co., planned to build the brewery adjoining the existing ice plant. He had commissioned an architect, Ernest Krause, and had an estimate of $12,000 for the construction of the new structure. The corporation had already spent the tidy sum of $30,000 on the machinery necessary to operate the new brewery.

LINING UP THE MONEY

Jan. 9, 1900, the principals claimed they were only awaiting the arrival of the contracted lumber to begin construction. …

With W.C. Miller, Courchesne was still interested in the project in November 1900, but there is no evidence that any actual construction took place.

The persistent Courchesne next looked to the East for financial backers, or perhaps they found him. In any event, Daniel Loew and Samuel Cole, “prominent men of Cleveland, with extensive brewery interest,” became attracted to El Paso‘s brewing possibilities in 1902 and discussed with Courchesne and Mayor Benjamin F. Hammett the problem of a reliable water supply in the desert environment. Courchesne suggested that a deep well, such as the 300-foot well recently dug in connection with his ice and refrigerator business, could furnish sufficient water that would be “as good water as the mesa water.”

According to the El Paso Herald, the demand for beer was “great enough to warrant the building of the brewery” …

June 22, 1903, the El Paso Brewing Association became incorporated. The initial stock issue was $300,000 with $200,000 already subscribed “by Eastern capitalists.” The final $100,000 in stock would be sold to local subscribers, including members of the board of directors. With George Pence, the local promoter, directors from El Paso included “Judge Peyton F. Edwards, E.B. Welch, the furniture man … John Klink, and John Sorenson.”

One of the “Easterners,” Wilhelm Griesser, came to El Paso to become president of the corporation.

Griesser set an opening date for July 20, 1904. The El Paso Herald crowed that “the citizen of El Paso who believes in patronizing home industries, and is also afflicted with that dry thirst, is counting the days until the new local brewery is in operation.”

OPENING AND PROBLEMS

There were more delays, and the brewery didn’t open until November 1904 at “North Stevens Street at the southeast corner of the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway.”

Despite Griesser’s bright predictions and the support of the Herald, the brewery continued to be plagued with problems. … In February 1905, creditors, including contractor Louis Hammer, brought suit against the Association. Rumors had it that “St. Louis capitalists” were interested in the business. … Stockholders and creditors elected T.B. Dockery and two others to serve as a committee to bargain with William Griesser, the major stockholder, to solve the problem. …

In the end, the stockholders decided to sell.

As usual, the El Paso Herald covered the affair and commented: Richard Caples, receiver for the brewery, started the sale of that institution at public auction on the courthouse steps at 2:20 this afternoon (March 14, 1905). … The highest bidder was J. Phillip Dieter with a final price of $66,000.

The brewery’s creditors were not satisfied. In April, the Milwaukee-Western Malt Company, with the El PasoBrick Company, petitioned the district court at El Paso to disallow the sale because the price was inadequate to cover their losses. The petitioners wanted a sale price of $160,000.

Although the court agreed to a resale, the lot of the creditors was not greatly improved. On April 8, Dieter again bought the brewery, for $76,000, an increase of $10,000. While less than the petitioners desired, the price must have satisfied the court because Dieter gained possession. …

By June 1905, Dieter had made good on his promises to incorporate. The new El Paso Brewing Association began with a capital stock of $225,000 with W.H. Long, Walter Earhart and J.P. Dieter as the original incorporators.

Dieter’s son, Henning, adds some interesting details in his annotations into his mother’s diary. It relates that on March 1, “Dieter bought the El Paso Brewery for $76,5000, paid $25,000 down, signed a note for $51,500. He sold the brewery in September for $225,000 cash and paid off the note on December 7.” The sale referred to by Henning is, of course, the incorporation. …

John Phillip Dieter died on Sept. 23, 1907, forcing a realignment of power within the corporation. R.W. Long became the new president with Earhart remaining as vice-president and William H. Long continuing as secretary-treasurer.

PROHIBITION AND THE END

On April 15, 1918, Texas Prohibition began to be enforced.

Within days of the declaration of Texas Prohibition, the El Paso Brewing Association announced that it would convert its production to a cereal beverage or near-beer called Bravo.

However, a new problem was plaguing the brewery. In order to conserve food for the war effort in World War I, the Federal Food Administration ruled that rice, wheat, or barley could no longer be used for malting, and barley was an essential ingredient for brewing. The brewery had only a six-month supply of grain and was unable to find an alternative source.

Another law restricted the purchase of sugar after Jan. 1, 1918, although the local price interpreting administrator, C.N. Bassett, agreed to file a waiver on the ground that too many local men would face unemployment.

Despite the shortages, the Association continued to sell Bravo until at least 1920, the least year it advertised the drink … and was no longer listed in the city directories after 1921.