Public Tour of the "New" Hamm's Brewery (September 27, 1894)

Public Tour of the "New" Hamm's Brewery (September 27, 1894)
The Hamm's Brewery, St. Paul MNHS

In the early afternoon of September 27, 1894, the citizens of Saint Paul were abuzz. The Hamm's Brewery, located above Swede Hollow, was holding a tour of its new brewing complex as part of the grand unveiling of its new facilities.

This moment was years in the making.

By the mid-1880s, the brewery, acquired by Theodore Hamm and opened as "Hamm's Excelsior Brewery" in 1865, was the second-largest in the city. It was on the precipice of great things. However, the facilities, though markedly more prominent than in the past—were woefully inadequate to support future growth.

In 1886 Hamm hired noted architect and brewery aficionado August Maritzen to build a complex—with a brew house as the centerpiece—that would allow the Saint Paul brewery to become a center of commerce in the Midwest.

By the fall of 1894, it was ready.

A public inspection of the facilities was scheduled to begin at 2:00 PM. However, excitement was so high the brewery opened its doors fifteen minutes earlier. Streetcars heading to Hamm's on the city's Rondo and Lafayette lines were so loaded with people that customers were turned away at every stop. The company tried adding cars to accommodate increased traffic to no avail. Eventually, trains to the brewery arrived at stops in ninety-second intervals.

The "new" brewery was seen as a financial boon to Saint Paul. Up to that point, companies brought a large portion of consumer goods into the area to market. The city had done little to create locally made products for customers—at least with any sense of scale. Hamm's grand step to bring a great Minnesota beer to Minnesotans was the beginning of a push to compel other companies to do the same.

When people arrived—local papers unofficially estimated over ten thousand came for the event—they saw the grand complex adorned with decorative bunting, and flags of all nations - including American flags at multiple prominent points. The brew house, a reddish-brown brick and sandstone Victorian Romanesque wonder, was a sight to behold.

Saint Paul Mayor R.A. Smith, Albert Scheffer, (future) chair of the State Capitol Board of Commissioners Channing Seabury, and former governor Alexander Ramsey—who addressed the crowd at the event's close, were among the prominent local dignitaries present. Inside, attendees were greeted with the sounds of a full Siebert orchestra.

William Hamm, Theodore Hamm's eldest son and president of the brewery, was stationed front-and-center in the brewhouse. He welcomed all as they arrived and handed them off to one of the many tour guides stationed nearby to be shown the facilities.

Onlookers took upwards of ninety minutes to take in the many sites while learning about the brewing process. The tour ended in the malt house, where ham sandwiches and a dozen bartenders provided food and drink to those in attendance. Local policemen stood by to keep excited tour-goers from overcrowding the 100' X 100' space.

A second orchestra played while the composed merriment of the crowd ensued.

According to estimates, the brewery provided fifty to one-hundred barrels of beer to the many people that took in the event. Everyone in attendance believed Minnesota finally offered a product to rival the beer in Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati.

Later in the day, former Governor Ramsey stepped forward to address the crowd that had gathered outside. He spoke of the city's early days, when Theodore Hamm made beer with a few kitchen pots and kettles and his son William was only a child. As he ended his stories about the careers of both men, Ramsey applauded how far the Hamm's Brewery, and the city of Saint Paul as a whole, had come.

The Hamm's Brewery, formerly an interspersed series of buildings, was now a large campus of facilities devoted to brewing. It boasted a larger brewhouse, bottling works, and refrigeration, among the many improvements. The brewery, which had produced thirty-five thousand barrels of beer a year only ten years prior, was now equipped to make thousands of barrels daily.

Growth, both in sales and facilities, continued for years. In the 1950s, the Hamm's Brewery rose to national prominence as the beer from the "Land of Sky Blue Waters."


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  • Millett, Larry. Lost Twin Cities. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1992.
  • Minnesota House of Representatives.
  • The Saint Paul Daily Globe. "Brewery Inspection." September 27, 1894, 2.
  • The Saint Paul Daily Globe. "Gambrinus was King." September 28, 1894, 8.
  • The Saint Paul Daily Globe. "Saint Paul Local Pick-Ups." September 26, 1894, 2.
  • Tieberg, Alex. "Theodore Hamm Brewing Company." MNopedia | Minnesota Encyclopedia. Last modified November 20, 2019.
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