Rivne Brewery, Ukraine


Below we outline the history of the Rivne brewery, which still exists in Rivne today. The brewery was majority-owned by a Jewish family from about 1900 until the Soviets took control of the city in 1939. We outline first some background to Jewish life in Rivne.

Rivne aka Rovno, etc.

Rivne is in north-western Ukraine, in Volyn Oblast. It was known earlier as Rovno, or Rowne. There were yet other variants, depending on language and period.

From 1795 until 1918 Rivne was in the Russian Empire. Between the two world wars it was mostly in Polish hands, part of the Second Republic.

After WW II, it was in the Soviet bloc, dislodged when Ukraine acquired full independence in July 1991.

Before WW I, like many towns in the Pale of Settlement or Galicia, Rivne had a majority Jewish population. Even at the start of WW II the Jewish presence comprised half the population, some 28,000 people. Almost none survived the Nazi scythe.

Rivne grew quickly in the late 19th century due to its key rail access and dynamism of Jewish, Czech and other entrepreneurs. It was, concurrently, an active centre of Jewish religious life and education.

As noted in the Encyclopedia site:

Under czarist Russia, Rovno became a border town not far from the frontier of Austria (at Brody), and developed into a commercial center dealing in military supplies. With the completion of the Kiev-Warsaw railroad and later with the Vilna-Rovno line (1885) it also became an important railroad center for all eastern Volhynia. Since it had become a supply center, various local light industries were also set up in the area under Polish rule.

A somewhat unlovely but busy, modernizing city, it was dealt a blow by WW I and the struggle that followed with the Soviet faction. It regained stability with Poland’s stewardship, until WW II.

The Jewish community was certainly affected by slump and anti-Semitic agitation in the 1930s, but life and business still continued for most. The brewery seemed mostly unaffected by the rising nationalist current, at least from our survey.

End of Jewish Life

A landmark study, Holocaust in Rovno (2014) by Jeffery Burds of Northeastern University documented the slaughter of virtually the entire Jewish community in 1941 and 1942.

German paramilitary SD and order police, with local collaborationist elements, did the killing over three days at Sosenki forest in November 1941.

The remainder of the community, held in the Jewish ghetto, was shot at another location in July 1942. Burds’ book is a difficult read, such is the savagery that was practised, but it is important to understand what happened.

A tiny handful of Rovno Jews survived who had run away or been sheltered. A few Jews inhabited the city after the war, but for practical purposes its Jewish character was extinguished forever.

This page in the memorial site, KehilaLinks provides a compact history of Rivne’s Jewish arc.

The city today comprises a quarter of a million people, and is radically different from the prewar city, for reasons that will be obvious. Yet the brewery still stands, and still makes beer.

Brewery Origins

The brewery was started in 1847 or 1849, dates vary. In the late 1800s (at any rate) it was controlled by Czech incomers, part of a small influx who came to improve brewing, other industry, and hop culture.

In the early 1900s Rivne brewery was a joint stock company called Bergschloss. Certainly in 1905 (see below) it was controlled by Hersh Meyer Pisyuk, also spelled Pisuk. He was a noted figure in the Rivne business community, and director of a local bank, the Homeowners’ Bank.

The brewery was substantially rebuilt by Pisyuk in 1906-1908. The handsome buildings, Russian neo-classical to my mind, still house the facility. There are good images in the brewery website. Its history page explains:

On March 28, 1903, the Rivne City Council granted permission for the reconstruction of the Hersh Meyer Pisyuk brewery at the corner of Shosova and Novakovska streets (modern Soborna and Kopernika streets). On June 3, 1904, the board considered an additional project. Apart from G. Pisyuk’s house, which dates back to 1900, most of the plant’s buildings were built in 1906-1908. Unlike the buildings built during the Soviet era, these buildings are still in use today.

Bergschloss Brewery declared itself at the international exhibition (1907) in Ostend (Belgium), receiving the “Diploma of the Grand Prize”.
On September 30, 1909, the royal decree approved the charter of the Society of Breweries and Alcoholic Yeast Factories “Bergschlos”. The initiator of the joint-stock company was GM Pisyuk, the fixed capital of the company amounted to 300,000 rubles, and dividends in 1909-1011. were calculated at the rate of 3% on the capital.

G. Pisyuk and GM Pisyuk almost certainly were Hersh Meyer Pisyuk; transliteration or translation factors likely explain the variant spellings. It is clear that he substantially modernized and refinanced the brewery.

A photo of bank executives included in a memorial volume on Jewish life in Rivne, reproduced in the Jewish Generations site, probably shows Pisyuk but he is not identified specifically.

The interwar brewing line is shown by the Bergschloss labels displayed in the Polish Beer Labels site. It is noteworthy that an ale was produced, one of the very few Polish breweries to do so at the time.

One label is pre-WW I (the Cyrillic text), and states in English “pilsener beer”. This shows how Czech influence persisted within the brewery gates into the 1900s.

A 1932 tourist publication contains a short profile of the brewery, stating H. Pisyuk founded it in 1905 and still owns it, naming another as director. Further details: Bergschloss was the most important enterprise in Rovno; it made bright beer (Jasne) and Ale among other types named; it manufactured yeast; it distilled liquor; and made lemonade and sparkling water.

Evidently Hersh Pisyuk or his family controlled Bergschloss when it was seized by the Soviets after invading the city in 1939. Communist rule had a significant adverse impact on Rovno Jews, but nothing compared to what the Nazis would wreak a few years later.

Unless the Pisyuks made it to safe territory before the German invasion, it seems unlikely they survived the Nazi assault on Rovno.

The brewery continued operating during the war, under the Soviets then Germans. Post-1945, it was presumably a Soviet state enterprise until Ukraine became independent.

Modern era of Brewery

The brewery today is owned by Marian Goda and Nadezhda Mymra. Goda started out as a brewery engineer. A discussion in Beer Tech Drinks, which pictures him, gives further background.

For a league table of Ukraine breweries in which Rivne figures, this page in the Landlord website is informative. It shows Rivne shares a relatively small national market, with commensurate small revenue, but evidently is still profitable, serving a local or regional market.

Put differently it is a survival of the time of “chimney” breweries. Numerous breweries in this category are still spread through the country.

A Czech character continues to colour the brewing approach. From Landlord:

… For several years a Czech Przemysl Brosh has been a chief brewer of “Riven”. He had worked at the “Uman Brewery” for a couple of years as well as at Czech companies “Staropramen” and “Gambrinus”. According to … Marian Goda, his company produces non-pasteurized beer. Natural ingredients are used for beer production at the factory. For instance, Munich malt is bought from Germany to brew “Bergshloss Black”, honey and rice are used for the light beer production. In 2014 Rivne brewery produced more than 1 million dekaliters of the brew, and they are not going to reduce production volumes in the near future. In Rivne the company opened a couple of bars and a beer restaurant. Soon the company will have its own beer museum.

Part of the brewery as seen today:


(Image attribution: By Xsandriel. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License, source: Wikimedia Commons).

For the brewery’s current line, see its beer page. Rivne Premium, an all-malt lager, seems particularly appealing. The Bergschloss Dark has a sugar addition, which is almost a British touch, and has interest on that count alone.

The British influence may be indirect as some Czech Munich-style beer has used sugar, as I discussed earlier.

Ukrainian Hops

Volhynia became a recognized hop region although never of foremost rank, despite its cultivars originating in fine Czech varieties.

A 2018 study of Ukraine’s hop industry, Beer and Hop Branches of Ukraine: Conjuncture and Integration by T. Pryimachuk, A. Protsenko, R. Rudyk, and T. Shtanko, illuminates the background.

It notes growers number under 20 – down significantly from past years, but hops are still produced in a number of regions including Rivne. The Rivne website states the brewery has its own hop plantation; this likely represents the part of national production attributable to the Rivne region.

The study states the four leading brewing groups in the country – they hold over 90% of the market – mostly use imported hops. This is due to certain varieties they favour, bulk purchasing needs, and inadequate marketing by the Ukraine hop industry.

Obolon is one of the “big four” but locally owned. Together with the so-called private (or regional) breweries, it forms an important market for Ukrainian hops.

Indeed Rivne brewery (see website) states the “Rivne” line uses Ukrainian hops, while the revived Bergschloss labels use both domestic and imported.


Note: See in Comments the link I added showing the splendid pre-1914 buildings in full aspect.




Presenting May 13, 2021 at the Rural Women’s Studies Association Conference

“Margaret Simpson” Presentation

A reminder we are speaking this Thursday afternoon, May 13, at the 23rd session of the Rural Women’s Studies Association 14th Triennial Conference.

The virtual conference is being held May 11-15, 2021, hosted this year at University of Guelph in Ontario. The theme: “Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum”.

Our topic is Margaret Simpson: Pioneer Publican-Brewer in Upper Canada. We authored a paper to support the presentation, to appear when Conference papers are collected.

Registrations are still being accepted. For all details, see event page at University of Guelph, and the strong program that has been assembled.


Teitel Brewery of Prewar Poland


The Teitel Brewery, or Bracia Tejtel Browar in Polish, provides a compelling example of a pre-WW II, Jewish-owned East European brewery.

A number of reasons explains this. First, 1930s images of the brewery and its last principals, the brothers Zindel and Icok Teitel, survive. So do numerous Teitel labels from the period.

And not least, there is the absorbing book Tehran Children: a Holocaust Refugee Odyssey (2019) by Mikhal Dekel. It describes details of the brewery, which I discuss below, and the family’s fate after the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939.

For a good overall assessment of the book, see Peter Goodman’s review in Good Reads.

Teitel Family and Flight From Terror

Dekel’s father Hannan Teitel was the son of Zindel. “Dekel” is an English rendering of the Hebrew form of Teitel. Mikhal Dekel was raised in Israel but has long resided in New York. She teaches English and Comparative Literature at the City College and the CUNY Graduate Center. She also directs the Rifkind Center for the Humanities and Arts of CCNY.

The Teitels were long-established in Ostrow-Mazowiecka (Ostrow-M.) in north-east Poland, a prominent family with interests in numerous businesses.

The book describes the extraordinary journey that began in September 1939 when Hannen (12), sister Regina (8), their mother Ruchele, Zindel, and a cousin, Emma, fled Ostrow-M. in the wake of the German invasion.

They were seeking refuge from the Nazi terror they knew awaited the Jews in Ostrow-M. Due to various factors, most Jews in the city fled for Soviet territory, many arriving in Bialystock.

But some 500-600 remained in Ostrow-M. On November 11, 1939 all these Jews – men, women and children – were rounded up by the SS and German uniformed police on trumped-up charges of arson, marched out of town and shot in the forest.

Preceding this had been random killings of Jews and terror in the city.

It was one of the first of the organized Nazi massacres of Jewry in wartime Europe. The Nazis exacted, too, a significant toll among the general Polish population, by simple murder, forced labour, and impoverishment by seizing food and crops.

Millions of European refugees, Jews and others, entered the Soviet Union in this period, before Germany invaded Russia. After performing forced labour in freezing north Russia, the Teitels and Emma were allowed to leave Russia when Germany tore up the Nazi-Soviet Pact and invaded the country.

The family made a harrowing journey far south, spending time hungry in desolate way-stations in Soviet Asia, with a respite, no less difficult, in Tehran (whence the book’s title). So hard was the food situation the parents had to place the three children in an orphanage.

In 1943 Hannan, Regina, and Emma, with the help of aid associations, sailed a wending route to Mandatory Palestine, stopping at ports in India, to arrive finally to relative safety.

Ruchele Teitel could not re-join them for many years, and sadly Zindel died in 1949, from TB. The story is heartrending and very well told by Dr. Dekel. It takes in the similar journey of other Jewish children and non-Jewish Polish evacuees fleeing chaos and risk of death in their home-place.

Many died on these treks, or damaged their health from lack of food, exposure, or illness.

Icok stayed with his family in Bialystock, none of whom survived the Nazi takeover of that city. However, some years earlier, his eldest son Ze’ev, or Wolf, had emigrated to Palestine to attend engineering studies, denied him in Poland due to anti-Semitic practices in higher education then. Wolf subsequently stayed in Palestine.

The three children met him after arrival in Palestine, whence began a partial recovery from a long period of trauma.

Hannan later had a career in the Israeli Air Force and died in the early 1990s, not long after a difficult visit to his home-town in Poland, the first he had made since being forced to leave in 1939.

Some Details of the Brewery

I will now summarize information on the brewery, as gleaned from Dr. Dekel’s book with other sources in aid.

The brewery was founded in 1854. The second half of the 1800s was a time of relative prosperity and growth in Ostrow-M. including for the large Jewish population, and the brewery grew with the town.

Before the first Teitel purchased it, it had two successive owners, Euruchim Fiszer and Chaim Bengelsdorf. Their names are recorded (among other places) in this page of the website Polish Beer Labels. Teitels are listed as owners starting in 1904.

The image below appears in a webpage of the Museum of the Jews of Bialystok and Region. Numerous labels of the brewery are also shown.



“1885” may refer to the year the building was erected, by Chaim Bengelsdorf, although brewing clearly took place earlier, under the first owner mentioned. It appears the building was rebuilt after lighting struck in the early 1900s.

By the 1930s, Icok and Zindel were running the brewery. They employed some 50 staff, both Jews and Catholic Poles, reflecting the mixed population of Ostrow-M. By my estimate, it was producing perhaps 60,000 hL of beer per annum, a good medium size for the industry in Poland then.

Labour relations were sound. Dr. Dekel names the last brewing supervisor, a Pole called Schwintowsky.

She describes the layout of the brewery, with interesting details including that malt was prepared underground. She refers to stirring of the malt (mashing, I believe) by workmen who sang a characteristic song in German, to count the time.

This and other information on the brewing had been recorded before his death by Wolf Dekel (Teitel) in an unpublished memoir. He had become familiar with the operations of the brewery before departing town and family.

Had war not come it is likely Hannan and Wolf would have been employed in the brewery in time, following their fathers’ footsteps.

Dr. Dekel states the sweet, non-fermented extract was sold as kvass. Icok had graduated from a brewing academy in Munich and was well-regarded for his brewing skill. She also notes that the brewery was planning to export its product to the United States. It was not to be.

I located a print ad for the brewery in the National Archives of Israel. It was placed in the June 1, 1928 Trybuna Akademicka, a Jewish-themed, Polish-language newspaper in Warsaw. I have written earlier that at least two other Polish breweries with Jewish ownership, the Pupko and Papiermeister breweries, advertised in the same paper in this period.



After Brewing Ceased

The Gestapo used the brewery as a jail, to interrogate and torture Jewish and Polish prisoners, many of whom died there. The Germans blew up the buildings when evacuating the town.

Today, a nondescript school stands where the brewery did. A plaque commemorates the Polish patriots killed on the site by the Nazis. When Dr. Dekel visited, some years before the book was finished, there was no mention of the brewery or the Teitel family.

Note re images: images above are identified with source linked in text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


Additional References

Website of Mikhal Dekel

Grzegorz Gembala (Undated), “A History of Beer Brewing in Galicia”, Academia Website

Page on Ostrow-Mazowiecka With Maps and Links to Numerous Other Resources, in KehilaLinks Website

“The Brewery in Ostrow”, Mrs. Chana’cze Tejtel, Chapter of Memorial Book of the Community of Ostrow-Mazowiecka (1960), JewishGen Website. See also the historical and other chapters in this memorial volume, via Table of Contents, top of webpage.

Tejtel Brewery Page, Ostrow-Mazowiecka Website

Tejtel Brewery Labels Page, Ostrow-Mazowiecka WebsiteAlso, other pages in this informative website.

(Polish) Teitel Labels Page, Browary Mazowsza Website

Pre-1918 Image of Ostrow-M. Taken From Roof of Tejtel Brewery, Sztetl Website

Listing for “Fischer” Brewery in Ostrow-M. in 1901 French Language Business Directory

(Polish) 1939 Business Listing for Browary Tejtel, Genealogy Index Website.

(Polish) History of Ostrow-M., Gimzareby Neostrada Website

(Polish) Timeline of Tejtel Brewery, Gulikbeer Website

(Polish) Wikipedia Entry for Ostrow-M.

William W. Hagen (June 1996),”Before the ‘Final Solution’: Toward a Comparative Analysis  of Political Anti-Semitism in Interwar Germany and Poland”, Journal of Modern History, Vol. 68, No. 2, pp. 351-381 (via JSTOR).

Yoav Peled,The Jewish Minority in Inter-War Poland“, posted to H-Nationalism, Blog of Humanities and Social Sciences Online, January 20, 2020 (see also reply by John Kulczycki).

Steven Paulsson, “Ghetto Benches” entry, Anti-Semitism: a Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution, Vol. 1 (2005), ed. Richard S. Levy.









Jewish Breweries of old Kolomyja, Galicia. Part III, Stefan Weiss Brewery.

In The Memorial Book of Kolomea (1957), a supplement (p. 91) lists businesses engaged in by Jewish residents of Kolomyja. For brewing it states:

Beer breweries – Stefan Weiss, Jakov [Jakub] Brettler and sons.

Weiss duly appears as a brewer in the Kolomyja section of the 1913 Galicia and Bukovina Business Directory:



The prefix to Weiss’s name, Karolówker Dampbierbrauerei, shows he was in Korolowka. This is a hamlet two or three kilometres east of Kolomyja, just north of which today lies an airport.

There were and remain numerous localities named Korolowka in Ukraine and Poland. Weiss’ as noted was just outside Kolomyja, see its position in this Mapcarta link.

It is rare to find images online of old Galician breweries like Weiss’. This is due to their relatively small size, the continual wars and changes of regime, and genocide of the European Jews. Nonetheless, in April 2020 a good image of the brewery was posted to a Facebook entry.

A short profile of the brewery accompanies the image. The following is an extract (Google translation):

… On an old postcard from the period between 1900-1905, a view of the Stefan Weiss brewery and one of his advertisements from a distance. The brewery was founded in 1890, the original owner was Leokadia Sejk, and two years later the plant was managed by Wenzel (Wacław) Sejk. Weiss handed over the brewery in 1894.

The first beer brewed in Korolówka was “Piwo Kołomyjskie” – a deckchair, “ham beer”. Its delicious taste and health were praised.

The translation is somewhat awkward but the overall meaning is clear, even as Weiss acquired (not sold) the brewery in 1894. “Ham beer” is a translation of the Polish piwo szynkowe.

The entry appears to have been posted by the author of, or another person connected to, a book on the history of pastry-making in Lviv, but images from other parts of former Polish lands are sometimes included. The brewery image is stamped “lvivcenter.org”, a local historical and research institute. Presumably it supplied the image and historical note.

Ham here could mean smoked, although smoked Polish ale is more associated to Grodziskie aka Grätzer in western Poland. “Zynkowe” is occasionally used today to describe beer in some East European countries. See for example this listing of Moravian beers.

The term is not standard Czech, to my knowledge, but Google translation renders it in this case parenthetically as “inn” or “hut”. This makes sense to me, a light, tavern beer, minimally processed and meant for local sale.

Perhaps szynkowe is a dialectical term in some East European tongues for inn.

For what it’s worth the names of the first and second owners of Stefan Weiss brewery have a Bohemian ring.*

And they, and from 1894 Stefan Weiss, operated an inn. In the above business listing, below the entry for Bierbr.[auerei] appears “Bierpropinationspächter“. Weiss and another firm are listed as conducting this type of business.

This meant that in 1913 Weiss was a holder of propination rights, historic rights conferred on land-owning nobility to brew or distill and sell the product on a monopoly basis locally.

Indeed it appears peasants could be compelled (or originally) to purchase the output, which is said to have contributed to rural alcoholism. Jews often leased the rights, which provided an income to the lords without the need to manage production and retail the product on a day-to-day basis.

For good background on propination (aka propinacja) in a Jewish context, see in Yivo Encyclopedia Judith Kalik’s learned essay.** By the period in question propination had been formally abolished in Galicia but traces remained nonetheless, as the prohibition laws preserved existing rights for a time.

In the Facebook image the substantial two-story building on the right was likely the inn, with Weiss or his manager living on the second floor. Note the placard at the left of the building. It seems to state B&B, which was actually a logo (intertwined B’s) used on Brettler beer labels in the interwar period.

Since the Facebook entry dates the image to 1900-1905, and Polish Beer Labels has Weiss owning the brewery to 1925, the B&B – if it does state that – is puzzling. Maybe Brettlers (father and son?) bought the brewery from Weiss even before WW I, and his name was retained, or he kept only the inn-keeping part.

Possibly the sign does not refer to the Brettlers at all.

Weiss’ brewery was not an insignificant agricultural brewery. A well-written historical sketch (in English) on Kolomyja, in the tourist site Danelis, states Weiss sold 30,000 hL of beer in 1913. This was the size range of Brettler, a medium-sized brewery for Galicia.

A pre-WW I bottle from Stefan Weiss, listed on a Russian auction site, has a few lines on the brewery. It states the period of greatest growth occurred under Stefan Weiss, who was a member of the Lviv Chamber of Commerce and Galician Brewers’ Association.

Period ads (pre-1914) suggest, as for contemporary Brettler ads, a brewery in full flush, ambitious, looking to grow.

A 1912 ad, catalogued at National Archives of Krakow, is illustrative:



We see the basic lager, March beer, Export, and Porter offered. An advertisement of the same period at Archiwum Allegro (auction site) states military music was performed at the brewery, near the train station.

There was likely a beer garden there.

As we saw, Polish Beer Labels states Stefan Weiss’ role ended in 1925, whence the I. Brettler name appears together with S. Bleiberg. They could be B&B too, although the time period seems wrong for the inn’s signboard, unless the postcard actually dates to post-1925.

This timeline terminates with a question mark, as often the case for Jewish-owned, East European breweries. While it seems, as I discussed in my Brettler posts, that Brettlers stopped brewing in Kolomyja/Diatcowse before 1939, perhaps I. Brettler and S. Bleiberg continued to operate the brewery in Korolowka until war intervened.

I could not trace what happened, in any case. Maybe the brewery was seized by the Russians and then the Nazis. Maybe – likely I think – the last Brettlers to brew and S. Bleiberg disappeared in the Nazi maelstrom, I don’t know.

Note re images: images above are identified in the text with original source linked. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.



*[Added May 17, 2021]. See in Comments remarks by reader Yann, and my reply. I think the mystery is solved now.

**See my Comment which links to a fascinating video on Jews, vodka, and propination by (Professor) Judith Kalik, at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. There seems no reason to think the logic does not apply to beer, and the term Bierpropinationspächter would seem to underscore this.






Beer Reviews 2021, Cont’d.

And We’ll Talk in the Present Tense …

Some notes on beers tasted recently.

Hop City North of 41º



(Sample provided by representative for the brewer). New World-styled blonde ale with notes of orchard fruit and cereals. Finish is clean and rehydrating, almost as if sparkling water was blended in, but it is all-beer.

A beer designed for a certain demographic or taste, I’d think, and fair enough. It was introduced on draft before Covid-19, and plans are to re-launch the draft once conditions of normality return.

Will be carried by some well-known Ontario restaurant chains. Perfect beer for the beach, or a basket of wings or tacos, or to drink with gusto after a long day.

From Hop City Brewing Co. in Brampton, Ontario (unit of Moosehead Brewery).

Third Moon Kills Pils

Saaz-hopped, good malty body, interesting scents of meadow and vale on a warm day. Top quality, from Third Moon Brewing in Milton, Ontario. Bought at Collective Arts Toronto shop today.

This, with the beer below, reminds me why the Reinheitsgebot (German pure beer law) retains full relevance.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Good solid body, emphatic German hop taste. Seems better than ever, clean yet with rich natural flavour.

A trendsetter for years that still deserves your attention.








Jewish Breweries of old Kolomyja, Galicia. Part II, Brettler Brewery.

Serendipitously, I have been sent a postcard with an actual image of Brettler brewery by Ms. Isabella Seitz, who resides in Germany. She kindly consented to its reproduction here to shed further light on the history of this brewery.

Ms. Seitz was researching a postcard that had been owned by her great-grandfather, a German soldier in Galicia during WW I, and saw my Part I. The postcard carries the notation “ehemalige Brauerei Colomea“, which she informed me means, “former brewery Colomea”.

She added the postcard is most likely from 1916 as her great-grandfather was in Galicia then.

While the name of the brewery does not appear on the card, it is clearly the Brettler brewery. All one need do is compare the structure, layout, and paint scheme of the buildings to the artist’s rendering in Brettler labels between the two world wars.

The labels may be viewed on this page of the website Polish Beer Labels (included in my Part I with further information).

Colomea is simply one of the many spellings for Kolomyja, which denoted not just the city but the region around it including Diatcowce, likely location of this brewery.

The fact that the card states “former brewery” can be explained by the fact that there were many disruptions in Kolomyja during WW I.

Breweries might shut for a time due to war conditions but start up again when times were more favourable. That clearly was the case here.

There is nothing like seeing the actual image, which renders the reality more tangible including the delivery vehicles lined up in the yard facing the buildings.

Thanks again to this reader for sending this to us, which deepens our understanding of this corner of European brewing history.



Note re image: The image above is the property of Ms. Isabella Seitz of Germany, who kindly agreed to its reproduction here.



Jewish Breweries of old Kolomyja, Galicia. Part I, Brettler Brewery.


In this post I discuss the Brettler Brewery in former Eastern Galicia, now part of western Ukraine. Polish historian Grzegorz Gembala mentions the brewery briefly in his article “History of Beer Brewing in Galicia”.

A shorter version of the article, credited to Greg Gembala, appears in the genealogical and Holocaust memorial site, Kehilalinks. I linked to that version in a recent post.

My link above is to the full-length version, at least as it appears in English. I cannot see a date attributed, but the authorship seems recent.

Snapshot of Brewery Pre-WW I

As set out in each version of his article, Gembala writes:

Kołomyja / Kolomay (Jacob Brettler) — one of the larger breweries, producing 32.6 tsd hl beer in 1912


Hence, 32,600 hectolitres of beer in 1912, for a firm that began in 1890 in Kolomyja, Galicia. This denotes a medium-size brewery by Gembala’s metric.

This also means, larger than the agricultural breweries that issued from the old landed estates, but smaller than more technologically advanced breweries established from the mid-1800s by aristocrats or other wealthy, non-Jews.

As the references below show, Brettler brewed in different periods export, double, dark bock, standard lager, and lower-alcohol beer, similar to the range for other Galician and Polish breweries.

Kolomyja in Galicia

There are many spellings for this city, depending on language and time period. I will use the modern, and Gembala’s preferred spelling, Kolomyja. Variants include Kolomea and Kolomyia.

Kolomyja is located in the Carpathian hills in what was south-eastern Galicia, on the Prut River. From 1772 until 1918 Galicia was a province of the Austrian, later Austro-Hungarian, Empire, except for a period of Russian occupation during WW I. For most of the interwar period it was part of the Polish Republic.

Western Galicia was characterized by significant Polish ethnicity and in general, was Polonised as the term went. The eastern half was mainly Ruthenian, or today Ukrainain. Nonetheless many areas featured a mix of these and yet other ethnicities, especially in the cities.

This is an image of Kolomyja, the market square before WW I (via Wikipedia):



With WW II, a period of Soviet occupation ensued, and nationalizations and other harsh consequences, especially for Jews. Then came German occupation and terror until 1944. After Russian liberation a Soviet socialist republic was created. Full independence arrived for the Republic of Ukraine in 1991.

Kolomyja and the Jews

Kolomyja had a very substantial Jewish population before WW II, half or nearing that level since the mid-1800s. Non-Jewish citizens comprised ethnic Poles and Ukrainians, with smaller numbers of other ethnicities.

For a good picture of Eastern Galicia in the 19th century with population breakdowns, this essay in Jewish Virtual Library illuminates.

The Nazis sometimes with local participation annihilated almost all these Jews, about 20,000 civilian people. This forever destroyed not just the people but a significant part of the character and pace of the city, which derived from its Jewish component.

Kolomyja was, before WW II, a Jewish cultural, educational, and religious centre of importance. Many Jews were engaged in business including textiles, oil exploration, finance, grain trading and milling, the professions, and both wholesaling and retailing.

Jews figured in the tavern trade, and brewing in Kolomyja was a Jewish business.

Background to Jewish Role in Galician Business 

This subject has a complex history. In part, and see Gembala’s remarks in the brewing context, it arose from a societal structure influenced by its feudal past, where nobility controlled land worked by the peasantry.

To enhance value from the lands Jews were encouraged to settle and act as intermediaries, managing estates as lessees for often-absent aristocrats or gentry. This provided an economic interface with the volk, the people. An essay by Judith Kalik in the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jewish History is most informative for background (among of course a significant literature).

By the late 1800s this system was changing, with occupations held by Jews increasingly performed by Poles and Ukrainians. But until WW I many sectors still reflected a strong Jewish presence.

This did not mean prosperity reigned among Jews. It did not, generally. Most Jews were craftsmen, e.g. cobblers, tailors, and potters, or factory workers, peddlers, or shop-owners, with small, often unpredictable incomes.

A story in the 1897 press in Chicago claimed rather dire conditions for all but a handful of Kolomyja Jews. Together with recurring pogroms (more in West Galicia) and deteriorating economic prospects, this explained the continual emigration of Jews from Galicia to the New World and Zionist Palestine, starting in the late 1800s. Some departed for nearer lands, Hungary and Romania among them.

A small percentage did become wealthy. They helped their compatriots by giving employment, creating loan societies, and funding social and religious causes. This was a vital assist before the era of governmental supports, although labour agitation characterised some industries.

Brettler Family and Brewing

The Brettlers were in the well-off group, with interests in grain milling among other enterprises. There are numerous references to them in a 1957 book published in Israel memorializing Jewish life in Kolomyja, called English Memorial Book of Kolomey. Portions are hyperlinked in the Jewish Generations site. See e.g. at p. 96.

Litman Brettler was an estate lessee. His son Jakub Brettler, described in the Memorial Book as a millionaire, founded the brewery in 1890. In the years leading up to WW I the business evidently was incorporated with other shareholders, including the Seidmann family, whom Gembala described as heirs of the Brettlers.

The 1913 Galicia and Bukovina Business Directory included this entry in the Kolomyja section:



So, three breweries in this period were associated with Kolomyja: Brettler, Stefan Weiss, and Baruch Weiser. They were independently owned but Brettler or heirs later had a connection to Stefan Weiss’ brewery.

A few years earlier, in 1909, this description of the Brettler brewery appeared in a regional compilation of business firms (as translated by Google):

First Kolomeaer Masch.-Dampfbr. by Brettler & Komp., owners Mendel Brettler, Moses Seidmann, Moses Breier and Nathan Baran; Operation of the brewery as a branch of the main office in Kolomea.

Jakub is not mentioned, so must have left the business or passed away by this time.

Surviving Labels and Bottles

The Polish Beer Labels site shows the Brettler name and labels for no less than three localities, Kolomyja, Diatcowce, and Korolowka. The second and third are just a few miles from the first, in effect satellite towns.

This map view shows Kolomyja today and one can see the other two flanking, called here Dyatkovtski and Korolivka.

Pre-1920s embossed Brettler bottles are occasionally offered on auction sites. These are tallish, brown wine-type bottles, see e.g. this Archiwum Allegro listing.

Stefan Weiss aka Stefana Weissa owned the Korolowja brewery from 1894 until 1925, but did not found it. I will deal with his brewery in a further post.

Location of Brettler Brewery

Based on all my reading, before the 1930s, it appears the Brettlers or heirs had only the one brewery in Diatcowce, a few miles north-west of Kolomyja.

The whitewashed factory buildings shown on Brettler labels for Kolomyja (see in Polish Beer Labels), were, I believe, in Diatcowce. Satellite views do not show these buildings, that I can see, they probably were demolished at some point.

If I am wrong and the whitewashed buildings actually stood in Kolomyja, they may still stand, but I don’t think so.*

For obvious reasons Brettler brewery wanted to show its association with Kolomyja, a substantial city compared to the hamlet of Diatcowce. It did this by stating the office was in Kolomyja, and the Diatcowce business, a branch.

The office did certainly exist in Kolomyja, and has survived. It forms part of an elegant block on the main square. You may view it in this site which memorializes Jewish Galicia and Bukovina. The caption identifies the portion that served as offices for the Brettler brewery.

A 1906 advertisement for Brettler Brewery, catalogued in the National Archives of Krakow, taken together with the 1909 business listing, bears out the head office-branch inference.



1930s and WW II

Polish business registries show the Brettler brewery still operating in the 1920s and 30s, but it seems to end before the onset of WW II. I don’t know if descendants of Jakub Brettler survived the Holocaust, it seems unlikely, but I don’t know in fact.

Kolomyja Today

A literal tour d’horizon (2017) may be had of Kolomyja, via YouTube. For some, depending on the perspective, it is a melancholy look.

Actual Image of Brewery

To see an actual image of Brettler brewery, see our Part II of this post.

Note re images: each image is identified with source linked in text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed


*See my caveat in Comments.







Expedition Brewing Co. Lager

I mentioned Expedition Brewing earlier this week, based in Newmarket, Ontario. I was in touch recently with one of the principals, Colin Parr, who heads up marketing and sales.

He mentioned the venture is actually two years old but really got moving in the last six months. He provided some details of the brewing, done at Equals in London, Ontario. Equals are well-known brewing specialists who cater to the contract market.

Colin said their advice was helpful to fashion the kind of palate he and business partner Patrick had in mind.

The Loch Ness Lager is a blend of two malts, one a Munich malt, with some acidulated malt added. It shares with stablemate Bigfoot Bock a good body, always a plus in our book.

The bitterness is balanced, showing light citrus and mineral notes. The taste is slightly honeyed and reminded me of English digestive biscuit.

The brewery bills the beer as inspired by Helles and Dortmund styles. I’d call it classic “craft lager”, with a distinctive note due to the malt character.

If we can get the restaurants and bars open again, I could see a pitcher going great with piping wings, a charcoal burger, or cheese plate.

An excellent addition to the Ontario lager scene.




Amsterdam Starke Pilsner

Starke Pilsner is an Amsterdam Brewery limited edition, part of the Toronto brewery’s Adventure Brews series. I think we see it twice a year but tasting as it does now, I wish it was on permanent list.

It combines the best features of Czech and German pilsener, with a bit of Helles thrown in too, if you get each fresh and unpasteurized.

The body is rich, with a maltiness rarely found in craft brewing. It uses Saaz hops in the kettle and floor-malted pilsener malt.



35 IBUs offers a solid balance to the malt. I’d guess the final gravity is 1.014 or so, which lets you taste the malt, as old-time pilsener and Helles did, too. Nor do I believe those attenuations were simply the result of yeasts available: I think brewers and drinkers of Hapsburg times sought that malt quality, and brewers responded.

The Germans said, “Malt is the soul of beer” – they had a reason.

Many Victorian ales and porters similarly highlighted body and residual extract. So did in the main American beer before WW I, whether malt adjunct or not.

Starke shows this quality to great effect.

It seems to be tweaked year in year out and this is the best I’ve had. I wouldn’t change a thing going forward. Nice labelling, too.

Congratulations Amsterdam and the brewing team, led by Iain MacOustra and Cody Noland.


Amsterdam Dutch Amber Lager

Amsterdam Brewery’s Adventure Brew series currently features Dutch Amber Lager. It was first brewed at Rotterdam brewpub on King Street in Toronto, “way back when”, c. 1988.

That facility converted a few years later to Amsterdam Brewery, a commercial microbrewery, which later moved to south Bathurst Street. In 2012 it moved to Esander Drive in Leaside uptown. There is a small batch branch on Queen’s Quay by the lake, the Brewhouse. The associated pub is closed currently due to Covid-19.

Until 10-12 years ago Dutch Amber Lager continued to be brewed, I used to buy it in bottles at the King Street and Bathurst locations. Now it is back, temporarily, as an Adventure Brew.

The term “Dutch” is a nod to the brewery’s name and first owner, who was from Holland; it is not meant to designate the style, which is Vienna Lager. The current can states Vienna Lager on the side, in fact.

It’s a very good Vienna, different from any other I’ve had. There is an almost mapley malt character with fruity or winy notes, backed by good noble hopping (or that type).

It’s a natural, local take: craft to the max.