Rivne Brewery, Ukraine

Introduction

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

Introduction

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.