Breweries and Community (Part II)

This Part bookends Part I by noting instances of German brewery “phoenixes” – the renaissance of a brewery long dormant. The fallow period can vary between 10 and 100 years.

As noted in Part I Joule’s is such a brewery in Market Drayton, U.K. It occurred to me whether similar examples exist in Germany, a great brewing nation no less than Britain.

Certainly there are many such revivals in Britain, the U.S., and Canada since the 1970s. Each in its unique way participates in the small brewery revival. In Ontario there is Sleeman’s Brewery in Guelph,* and the Lion Brewery in Waterloo, ON.

There was also Taylor & Bate, founded in St. Catherines, ON in 1835, and closed in 1935 by (unrelated) industrialist E.P. Taylor. In 1988 Tim Taylor, a descendant of the founder, re-established the brewery near the original location.

The flagship was Niagara Spray Lager, marketed back in the 1930s. He had a good run, until 2004 when the brewery closed.

The famed Conrad Seips beer in Chicago is coming back, see in Classic Chicago Magazine, “The Beer That Built Chicago” by Judy Bross. There are countless other cases in the English-speaking world. I know of cases in France and Spain, as well. Belgium surely counts a few.

And so, why not Germany, a premier beer country? There are such cases, perhaps not as many comparatively as in Britain and the U.S., but they do exist.

But first, why do brands return, in general?

The article Teaching Old Brands New Tricks: Retro Branding and the Revival of Brand Meaning by Stephen Brown, Robert V. Kozinets, & John F. Sherry Jr. goes a long way to explaining. The article appeared in July 2003 in the Journal of Marketing but is still highly relevant.

The authors addressed a related situation where a company brings back a formerly dominant brand. Volkswagen’s New Beetle was a focal point in the study. They elucidate:

… the late twentieth century was characterized by an astonishing “nostalgia boom” … and many marketing scholars have examined that phenomenon …. Stern (1992), for example, attributes the latter-day advent of nostalgic advertising to the fin de siecle effect, or humankind’s propensity to retrospect as centuries draw to a close. Belk (1991) contends that personal possessions, such as souvenirs, photographs, heirlooms, antiques, and gifts, serve as materializations of memory and evoke a powerful sense of the past. Holbrook and Schindler (1989, 1994, 1996) have developed a “nostalgia proneness scale” and have tested it in various memory-rich domains…

The authors state that retrospective branding is based on “a Utopian communal element…” and evokes “better days”.

In the brewing field, this can take a variety of forms. A mass market brand, often, is given a label or bottle type such as it used 30 or 60 years before. In such cases the beer usually doesn’t change.

Or, an older brand is simply brought back – Molson Coors just did this with Molson Golden Ale in Ontario.

Pabst, successor to Ballantine Brewery of Newark, New Jersey,  brought back Ballantine India Pale Ale some years ago although the attempt proved unsuccessful.

Sometimes product or labelling is not revamped but an old ad slogan is resuscitated, and so on.

In the craft space, a new brewery or distillery may assume the business or brand name of a defunct business with little other connection. More frequent I think is re-establishment of the business by a descendant, sometimes using old recipes. Sleeman’s is a case in point.

Sometimes a once well-known brewery name is re-deployed with no connection to the old recipes: Watney’s in London is an example.

So what of Germany, then? Do Germans in general have a similar sense of nostalgia to that described above? Their great beer heritage is unquestioned and still alive and well despite the fall in beer consumption over the years. But does a community have feelings in regard to an old brand or business name in a way that makes re-launching a payable proposition?

I have studied aspects of the country’s brewing history where sources are available in English, back to the mid-1800s (beers, breweries, beer-pubs and gardens, etc.) but that doesn’t answer such a question.

I can highlight a few examples of revived German breweries, at least. First, I want to thank Frank on Twitter, a beer-judge and home brewer in Aachen, Germany, who kindly provided the last two names below, and also Chris Begley, a Canadian in Germany who kindly offered assistance.

The first case is Bergmann Brauerie in Dortmund, the storied brewing city responsible for creating a style of blonde lager: Export, sometimes still called “Dortmund”. Bergmann’s history, past and more recent, was well-described by FT correspondent Olaf Storbeck in September 2018.

The brewery was founded in 1796 and finally closed in 1972 after ownership by the well-known Schultheiss of Berlin. Some 40 years on Herbert Prigge and Thomas Raphael of Dortmund acquired the Bergmann trade mark. First, they had a regional brewery brew a batch and later established their own brewery and bar.

The brewery has enjoyed good success by appealing to Dortmunders’ affection for the city’s brewing heritage. And the beers look great, see company website.

Export, Adam Bier (two kinds), a black lager, Pilsner, and yet more are produced including a neatly-named ’72, a pale bock beer.

A further revival is the Nolte brewery, whose Cristall brand is based in Cologne while it appears the beer currently is brewed at Rittmayer in Franconia.** The website shows good images of the brand as currently marketed, a blond brew, and historical images pertaining to the brand in the past.

A further revival is Hensen in Mönchengladbach, North-Rhine Westphalia, about 50 miles from Dortmund. Hensen dates originally from the late 1700s. See its range of beers and backstory in the website 

I like their motto: We don’t call it craft beer we call it Brauhandwerk.

Good additional information, including on the town, is offered by an American in a Trip Advisor report. Check out Hensen’s Facebook page, as well.

Pilsener and Alt are the standbys with other styles brewed as well. Some are emblems of craft brewing. The retro-styled labels are skillfully done and attractive.

It appears in these cases that heritage and tradition are invoked in a way similar to other countries. There has been reasonable craft brewery implantation in Germany in the last decade or so (parts at least). So the interest to update or revamp brewing culture is there, with the retrospective aspect finding its place as well.

Per capita consumption has been falling in Germany for 30 years as shown in this Statista graph. But there are still about 1500 breweries, with craft breweries accounting for much of the growth (numerically) in recent years.*** This discussion in The Local is helpful.

We wish all these breweries well. Each is helping to perpetuate a national brewing tradition of international prominence and historic influence. But the phoenix group renews the ancient ties of brewing to community in a special way.

Note re image: Image is drawn from the Bergmann website linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the Bergmann Brewery. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*Now owned by a large Japanese brewer, but its product line has remained largely unaffected.

**An earlier version of this post linked the correct Nolte website but I misstated the location of the brand due to not seeing the Koln location in the website (it is there). We thank Frank, mentioned in the text, for setting me straight on this (see his note in the Comments).

***Of course the great number of small-scale breweries pre-craft, gasthauses and similar, is in many ways of a piece with the newer group but there are some differences in focus and product line. The same applies to the type of brewpub that preceded craft as such, focusing on unfiltered beers.







4 thoughts on “Breweries and Community (Part II)”

  1. Hi Gary,
    The Nolte brand seems to be located in Cologne, while the beer is brewed at Rittmayer in Franconia.

    • Hi Frank:

      Thanks for this and all your help here. I have now adjusted the text to explain this. I looked for the location in the website earlier and did not see the Koln reference, but I do now. Talking about these breweries makes me wish to taste these products. One day I hope to visit the country again. I did have a few days about 10 years ago in and around Munich, which was extremely interesting.

      Also of course I have had wide experience tasting exports, not just here but in Western Europe.

      Best regards.


  2. Hi Gary,

    Another great subject you are mining here. Thanks!

    I would suggest if you wanted to continue the theme of resurrected breweries, you might find some interesting gems in the former Soviet Union. Many great eastern European breweries fell to neglect or were repurposed for the centrally planned economy. After independence in these countries, several were resurrected by the then newly emerging entrepreneurs.
    One good example is A. LeCoq in Estonia. It has the added intrigue of being part of the early trade in Russian Imperial Stout. I have had their modern recreations, which they have brewed at their facility as well as the celebrated recreation at Harvey’s of the original UK recipe. They are both sublime in their own ways.

    • Hi Rein:

      Thanks for this. I think that does show an instance (Le Coq), with the variation of not technically having ceased brewing. If I’m not mistaken the brewery was continuous in operation since founding, but the overall point is valid. Anchor is kind of a similar although special case. Thanks for the idea, will give some thought although my familiarity with the U.S., Canada, and U.K. context makes that easier to take on!

      All best.



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