Jewish Breweries in old Belarus, Part II: Papiermeister Brewery

Most sources I reference in Part I for Pupko Brewery also mention Papiermeister Brewery, as both were in Lida before WW II. They were the town breweries, and both Jewish-owned.

At that time Western Belarus including Lida was part of Poland. Before WW I, the Russian Empire governed these areas.

Less information is available about Papiermeister than Pupko, at least in English. One reason is Papiermeister ceased brewing with the advent of WW II, while the other continued and today is Lidscoe Brewery.

A further reason: sadly, it seems the last Papiermeisters in the brewery did not survive the Holocaust. At least, I can find no evidence they did.

However, a certain amount can be pieced together. The Kehila genealogical site mentioned in Part I links to a 1936 account of Papiermeister. It was provided by Leon Lauresh, a historian and engineer in Lida today I understand.

The label that follows is from that account. One can see Papiermeister elected a bear symbol, while Pupko used a deer. Many Polish breweries used animals as graphic enhancement for their labels – elephant, stag, boar, etc.



The account is in Polish but Google translation provides a good rendering in English. Salient points:

– founded 1871 by Jakub Papiermeister (sometimes spelled Papirmeister and Papiermejstra, depending on source and language)

– owned (1936) by heirs of the founder

– 25 staff including office force, hence somewhat smaller than Pupko, which had about 40 employees in this period

– owned a sawmill, like Pupko

– barley sourced from Kujawy (central-north Poland), not locally although moves were being made in that direction

– hops from Lublin, a famous hop centre as beer people know

The brewery disappeared with war, how exactly I am not sure, but clearly it had ceased operating when Pupko was commandeered for the German Army. One source, which unfortunately I did not retain, states a drunken soldier burned it down.

Papiermeister on July 1, 1930 placed a box ad in Tribuna Akademicka, the Warsaw journal I mentioned earlier for a similar ad by Pupko. It states a telegraph address and phone number, but no street address (via National Library of Israel).



Tartak Spadk refers to the sawmill business.

The brewery by other accounts was founded in 1874, two years before Pupko started, as the label above suggests. Another label for Papiermeister, in the Polish site Polish Beer Labels, also states 1874 as founding year.*

(Click on “Lida” in the left margin, and the labels appear in excellent resolution, some in Cyrillic from before WW I).

The Papiermeister beer types ahead of WW II, as shown on labels in Polish Beer Labels, are Jasne (literally clear, presumably pale or light lager), Dubeltowe, and Ciemne, meaning dark, probably a Munich Dunkel-type.

While Dubeltowe might in some cases be stronger than the others, this was not invariable. Some labels exhibited in Polish Beer Labels state the same, often low alcohol for export and double beer, for example.

The Lidscoe historical timeline discussed in Part I states Pupko double beer used extra malt, and half as much hops again as the basic beer. It does not state this double was stronger, though.

Aharon Papiermeister was a brewer with Lida connections in the late 1800s. He later migrated to Palestine (1892) and with his brother Baruch bought land at Rishon le Zion. They sought cultivate grapes, to sell to the winery later known as Carmel, associated with Baron de Rothschild.

This Geni entry for Aharon, in the Complete Profile provides further details of his career.

I suspect that Jakub, founder of Papiermeister Brewery, was another brother or relation of Ahron even though Geni does not mention a Jakub Papiermeister.

No son of Aharon in the Geni site is named Jakub. Still, there had to be a connection to Jakub and the Lida brewery, in my view, particularly as Geni states Aharon conducted early experiments to brew beer at Rishon le Zion.

Sefer Lida, a book published in Israel in 1962, memorializes prewar Jewish life in Lida. A chapter by Abraham Gelman (tr. by Roslyn Sherman Greenberg) gives a flavour of the town breweries:

There were two beer breweries that were famous in all Poland. One was owned by ELIMELECH PUPKO, and the second was owned by PAPIERMEISTER. They transported beer in kegs and in bottles throughout Poland. There was also a division of the Vilna beer brewery “Shafen” under the management of TAUB. There was also a division of a Warsaw beer brewery “Haverbush and Shileh”, under the management of WALLMAN and ROSENSTEIN.

The “divisions” probably were bottling plants, or depots. This shows that even in small Lida, the two local breweries had to meet outside competition, something ensured by a liberal economic order. In turn, they “exported” to remain competitive, an activity that seemed regional in scope (Poland) by the 1930s.

The 1936 account states both breweries had reached ascendancy before WW I. Indeed Pupko, for its part, entered its beer in European expositions and won medals. This type of elan is gone by the “low, dishonest decade” that was the 1930s, in W.H. Auden’s famous phrase.

Capitalism did not characterize postwar, Soviet-dominated Belarus, but it does today, at least to the extent that Pupko’s successor, Lidscoe Brewery, is owned by a Finnish group, Olvi PLC. At least two other foreign brewers have interests in the country, Carlsberg and Heineken.

For a fuller understanding of Lida history, an essay in the Sztetl site is illuminating. Parts of its economy did enjoy growth in the late 1930s, not invariable for Poland at the time.

Yet, Jewish interests – arguably the Jewish future in the country – were increasingly compromised by anti-Jewish, nationalist agitation, for example to boycott Jewish businesses. The government also passed laws to bar Jews from entering universities and technical institutes.

More information on Papiermeister in Lida perhaps resides at the Alivaria Beer Museum in Minsk. I hope to visit one day.

See my Part III, which draws parallels between brewing in Galicia and Western Belarus.


*This site is a superb resource that needs to be better known by beer historians. It contains labels from breweries in almost 200 localities in Poland or former Poland, most prewar. Papiermeister and Pupko made styles also made by many of these breweries. Many interesting features appear, certainly many porters, even two English-style ales. Many Gratzer labels, too. A few labels are in English, for export bottlings (1930s).












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