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. This is said to have contributed to rural alcoholism, although this is not clear, imo.

Jews often leased the rights, which provided an income to the lords without the need to manage production, and retail the product, day-to-day.

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

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”.

This was actually a logo, the 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 World War 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 that 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, archived 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.

 

 

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “Jewish Breweries of old Kolomyja, Galicia. Part III, Stefan Weiss Brewery.”

  1. Hello,

    I’d hasard the guess that it is related to German “Schenke” or “Schänke”, an old word for pubs/inns from “ausschenken” = to serve (a drink), from “schenken” = to gift sth. It does ring like “Schinken” = ham, I haven’t looked up if there’s some etymological link but if there is, it’s not a straightforward one.

    Cheers,
    Yann

    Reply
    • Thanks for your note, it does seem to support and extend the idea of pub or inn beer, but your spellings put me on to another idea now, which I didn’t think of before. Schenk beer. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier, as I have recognized this term in many guises (variations or languages) before. For example, the Pennsylvania swankey beer is said, quite plausibly I think, to be from schenk beer, a corruption.

      Schenk beer is of course the bottom-fermented winter beer, vs. “sommer bier”, i.e., not aged but consumed more or less as brewed in the cold season. There are many explanations of this schenk beer in beer historical literature, I’m sure you know the term.

      I didn’t think of it probably because these languages are more unfamiliar to me than German, which put me off, but it looks like the same word in a slight variation. This would explain the Czech instances too.

      I never thought earlier on the origins (etymology) of “schenk bier”, but what you state ties into it.

      This is probably the answer, I’m now thinking. Thanks again.

      Gary

      Reply
  2. Piwo Szynkowe, from Ukrainian, translates to “zinc beer”. This may be no better than “ham beer”, but I did see a suggestion that zinc in small quantities is a yeast nutrient. The links to Kolomyia reminded me of our short stay at a bed and breakfast there. When we arrived in the evening, a group of ladies was singing folk songs around the table, and the host offered us a beer.

    Reply
    • Interesting, thanks, and that you’ve been there.

      I thought the Facebook text might have been written in Ukrainian, but it was identified by Google Translation as Polish. Cync in Polish is zinc. Later I realized Ukrainian is written in Cyrillic anyway (but I’m getting out of my comfort zone here, for sure).

      Checking original text again, it puts the phrase we are discussing in quotations, which perhaps suggests a non-Polish language was meant. I still think inn or hut is probably the answer, but no further advice forthcoming, yet.

      Strictly speaking zsynka is ham in Polish.

      Gary

      Reply
      • My wife tells me that Szynkowe is ham in Ukrainian, too (she can’t translate zinc). We visited Kolomyia to look at her father’s birthplace (1901). My wife speaks western Ukrainian, which is close to Polish. She could speak fluently to western Ukrainians but, in Kyiv, she was baffled, and said they were speaking Russian.

        Reply
        • Interesting Arnold, thanks. A small world in many ways, as I found out too the other day when an e-mail came from a lady in Germany who had a picture of the Brettler brewery, headquartered in Kolomyja with brewery just a few miles outside.

          Gary

          Reply
        • Thanks Arnold, I had found that too, and there is another image out there that shows the blue and white label more clearly. I had checked Jablonowo’s website but it is not listed currently there. I think it may have been a private label, for a bar named Szynkowe. I know there is a Polish bar with that name, and stopped my inquiry there as it seemed to tie into the inn and hut theory.

          Like cock ale, some matters are best left unexplored, after a certain point, as the rabbit hole only deepens! But we’ll see if anyone else will write in.

          Gary

          Reply

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