The Brewery of Kalush

Introduction – old Kalush

The Geni site provides a crisp outline of Jewish history in Kalush, formerly in East Galicia. It starts like this:

 

KALUSH (Pol. Kalusz), city in Ivano-Frankovsk (Stanislavov) district in southwestern Ukraine, formerly within Poland; in 1772 it passed to Austria, reverting to Poland in 1919, and was within the U.S.S.R. from 1939 to 1991 when Ukraine gained independence.

 

There is discussion of Jewish trades in the 19th century such as salt, lumber, and hides; construction of synagogues and schools; the changing percentage of the Jewish population, from a majority in 1880 to one-third in 1939; severe depredations by Russian troops in WW I; and the Nazi ferocity that killed almost every Jewish man, woman, and child by 1942.

This image, via Wikpedia Commons, pictures the market square before WW I.

 

 

And there was a brewery in Kalush, Jewish-owned, to which I turn.

Memories of the Brewery

A Holocaust survivor who lived in Kalush as a girl recalled pleasant days in the compound of the town brewery. Her family’s home was there, due to her father’s position with the brewery.

Tsufyah Shpilmen recalled those days for the Kalush Yizkor (memorial) volume, issued in Tel Aviv in 1980. Portions of the book appear in the JewishGen site.

She writes in part (tr. by Deborah Schultz):

Before I left Kalush, our family lived in “Browar,” the beer brewery. There Father worked as a directorate official. After our house was destroyed by fire in the First World War, we received an apartment in the domain of the factory. The two owners, Aba Milshtein and Leibtshah Shpindel, I see in my imagination as if they were standing before me. The chief and older of them had grey hair. They were both always wearing black suits; in their hands, Tyrolean walking sticks. When they grew very old, administration of the factory passed to their children: Zelig Milshtein and his son Mosheleh, and Leibtshah’s grandson, Shlomoh.

And further:

… Kalush, the town of my birth, the place where all my dear ones were destroyed, will not pull out of my memory. My heart is gripped each time I think about what happened there.

Remarkably, a photo survives showing one of the owners she so vividly recalled, carrying his walking stick. It appears in a video posted to the brewery’s Facebook page.

The brewery still exists, in other words.

It’s the middle video, second row. He appears at 1:14-1:15 in a posed shot on the brewery grounds. (Other videos are posted as well, short promos and similar).

The brewery he helped create is now called Kalush Brewery.

The Brewery History

To its credit, the brewery has posted a fairly detailed history on its website. It seems at any rate to present the main facts. Part of it states (Google translation):

1870 The owners of the Kalusha brewery and distillery were private individuals – the Milstein, Schlinder and Weissman families, who owned the brewery until the beginning of World War II. They improved the equipment at the brewery and significantly increased the production of low-alcohol beverages. About 150 workers from local burghers, mostly residents of the villages of Khotyn and Pidhirka, as well as Zahirya, worked at the prestigious enterprise. According to statistics, more than 20,000 hectoliters of good quality beer were produced here annually. If necessary, the plant could double the production of low-alcohol beverage and increase its production to 45 thousand hectoliters. The brewery owned its own houses, had beer warehouses and a turbine for 100 horsepower …

The squarish, large buildings still on the site were erected in 1870 by the three owners. The brewery was called before WW II, Mühlstein, Spindel & Weissman. Weissman died in 1915 but his name was still used.

The owners’ names are spelled in different ways in the sources, but there is no doubt of the persons intended.

The brewery added a maltings ca. 1890, still used to my knowledge. As noted there was also a distillery onsite.

Tsufya Shpilmen mentions the turbine, which permitted homes on the compound to have electric light, and heated water. The town as a whole was not electrified until later.

The brewery paused during WW I but recovered interwar. In 1934 it was advertising in the Echo (image via National Library of Israel). Echo was a Polish weekly published in Stanislawow, another town in the area, where the brewery had a branch.

 

 

The Facebook account limns the story to and after WW II, which readers should consult for more detail. The fate of the pre-1939 principals is not mentioned. It seems unlikely they survived the Holocaust although I do not know for certain.

The entry for Kalush in the Sztetl site has a good short account of the brewery, citing various sources including the Shpilmen memoir.

Sztetl states that ahead of WW I production reached some 40,000 hL per year, a solid, smaller-size brewery.

An early label and invoice as well as modern photos of the brewery are also shown. The historical items are from a local museum.

The Polish Beer Labels site depicts a good set of interwar labels. A variety of beers was made, characteristic of Polish brewing at the time such as export, dubbel, and czarne (black, maybe porter-style).

The Modern Brewery

Today, the brewery makes a wide range including its “Three Deer” craft line. But some of the old brands continue, for example Export – indeed a range of Export labels is now marketed, each atmospheric and cleverly named.

There is Export to Lviv, Export to Riga, Export to Leningrad, and more. The label bearing a carp symbol is for Riga:

 

 

Brewery labels and artwork in general show sophistication of design. See the company’s website for all brand details.

The words “In Galicia” follow the brewery name in one design, it appears in the video. A conscious effort is made to connect to the past.

The brewery was rescued some years ago from insolvency, and is independently owned by Ukraine interests. A revitalization took place, outlined with accompanying images in the website of the project leader, Selepey Volkovetsky.

While some new equipment was installed – cylindro-conical fermenters are shown – the exterior is much the same as 100 years ago.

The Jewish Past

In Kalush today there is some interest to know the history of this brewery, and of long-disappeared Jewry in the city.

In November 2017, the journalist Marta Onyskiv in Kalush News wrote a short account recalling this past. With the evocative images, a poignant effect resulted, I thought.

Hopefully this is a harbinger, taken with other positive signs, of change in Ukraine and East Europe, where many have noted a historical amnesia with regard to the former Jewish presence, its importance in their history, and how and why the Jews disappeared.

Note re images: the source of each image is included in the text above. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


6 thoughts on “The Brewery of Kalush”

  1. The countryside in Ukraine near Kalush is like another world. In 2012, we hired a driver to take us to a small village where my wife’s mother’s family had lived, about 40 km from Kalush. There we ran across an old family neighbor who asked us in for lunch. She had no indoor plumbing, and hand pumped her well water. She offered eggs that she retrieved from her chicken coop. Horse carts were common on the road. A school girl, talking on her cellphone, herded cows down the road from pasture to their owners’ yards for the night.
    Your last comment about the general lack of acknowledgement of Jewish history in Ukraine agrees with my impression. However, on a walking tour of Lviv, our guide did point out the site of the destroyed Golden Rose Synagogue. Also, when we had desserts in the restaurant of the Lviv Split casino we were surrounded by historical photos featuring Jewish life.

    Reply
    • Really interesting to have these impressions of an actual visit to the area, and knowing the people and language, thanks for this.

      Good to hear of the Jewish memorial references. My sense is more and more this is happening, and it comes (from what I understand) largely from within. I think people do want to know about this past and have more opportunities now to learn, vs. in the Soviet period.

      It’s a long-term process but some progress is being made, following similar example in Poland, again from what I’ve learned.

      There was an initiative in recent years in Kalush (locally by people there) to tidy the Jewish cemetery for example.

      Reply
      • There has to be some acknowledgement of Jewish presence and history in Ukraine. Pres. Zelensky is ethnic Jewish. The oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, associated with Zelensky through the TV show “Servant of the People”, is actively involved in Ukrainian Jewish affairs.

        Reply
        • This helps.

          There are many articles that have analysed this issue. Some are rather pessimistic, some go the other way. People can form their own views, I feel cautiously optimistic based on what I’ve read about Kalush anyway.

          Reply
  2. Great photograph, and a very interesting series.

    I wasn’t aware of the Jewish brewing heritage at all until this series ran, and I wouldn’t have thought it extensive. I see that in fact its very extensive.

    I’ve also been surprised by the brewing in those regions covered by this series that were inside of Russian domains, as I don’t associate that (vast) region of the globe with brewing at all.

    Reply
    • Thanks for this. My studies, which are still ongoing, suggest little involvement in brewing (comparatively) in Central and West Europe, and by extension North America. I’ve been focusing too on pre-craft.

      Eastern Europe has proved different, where there was definitely a tradition, in part connected to the liquor trades generally and Propination in Galicia. It was generally at the mid- to small-level of ownership, and was declining by WW I, but there was definitely involvement in the sector.

      I’ve got more coming. In the context of this kind of writing, vs. a book or monograph, I’m trying to present different parts of the picture: different-size breweries and geographic areas, cases where women owned breweries, etc. – a kind of bird’s eye view.

      For Russia and the lands formerly in its Empire now independent, European brewing did implant from the mid-1800s and in some cases even earlier. It was a similar trend to what happened in Central and West Europe but took longer to occur.

      Russia had the kvass tradition (still does), and vodka also a strong tradition, so partly that too delayed I think a full-blown brewing industry a la UK or Germany say, but in time it acquired breweries much the same as in those places.

      The other factor for Russia of course, and other parts of the East, was delayed or incomplete industrialization. The Communist takeover then further delayed it for the next two generations.

      Reply

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