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Help Create A 1800-Prohibition Family Recipe

Hey all,

My great great grandfather was a Norwegian/German who moved to Glencoe Minnesota back in the late 1800’s (when you could just show up on a boat and be a citizen) - he joined up with three other men (who were brothers) and incorporated with them forming the Glencoe Brewing Company.

I have the original documents forming the corporation and many newspaper articles discussing the brewery and it’s operations.

Here are some things I’ve caught in reading the articles that can help me construct my ancestor’s beer:

  1. Name: Uncle Sam Beer
  2. It was a lager
  3. The daughter of one of the owners (who lived at the brewery) was interviewed and said:
    “Mr. Herman bought the best of everything, the barley, hop, serling, and maple sugar.”
  4. 1894 they made a beer called “Extra Christmas Beer” (they also gave out a “handsome glass” with the beer)
  5. 1876 article says “What makes his productions superior to those of other breweries is that he uses less hops and more barley, giving the liquid richer and more nutritious properties. Our German fellow citizens pronounce it the best and they ought to knew.”
  6. “Especially recommended by Physicians for Family use.” ← love this one

So my questions are:

What grains did they grow in Minnesota in the 1870-1918 period?

What is “serling”? I’ve never found anything like this in any other recipe

What types of hops were used in Minnesota in the 1870-1918 period?

Would oak casks impart their flavor on the beer - something that may be lost in current non-oak cask lagers?

I wont be able to help one bit, but just wanted to say that I think that it is awesome that you are trying to/will recreate that beer. It seems like there is a lot of history and it would be neat to be able to drink what they drank way back then.

If you have the incorporation papers, you should have a handful on names. Get with a genealogy website and start developing leads for other descendants. When you find someone, contact them asking what they know of their ancestor’s involvement. You may get more background info, you may get more names to iterate the process on.
I would suggest telling people you’re researching the entire brewery’s history; and actually DO research the entire brewery’s history, including public records like permits and tax bills. If you ask people for the recipe, they may not have it, and say so. but if you’re looking for EVERYTHING, someone may give you an old invoice, or a picture of Great Grandpa next to a delivery van being unloaded. If you can get the name of suppliers, customers, etc, you’ll get even more leads. For example you may find an invoice from Frank’s grain farm for an amount barley or wheat… If you know what went in, and how much came out, you can start to get a picture.
Unfortunately, with each new lead you iterate the entire process, but my understanding is, with something like this, there are communities who are as into this type of research as we are into brewing. You may get your answer simply by posting on the right forum.

As for “serling” it’s not a misspelled reference to sterling hops; they were not around in 1800’s. Maybe it’s a misspelling of something else?

Good luck!

I just googled them and found a cool label.
14 ounces. nice.
“a pleasant taste that everybody likes” - advertising was a different game back then wasn’t it…

“how’s the beer?” – it’s pleasant.

Could Serling be a misprint of cereal? Such as oats, wheat, rice…

Just a guess, but ‘Serling’ may refer to yeast… barley, hops, yeast, maple sugar… of course I don’t know if yeast could be bought at the time or not. They may have captured their own strain…

This. Find these people and they’ll set you on the right track. And the rest of what JMcK said is something I would pay attention to. You might be getting more out of this than you want, but family history is wildly invaluable. What you come up with could be a treasure for generations.

First off, I love the whole thing. The story, the moving to the US, the opening of the brewery, the label, etc. The ‘serling’ is weird because I can’t think of any relation to brewing with this word except Sterling hops which didn’t get released until 1998 or thereabouts. It’s a little surprising that nowhere in your documentation there is no recipe but you never know… you may discover one. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

Also: The one hop I always hear mentioned in “old-American brewing” is Cluster. I’m sure that others know some different varieties that were around in the 1800s but this is almost always the first (and sometimes only) hop I hear about from over 100 years ago. Also, I have read a number of things that say that brewers in the 1800s could have easily used “wild hops” and their variety were unknown. I’m guessing that by the time your GG Grandfather’s brewery was around, they knew exactly what they were using. Some hop history would be good. Also, whoever mention “serling could be yeast”… that’s interesting because barley and hops were mentioned but not yeast. Could “serling” have been misread and the girl didn’t actually say “serling” but whatever she said was written wrong or sloppily? Go Beer Detective!

Oh hey, the Rahr Malting Company which has operated in WI and MN has been around since 1847. Just saying.

If you can actually piece together some hard data, I would bet Zymurgy or some of the mags would be interested in this story. Great stuff.

Love Ken’s suggestion of checking with Rahr.

[quote=“Pietro”]If you can actually piece together some hard data, I would bet Zymurgy or some of the mags would be interested in this story. Great stuff.

Love Ken’s suggestion of checking with Rahr.[/quote]

Nice idea! Contacting them may lead to some more info on doing this type of historical investigation. Also local libraries or the state historical society may have input or help.

Really a cool project!

edit: Love that old label too!

Check out “Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota” by Doug Hoverson. Here is some of the info on Glencoe Brewing from the book that was available on Amazon for free.
[attachment=1]Glencoe Brewing Co 0.jpg[/attachment]
[attachment=0]Glencoe Brewing Co 01.jpg[/attachment]

Nice. I like the idea of the library too and sometimes things are available online. A few years ago someone on this board sent me some old bottles that were from Chicago and other parts of Illinois. One of them was from the Peru Beer Company of Peru, Illinois. I wanted to see what the deal was with this brewery and when I checked into it, I found out the the owner’s last name was Hebel which happens to be the name of a local homebrewer I know. I told him about it and he went off on his own to look into the family history of it… you just never know what’s out there and when it comes to beer, my guess is that you’ll get some good info.

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