A short history of the Kiewel Brewery

(Pictured is a 1916 advertisement for White Rose Beer. The picture shows the brewery in all of its pre-prohibition glory on Northeast Seventh Street. The original advertisement was first published in the 1916-17 City of Little Falls Directory.)

Thanks to the taste and community loyalty, Jacob Kiewel Brewing Co. became the preeminent beer of the area. From its inception to the start of prohibition in 1919, the brewery did excellent business.

Prohibition made the production of alcohol illegal and nearly brought Minnesota breweries to the brink of financial ruin. The Kiewel Brewery managed to survive by diversifying its business by producing ice cream, near beer and confections.

Jacob Kiewel died in 1928, five years before the end of prohibition. With the end of Prohibition, the Kiewel Brewery returned to making great beer. This action made them extremely popular in the county. “Every weekday morning, the Kiewel boys would travel to all the bars in Little Falls and buy all the patrons a Kiewel beer,” laughed Chris Anderson, a local collector of Kiewel history. “A person could always tell if the Kiewel Brothers were on their morning rounds because the town drunks would be two steps ahead of them.”

The brewery continued to prosper until World War II. The war had a disastrous effect on the Kiewel Brewery. The raw materials for brewing alcohol were requisitioned by the United States government for the war effort.

The Kiewel Brewery was not willing to lessen production and wait out the conflict. Rather than reduce batch size, the brewers modified their old recipes and changed the quality standards for the ingredients. The changes proved disastrous for the business.

“The Kiewel Brewery essentially gambled away their good name,” stated Anderson. “The brewery crafted some great tasting beer, and some terrible tasting batches. The brew masters were not able to use consistent ingredients or maintain the same high standards.” Though these inconsistencies occurred sporadically, the effect on the Kiewel sales was devastating. “People like a constant taste in their beer, as all beers have their own flavor due to the brewing process,” stated Anderson. “When beer drinkers no longer know what to expect, they find another brand.”

The loss of brand loyalty caused Kiewel sales to slip significantly. Competition from larger manufacturers would finally close the brewery. Kiewel brewed its final keg of beer in February of 1961.

There is an interesting postscript to the Kiewel Story. According to Anderson and many others, Kiewel White Seal beer is still produced. “Old timers will tell me that Grain Belt Premium tastes exactly like Kiewel White Seal beer. That isn’t really surprising, considering that the Minneapolis Brewing Company purchased Kiewel in 1959. The president of the Minneapolis Brewery was Charles Kiewel, the oldest son of Jacob Kiewel. So Charles had a hand in preserving the tradition and recipes of the old Kiewel brewery,” said Anderson.

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