Did you know that Wisconsin has had two Sprecher Breweries?
The one that I think I can safely say is the most famous is the one that was founded by Randy Sprecher in Walker’s Point in 1985 as the first modern craft brewery in Milwaukee. In 1994, it relocated to its current Glendale home and is well known locally and regionally for its root beer and its beer beer.
But while nosing around during the writing of this post about the demolition of the old smokestack that was long painted with the Sprecher logo, I came across a 1959 newspaper reference to Sprecher Brewery, too.
That’s 26 years before there was a Sprecher Brewery, right?
Well, it turns out, no.
In fact, in the 1840s, Frederick Adam Sprecher – presumably no relation to Randy, who is an Oregon native with family roots in North Dakota ... though maybe? – founded a brewery in Madison.
Sprecher, born in Germany in 1820, had arrived in New York on the Utica in 1846.
The 1959 Milwaukee Journal reference notes that according to Daniel S. Durrie’s “History of Madison,” Sprecher was operating by 1846. But another online source suggests Sprecher opened his brewery at 653 Williamson St. in 1848, which seems more likely (and, although I'm not 100 percent sure it's the same guy, a Frederic Sprecher arrived in the U.S. from Germany in 1846. If it's him, 1848 would again seem more likely).
“This site became the home of Fauerbach Brewery,” shares Peter Fauerbach in his blog. “The Fauerbach ... and Sprecher families were related by marriages between members of their close knit brewing families. Peter moved to Madison in 1868 to purchase the Sprecher brewery and rename it the Fauerbach Brewery.”
In his monumental “The Drink That Made Wisconsin Famous,” Doug Hoverson also suggests 1848 is correct.
“Frederic Sprecher was the first brewer in what was now the capital of the State of Wisconsin, starting there the same year as the territory became a state.”
Hoverson notes that Sprecher brewed 100 barrels of beer his first year but was quickly overtaken by a new brewery in 1850, when S. Keyes & Co. brewed 230 barrels.
By 1860, Hoverson says, Sprecher was brewing 1,800 barrels. By that time, Sprecher had died, in 1859, and his widow Margaret appeares to have run it before leasing it. In 1864 she remarried and her new husband, George Rockenbach took over, though the business was still in Margaret’s name.
In 1868 she leased it to Peter Fauerbach and the latter purchased it from her 12 years later.
The brewery, which ceased operation in 1966 has been torn down and was replaced with a condo complex called The Fauerbach.
Randy Sprecher had no knowledge of the earlier brewery when he opened his, though later on he learned of it. His wife Anne doesn’t believe there’s any family connection between the pioneering Sprecher brewers who opened their breweries a century apart.
While the original Sprecher is no secret, I don't think it's widely known, either.
I wonder if ol’ Frederic would have preferred an abbey triple or an amber.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.