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Antique Beer Photos:

Dozens of prints available in a variety of sizes up to 40x50.
By Donald Roussin & Kevin Kious (618-346-2634)

Visitors seeking to use the new outdoor wine garden at the rear of the Hermanhof Winery in Hermann, Missouri in 1991 found one of the paths blocked by a large metallic kettle, obviously flipped upside down. While the copper mass was not marked, anyone knowledgeable with St. Louis brewing history would have probably recognized the object: Adam Lemp's original brewkettle.

How did Adam Lemp's lager legacy travel to the Missouri River town of Hermann? The owner of the winery, James Dierberg (a member of the Dierberg's Markets grocery clan), was a member of the Missouri Historical Society, which owned Lemp's brewkettle. Dierberg had agreed to care for the historic vessel for a year, as the Society was renovating the building where the brewkettle resided, and was short of storage space. The location for temporary storage of the brewkettle at the Hermannhof seemed appropriate enough, since, ironically, the Hermannhof Winery is located in the same building that before Prohibition had been the home of the Hugo Kropp Brewing Company.

Hermann was actually the second location in which Lemp's brewkettle had been stored that year. Dierberg had originally placed the kettle in the yard of his house, located in an upscale suburb of St. Louis. However, after neighbors began to complain, he felt compelled to move the kettle again, to the Hermannhof Winery.

A study of the history of Adam Lemp's brewkettle provides details on its travels, and also highlights the workings of a mid-nineteenth century brewery. While "state of the art" in 1840, the brewkettle seems almost comically small by modern standards. Today's typical brewery operated by any of the large national brewers utilizes several brewkettles of over 500 barrels (15,500 gallons) capacity, leading to the ability to produce millions of barrels of beer per year, per plant. Using his original twelve-barrel brewkettle, Adam Lemp is thought to have produced just 100 barrels of beer his first year.

In One Hundred Years of Brewing, a volume produced by H. S. Rich and Company in 1903, and devoted to the history of brewing in America, the following quotation appears: 'The twelve barrel-kettle (sic) in which Mr. Lemp brewed this early beer, as well as the first lager beer in St. Louis, is still preserved as a curio of the industry, by William J. Lemp, to whom the business descended.' This statement, with an accompanying photograph of the kettle, makes it possible to authenticate Adam Lemp's brewkettle, as the dents visible on it then are still recognizable today.

The kettle, probably produced in Chicago or St. Louis, was essentially hand made, and typical of the brewing equipment of the era. Eight copper sheets were beaten into shape with a hammer, and riveted together to form water tight seams. As craftsmen could not weld cooper at that time, they lapped the seams, and put closely spaced rivets, 1/2' inch apart along each seam line, in the plate joints to make it water tight. The kettle has two drain spouts, the upper one for the wort, and lower one for the dregs. The curved plate of copper, used for the bottom of the kettle, was cast in copper in a single piece. Dimension wise, it was built 4 1/2' feet tall, with a circumference of 18 feet, and a brewing capacity of 12 barrels (372 gallons).

The Hermannhof Winery did not have to worry too much about the security of Lemp's brewkettle during its storage there, as its weight is estimated to be between 550 and 600 pounds.

Adam Lemp's original brewkettle probably saw service for only a decade, or two, at the most. It is doubtful that it was still being used by the time construction began on the Western Brewery on Cherokee Street during the Civil War, because of the kettle's small capacity. Where the kettle traveled to, and resided at, while in the custody the Lemp family for the next century is uncertain, although it was obviously moved before the original Lemp brewery on South Second Street was torn down in the 1930's. Missouri Historical Society records show that the brewkettle resumed its travels when it was delivered as a gift by Edwin Lemp in 1955, to the Society, with the following note: 'This kettle was used by my Great Grandfather in 1840 or, 1841 here in St. Louis, when he began his first brewery.' The kettle remained at the Society for a number of years, until it was placed on "permanent loan" to Falstaff's new museum in 1964. There, it remained proudly on display, until Paul Kalmanovitz closed the St. Louis Falstaff Plant #10 brewery, and the adjacent museum, in 1977. With the closing of the Falstaff Museum, the brewkettle was transported back to the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis, where it remained until its year long stay at the Hermannhof. It is now safely back at the Missouri Historical Society, preserved for future generations interested in brewing history to view, study and enjoy. Hopefully, the travels of Adam Lemp's original brewkettle have ended forever!

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