A Brief History
The Farmers Brewery
713 S. Main Street
What’s the tallest building in Shawano County? The answer is, the Farmers Brewery Building (Wright Broiler later in life) at 713 South Main Street. This building stands over 7 stories but that’s getting ahead of the story. You may have known the answer to this question but do you know the history of the Farmers Brewery?
The Farmers Brewing Company dates back to 1913 with the signing of the article of organization. The original six farmers from Shawano organizing the operation were William Regling, Otto Regling, Conrad Weinig, August Beversdorf, Paul Winter and Charles Piehl. Stock in the corporation, worth $50,000, was authorized and distributed among to over 150 people in the Shawano area.
On July 1, 1913, A. H. Seering and his wife Josephine sold seven lots in Block #7 and three lots in Block #8 of the Danks & Richmond Addition to the Farmers Brewing Company for $8,000. Built in 1916, Architect Bernhard Barthell used a Romanesque Revival style for the exterior of the Farmers Brewery building with cream brick made in the Shawano area. Conrad and Charles Volland, employees of the Raddant Brewery on 5th Street, took over management and brewery operations. The first brewer master was Conrad Volland and you can find his brew master diploma attached to this article from Hantke’s Brewers’ School in Milwaukee.
As listed on the Wisconsin State Historical Society, “To make brewing more efficient and economical, brew master Conrad Volland adopted special industrial designs that brewery architects in St. Louis and Chicago developed between the late 1870s and 1890. An organization of space along a vertical axis placed the water tanks, malt hopper, mash tub, brew kettle, and other equipment in a gravity-flow system. As the brewer introduced the water, malt, and hops at the top of the structure, the concoction flowed downward. In the final stages, the brewers transferred the beer to fermenting and lagering rooms.”
“The Farmers’ Brewing Company Building exemplifies this spatial plan. At the top of the six-story tower was the primary tank, where the brewer created the wort. A brass cooling system stretched down from the fourth floor to a giant copper brewing kettle on the second. On that second floor stood six enormous stock tubs, with the first floor housing rows of fermenting tubs and seven huge storage tanks. Each of those tanks held the equivalent of 73 barrels of beer.”
According to the book, Badger Brewers Past and Present, the brewery had a total capacity capability of 20,000 barrels but produced about 9000 barrels per year (that’s approximately 3 million 12 oz bottles!) of Farmers Lager Beer, Shawano Club, and Shawano Pilsner. The brewery had one bottling line with about 80% of production being bottled.
Prohibition closed production of beer but the business continued, bottling soda pop until 1933 when beer production resumed.
The brewery operation was sold to Van Dyck Brewing Company of Green Bay on November 29, 1948 and ended production around 1950. After the end of brewing, the building served as a meat distribution business, Wright Broiler Chicken, from the mid 1950’s until 2000 when operation ceased.
Since 2000, the building remained vacant. The former brewery went through several owners who hoped to develop the property into a brewery or other business but because of the expense of the endeavor, they gave up on the idea. Hartwigs of Twigs recently bought the properties including, the brewery and bottling building, and is now in the process of reworking the structure, including the windows.
Jesse Borlen, curator of the Shawano County Historical Society, tells us the building harkens back to a time when as many as six breweries operated in Shawano, all of which have since faded into the history books. The thing we wonder is, with the Farmers Brewery producing 3 million bottles of beer each year, who drank all the beer? I guess Shawano liked its beer and still does!
Take a look at the photo gallery for some of the history of the Farmers Brewery with its various beers; Shawano Club, Holiday Beer, Shawano Beer, and Short Snort Beer.