Image from Hyman’s Handbook of Indianapolis. It should be noted that this image does not appear to match any of the Indianapolis Brewing Company’s breweries in operation in 1896, as they were in mostly residential areas and comprised of much smaller buildings.
March 1 is the semi-official Beer Day holiday of Iceland, marking the end of their Prohibition in 1989. It is just one of several official and unofficial beer holidays around the world and a good excuse to discuss Indianapolis’s rich brewing past. We will try to highlight a piece of the history on each of the upcoming beer holidays as well.
Today is a short look at the biggest and longest-lived brewing company, Indianapolis Brewing Company.
The Indianapolis Brewing Company was formed in 1887 from a consolidation of three well-established brewing companies in the city: C. Maus Brewery, CF Schmidt Brewing Co, and P. Lieber Brewing Company. Each of the three breweries continued separate operations for a time, with the Lieber branch, located on Madison Avenue at Parkway Avenue, becoming the main brewery for the company. It had rail service, which gave it the ability to easily distribute the IBC beers throughout the state. The Maus branch was located at New York Ave and Agnes Street until closing in 1900. The Schmidt branch, on McCarty Street at High Street, operated until 1920, presumably since it was not needed for the non-alcholic Prohibition-era IBC products. Both operations were large enough to fill two city blocks each.
Albert Lieber, maternal grandfather of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., become the second company president when his father retired after a year due to poor health. He continued as president for many years, greatly expanding the business during his tenure, though I cannot find exactly when he stepped down.
Around the turn of the century, the IBC’s products were highly acclaimed. They won a gold medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900 and the grand prize gold medal at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, among other awards.
Like many large breweries, the Indianapolis Brewing Company was able to build a non-alcoholic product base in the time before Prohibition and so was able to survive the dry time by making legal medicinal tonics “Ozotonic” and malt extracts. I presume they probably also sold wholesale yeast, as that was another common non-alcoholic product, and maybe other
From 1933 to 1935, the Indianapolis Brewing Company was briefly renamed Indiana Breweries, Inc. The company continued operations until 1948.
Probably the best known IBC brew was Circle City Beer, though there were more than a dozen brands used over the 60-year history of the company.
The Maus brewery building on New York Ave may have lasted until 1958, but is now a parking lot for IUPUI. The Schmidt brewery on McCarty street is now the location of an Eli Lilly complex. The Lieber brewery on Madison Avenue is now the parking lot for a car auction company.
Indiana Brewing History, http://www.indianabeer.com/History/IH-In.html
Hyman’s Handbook of Indianapolis, 1897.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Rate Maps, 1898 and 1915.