This 1883 advert for the P. Lieber & Co. on Madison Avenue (at Parkway) prompted a search, (beer in hand) for a little background on one of our early brewing companies. Who was Peter Lieber, for a start? Born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1834, moving to Cincinnati, Ohio around 1853. He later lived in Hamilton, Ohio and New Ulm, Minnesota working first in the trade of brush-making (which he had learned in Germany) and engaging in the sale of general merchandise and furs (bought from Indians). He served honorably during the Civil War on the side of the Union, and after the war, moved to Indianapolis, where his brother Herman had established a home and became private secretary to Governor Oliver P. Morton.
After retiring from his position as Governor Morton’s secretary, Mr. Lieber, his brother Herman, and Charles Mayer bought the “old Gack brewery,” (Gack & Biser) renaming it the P. Lieber & Company. From approximately 1868, Peter Lieber was the president and chief executive officer of the brewery until his retirement in 1888, at which time he returned to his native city of Dusseldorf. (In 1893, he was appointed U.S. consul for that city by President Cleveland, until 1908, when that title was abolished.) In 1889, the brewery reorganized and adopted the name “Indianapolis Brewing Company.” At that time, it was “an amalgamation of the breweries that were originally founded by Peter Lieber, C. F. Schmidt, and Casper Maus…” In the 1897 Hyman’s Handbook of Indianapolis, the industry and company growth is noted and refers to the accompanying photo: “The contrast of this crude establishment, as compared with the magnificent modern plant that has replaced it, is no greater than a comparison of the methods that have supplanted these old methods, when the m alt was mashed by hand and brewed in a kettle. What was then determined by instinct, has come to be an exact science, and the old-time brew-master who ‘guessed by practice,’ has given place to the modern brew-master, the skilled chemist, who not only brings to his aid years of practice, but has the many advantages that ingenuity has brought with the use of modern appliances. Thus, the beer of to-day, is the combined result of years of practical experience and chemical skill…Regarding the product of the Indianapolis Brewing Company its fame has become international, second to none, and from Maine to California, and from Canada to Cuba, is the demand for it increasing. The total output of the Company for 1895, was in excess of 200,000 barrels, and the total brewing capacity of the combined plants will aggregate over 600,000 barrels per annum.”
Peter’s son, Albert Lieber succeeded him as president of the Indianapolis Brewing Company and was still president in 1910, at which time, the company was said to be the largest and best equipped plant of its kind in the city. The business continued to grow and flourish under Albert Lieber and continued operations til approximately 1948. The Madison Street site is now a parking lot for a car auction company.