1856: Julius Stroh Born, Detroit Brewer

When:
February 3, 2021 all-day
2021-02-03T00:00:00-05:00
2021-02-04T00:00:00-05:00

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Today is the birthday of Julius Stroh (February 3, 1856-June 2, 1939). He was born in Michigan, the son of Bernard Stroh, who founded the Stroh Brewery in Detroit, Michigan in 1850. After his father died, his brother Bernard Jr. took over the brewery, but in 1908 he assumed control of the family brewery.

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Julius Stroh in 1933, pouring the first glass of beer after Michigan repealed prohibition.

Given the time he was at the helm of the Stroh Brewery, there’s surprisingly little biographical information or images of him.

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The Stroh family around 1871, with Julius on the far left.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Stroh’s early days through Julius Stroh’s tenure:

The Stroh family began brewing beer in a family-owned inn during the 18th century in Kirn, Germany. In 1849, during the German Revolution, Bernhard Stroh (1822-1882), who had learned the brewing trade from his father, emigrated to the United States. Bernhard Stroh established his brewery in Detroit in 1850 when he was 28 and immediately started producing Bohemian-style pilsner, which had been developed at the municipal brewery of Pilsen, Bohemia in 1842. In 1865, he purchased additional land and expanded his business and adopted the heraldic lion emblem from the Kyrburg Castle in Germany and named his operation the Lion’s Head Brewery. (The lion emblem is still visible in its advertising and product labels.)

Bernhard Stroh’s original beer selling operation consisted of a basement brewing operation and was then sold door-to-door in a wheelbarrow. The new beer (Stroh’s) sold door-to-door was a lighter-lager beer, brewed in copper kettles.

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The Stroh Brewery around 1864.

Bernhard Stroh Jr. took charge of the brewery on the death of his father. He changed the brewery’s name to the B. Stroh Brewing Company. With the introduction of pasteurization and refrigerated rail cars, Stroh was able to ship some of his beer as far as Florida and Massachusetts. In 1893 Stroh Bohemian Beer won a blue ribbon at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The company’s name was changed to The Stroh Brewery Company in 1902. In 1908, Bernhard Stroh’s brother Julius Stroh took over the brewery. After a tour of famous European breweries, he introduced the European fire-brewing method in the Stroh brewery. Common in Europe before World War I, the fire-brewing process uses a direct flame rather than steam to heat beer-filled copper kettles. The company claims that the resulting higher temperatures bring out more of the beer’s flavor.

During Prohibition, Julius Stroh operated the business under the name The Stroh Products Company, producing near beer (beer with its alcohol extracted), birch beer, soft drinks, malt products, ice cream, and ice. Though production of most of these items ceased when Prohibition ended in 1933, a special unit of the brewery continued to make Stroh’s Ice Cream (this facility remained in Detroit until February 2007, when the operation was moved to Belvidere, Illinois, though the distribution facility in Detroit still remains).

Upon Julius Stroh’s death in 1939, his son Gari Stroh assumed the presidency.

Strohs-employees-1885
Stroh employees around 1885, with Julius Stroh sitting behind the barrel.

Sources:

Jay Brooks, “Historic Beer Birthday: Julius Stroh“,  Brookston Beer Bulletin, February 3, 2018.

Brewed in Detroit: Breweries and Beers Since 1830, Volume 1.  Peter Blum.  Detroit : Wayne State University Press, [1999]