A Short History of the Fauerbach Brewery, 1848 – 1966, Madison, Wisconsin


My branch of the Fauerbach family is from Bavaria, home to some of the best tasting beers in the world. Europe was a mess during the early 19th century, so many younger Europeans came to America where they could live free of religious and political influence. Peter Fauerbach, our great-great grandfather, 1830 – 1886, came to Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1848 at the age of 17. Peter came to America with his older sister Barbara Fauerbach Bierbauer and her husband Henry Bierbauer.  Henry Bierbauer had two older brothers already brewing in America, Louis at Utica NY and Wilhelm Bierbauer at Mankato, MN.

Excerpt from Darrell Smith, of the Milwaukee Beer and Brewing Museum Newsletter vol 24, Summer 2015

After a short stint at the Louis Bierbauer Brewery along the Erie Canal in Utica, Peter moved to New Lisbon, Wisconsin with Henry Bierbauer, where they co-owned the H.Bierbauer Brewery. After a few years, Peter married Marie Haertel, the daughter of Karl Haertel, who had opened a brewery in neighboring Portage,Wisconsin in 1851. Karl was a very giving person who helped those in need in Portage, and helped other brewing families like the Hausmanns, the Fauerbachs, the Bierbauers, and the Sprechers. These families collectively established  large enterprises for their time and all became essential to their communities from 1848 – 1966.

In  1848,  Frederick Adam Sprecher started a brewery at 653 Williamson Street in Madison, Wisconsin.  This site became the  home of Fauerbach Brewery. The Fauerbach, Haertel, and Sprecher  families were related by marriages between members of their close knit brewing families. Peter moved to Madison in 1868 to purchase the Sprecher brewery and rename it the Fauerbach Brewery. The family-owned brewery was operated through prohibition until 1966. Peter concentrated on establishing the Fauerbach name in the Madison area. The brewery remained small throughout the 1870s and 1880s.  Production was approximately 3000 barrels per year. Fauerbach focused on serving the Madison area and local  communities. The advent of railroads allowed beer to be shipped to Prairie du Chien by 1863 in a matter of  hours.
Peter and his six sons built the business by providing home delivery. He provided a variety of beers such as a lighter beer called Mensapale, a dark Salvator brew, and an export with body and a high alcohol content that helped preserve the beer and allow  for better transportation.  Although U.S. German brewers knew about  the use of adjuncts like corn, since the common 6 row barley did not have the diastatic power of the European 2 row barley, the most popular products would have been darker, unfiltered beer with a strong reliance on all barley malt, which provided more body. Peter  died  in  1886  at  which  time  Marie  became proprietress of the brewery. His sons Louis, Henry, Philip, Charles, and  Emil ran the day to day operations. Continued  growth increased the size to eight times their father’s brewery. Two 150 horsepower boilers provided energy for the plant which  employed almost 100 workers and was the only union brewery in Madison.
During prohibition the Fauerbach Brewery produced cereal  beverages, sodas, and cheeses.  To make ends meet the brewery  was forced to sell off  many of  its properties. Fauerbach more than likely did not  have  tied  houses  but bought  furnishings and  in some cases saloons in return for serving their beer. Post prohibition Fauerbach  reestablished brewing operations. These were  profitable  times  for  the brewery.  Continuing to selfdistribute locally, the brewery expanded sales to  western states along the major rail  lines.  Promotional materials have been found from Illinois, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska. By  the 1960s  however,  local  breweries  were  having  a  difficult  time  competing  against larger and national brands. In Wisconsin alone, 18 breweries were forced to close. At its peak Fauerbach  produced  about  75,000  barrels of  beer per year. The Fauerbach Brewery closed in 1966,  along with the company’s Pepsi  franchise, not being able to compete against national giants. The brewery was torn down  in 1967. The Fauerbach condominiums were built on the site in 1978.

The Fauerbach beer brand was resurrected in 2005 by fifth generation Peter, Neil, David, Karl,  Fred  and  Erik  Fauerbach.   Unfortunately, the Fauerbachs ended this venture in 2009 due to problems obtaining beer from the contract brewer they used.

The spirit of Fauerbach could be seen in signs displayed in their bar room that said “The largest small brewery in “Spirit”, and “Over 8 million bottles sold in 1961”.

 Here is a list of related brewers and connections to Fauerbach and each other:

Frederick Sprecher

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1)  Frederick Adam Sprecher, Madison, Wisconsin 1848 the first to brew beer at 653 Williamson site - future home of the Fauerbach brewery.
2)  Carl Haertel, Bavaria then Portage, Wisconsin 1851. Married to Barbara Hollenbach. Brother–in-law to Frederick Sprecher. Carl’s daughter Elizabeth married Jacob Best Jr., the son of a large Milwaukee brewer.
Barbara Hollenbach's sister married Frederick Sprecher and lived in the residence of the Sprecher - Fauerbach Brewery, 651 Williamson Street.  Documentation on the Haertels can be found in the Portage Library. 

3)  Louis Bierbauer, Bierbauer Brewery, Utica, New York on the Erie Canal, brother to Henry Bierbauer and Wilhelm Bierbauer brewers from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

4)  Wilhelm Bierbauer, Mankato, Minnesota, 1837, was a Minnesota pioneer. 

5) Henry Bierbauer, Bavaria, then Utica, N.Y., then New Lisbon, Wisconsin, was mayor, hardware store owner, roller mill operator, brewery owner and businessman.   Henry married to Barbara Fauerbach, older sister of Peter Fauerbach, in Germany. Henry and Barbara came to America with Peter Fauerbach. They were partners in the New Lisbon brewing business. See the Bierbauer page for pictures of the home and brewery in New Lisbon, Wisconsin.

6)  Peter Fauerbach, Bavaria, New Lisbon, Madison, Wisconsin was a brother-in-law to Henry Bierbauer and Carl Haertel.  Peter married Marie Haertel. Peter bought relative Adam Sprecher's brewery and renamed it Fauerbach brewery in 1868. The family owned brewery was continuously open through prohibition until 1966 when it closed for good. The Fauerbach brewers owned a Pepsi-cola franchise in Madison and one in Fox Lake/Beaver Dam. Other properties included the Avenue/Monona Hotel, the Hotel Germania at Blair and Wilson, and 65 properties that would eventually help them survive 13 years of prohibition.

7)  Carl Hausmann, Freeport, Illinois (Yellow Creek Brewery), Portage (Haertel Brewery), and finally Madison, Wisconsin, was a foreman for Carl Haertel in Portage. Carl went to New Lisbon and built the first brewery there, preceding Peter Fauerbach and Henry Bierbauer. Carl took over the Frederick Sprecher operation in Madison after Frederick died. Carl partnered with Matthias Breckheimer another Madison brewer, then bought Edward Voigt’s Capitol Steam Brewery on State and Gorham. In 1868 he renamed it Hausmann Brewery. Carl and his family were large benefactors to Madison giving land such as Tenney Park, and the area on Sherman Avenue that used to be the Rodermund Mill, Brewery and Dry Goods Store.  

8)  William Voigt and son Edward Voigt, Voigt Brewery State Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 1854 - 1864. Edward moved to Detroit where he started Rheingold Brewery- a large national brewery.  See the Voigt Brewery page for images and more information.

Documented breweries in Madison include: Brunkow and Mueller, Mauz, Hess, White, Voigt, Hausmann, Breckheimer, Rodermund, Sprecher, and Fauerbach. Of these, only Hausmann and Fauerbach were in operation when prohibition began in January 1920. Only the Fauerbach Brewery operated after prohibition ended in April, 1933.  In 1966, it closed during a time when so many other local breweries closed due to the influence of national breweries that sold their products at a loss to force out the local breweries.

The Fauerbach Brewery survived several “Dry” spells in addition to 13 years of national prohibition, only to fall victim in the end to it’s own industry counterparts and the underlying alcohol taxation system. The Brewery was located right on the no-saloon dry zone, a ½ mile radius from the Capitol. Several attempts to clean up the filthy saloons where men smoked cigars and drank beer where tried before national prohibition. 

How the brewing industry changed by advances in technology and by the national brands!  While the Fauerbach Brewery and other small local breweries were not true peers of the leading brewers in terms of volume or marketing methods, they deserve much admiration and respect. In the Fauerbach Brewery a sign read: “The largest of the small breweries in Spirit." At the peak, the Brewery had 21 trucks on the road delivering over 75 thousand barrels of beer per year.

Other than surviving as a brewery, the Brewery had a number of firsts, some of which make it unique:

1)    Blue ribbons for their beer. 

2)    Blue ribbons for their draft horses. 

3)    In 1906, the Brewery had installed a water system to flush spittoons so bartenders did not need to do handle them.

4)    First business in town to install refrigeration utilities.

5)    Largest user of natural gas in Dane County.

6)    First brewery to use a locomotive train engine to provide steam to heat the kettles while the new boiler was being installed after prohibition ended. 

7)    Home of the National Champion (1914 – 1928) A-Class Iceboat, Princess II, captained by Emil Fauerbach.

The Fauerbach Brewery originally sold their beer locally, occasionally sending their EXPORT beer beyond southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois by rail. Time and distance were limitations to a brewers range before pasteurization; pasteurized meant beer could last over 6 months.  But beer taste suffers from pasteurization and prolonged periods, even today. Once pasteurization equipment was in place, the Fauerbachs expanded their range.

The Fauerbach Brewery location was, before improved roads, the central hub of the city from a transportation perspective. Nearly all farm and industrial supplies moved into Madison from the East to their location. The ridge road around the north end of Lake Monona was the major route into the city from the East. At the end of this road was the Fauerbach Brewery. This location was helpful with distribution and onsite sales. At first horse drawn wagons, carried keg beer to points in the county on dirt roads. The Brewery grew as Madison’s population grew and as trucks became the mode of transporting beer. Refrigeration was still a barrier until 1906. The Fauerbach Brewery had an icehouse on the shore of its location on Lake Monona from 1848 until 1917. 

Madison was an ice Mecca before refrigeration equipment was available. Ice was harvested from the abundant city lakes from both sides of the narrow isthmus and transported by rail to customers. The Brewery had it own need for ice and hired a big crew each winter to harvest ice. Once refrigeration was in place, the icehouse was used to store the world famous brewery iceboats and sailboats.


Madison had many small steamboats that took passengers on lake tours and to the picnic grounds in the park across the lake. The launching sites typically had a gazebo to keep passengers out of the sun and a plank pier for loading. The Fauerbach Brewery pier was one of the more popular launch sites as you might imagine. The lakefront of the Fauerbach Brewery provided much entertainment and service to local community over the years: from steamboat rides, to meetings of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, and scuba divers – who occasionally find old steins, bottles, or mugs.  

One of several fascinating stories from Ray Bareis, born about 1900 and raised across the street from the Brewery, is that of childhood memories of the lakefront side of the Brewery. The Brewery had a rail spur between the icehouse and other buildings. In the open yard, coopers repaired wooden kegs. Using two-handed wood shaving tools, they would shape replacement staves for a broken keg. Once enough of these repaired kegs were ready, the pitching machine would be turned on. This machine would pitch rosin like material inside the barrel to seal it and protect the beer. The yard also had a large wooden tank with thick sidewalls raised on legs that would allow its contents to be dumped into a rail car. This was for broken glass from the bottling operation. According to Ray, the gang initiation was to walk around the top of the container in bare feet! Of course, “if you were caught by Brewery employees, you got bounced back home.”

Brewing is and was a hazardous business. From the days of unruly civil war soldiers who came to Madison Camp Randall for training, to the days of temperance, the family is proud of integrity and honesty that were the rule of the day in life and in business. My grandfather, Karl Fauerbach, born in 1897 in the living quarters of the brewery, wrote, “None of the Fauerbachs has been in court or in jail- none has ever been arrested and quoting Judge Roy Procter ‘We are in a hazardous business.’”  Karl, who worked for 48 years, led the Brewery through 13 very hard years of prohibition. 

The family commitment to employees is legendary in contrast to today. The Fauerbach Brewery was the only union brewery in the city. There was never a strike or a layoff when it was legal to produce beer.  Even though grandfather worked 48 years, he did not have the longest tenure. This record belongs to Alfred Christensen, 54 years. Of the 65 employees in 1956, 4 had over 40 years, 6 more had over 30 years, 4 more had over 20 years, and 8 had over 15 years. Today the average American worker can expect to be fired once and to be out of work for over 6 months in their working years.

Art was an important aspect of the Brewery, in beer marketing and in advertising. The Fauerbach bar room was a friendly and warm place with murals, stained glass windows, wood paneling, Italian marble, and a beautiful white oak bar with a golden hue. 

The Brewery had a 10-foot by 16-foot ceiling fresco of “The Seven Lively Arts” painted by Bernhard Schneider, a painter for the American Panorama Company.  


When the Fauerbach bar was open, the bartenders served delicious fresh draft beer for a nickel and provided free sandwiches for patrons. It was the favorite place to be in Madison after a long day of work. On parade days and for other large city events, the bar was open and free. It was a place where friends from the mayor, fire and police chief to the neighborhood patrons could enjoy a good conversation and relax.

If you wanted to brew beer in Madison, you needed to be prepared because:

·    The Brewery was only 70 miles from the beer capitol of the world.

·     Seven times between 1901 and 1918, Madison residents voted to register their views on alcohol. 

·    Breweries had a 30-percent excise tax on sold products.

For the Fauerbach Brewery to brew beer as long as they did under existing conditions at least indicates a true devotion to their business. “Since 1848” takes on a new meaning. It is not a contest among peers to be able to say who started brewing first. Rather it is a term that underscores the tenacity and pride of the families who were local beer merchants. 

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