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The history of the Stenger Brewery

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by ErikStenger, May 10, 2009.

  1. ErikStenger
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    ErikStenger Admin Admin

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    Peter Stenger Sr., who was born January 6, 1793 in Bavaria, Germany, was the brewery's first proprietor. Peter, his wife Barbara and eight of their nine children, emigrated to America from Germany in 1848 and settled in Naperville. He soon set up business rebuilding a burned-out brewery. However, his sons John and Nicholas took over the operation in 1851 until Nicholas' death in 1867, at the age of 37. Thereafter, John carried on alone.

    The brewery was located on the north side of Franklin Ave. between Webster and Main Streets. The structure was located on the edge of John Stenger's farm, which was bounded on the south by Franklin Ave. and on the north by Ogden Ave.

    There were then no railroad tracks to bisect it. When the CB&Q Railroad later ran its line through the Stenger farm, John Stenger insisted that a cattle tunnel be built under it in order that his stock could pass safely from his barns to the north pasture. Scores of years later, Naperville children used this underpass as a shortcut to Naper School.

    As the business flourished, the Stengers expanded the brewery's quarters by having two large limestone buildings constructed on the site. Closely resembling their counterparts in Germany, from which the Stengers had emigrated, the structures were three stories tall. The first, a malt house, was built in 1854 and a matching brew house was erected in 1856.

    John Stenger had also invested in quarries and provided the white limestone for the new buildings which was hauled by horse-drawn wagons from Lemont. Stones from the quarries were also used for his home on the northeast corner of Franklin and Webster, for the home on his father's farm several blocks away, and for the SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church. The church was destroyed by fire in 1923, but has since been rebuilt. Many members of the Stenger family are buried in the churchyard cemetery.

    In addition to the big stone buildings, there were about 400 ft. of sheds and shops extending toward the railroad. The ice house alone was 200 ft. long. There were cattle sheds, hay sheds, a horse barn where 20 to 40 horses were kept to draw the beer wagons, a harness shed, and a cooperage where barrels were made to hold the beer. There were two fish ponds and the water reservoir, which was covered.

    In the brew house -- malt, hops and yeast were brewed in great kettles, then clarified and run off into huge hogsheads. These were then stored and aged in a network of under-ground tunnels. Grain was dried or toasted and stored in the malt house.

    Brewing both ale and lager beer, the Stenger firm could produce 130 barrels a day, to the delight and employment of many local citizens of German descent. Farmers earned a little extra cash in the winter by cutting ice from the river and ponds and hauling it to the brewery. They received a cardboard disk for each load on delivery, and converted it to cash in the office.

    Producing a high quality lager beer in the German tradition required spring water. It was piped to the brewery from a natural spring, which bubbled up where Washington Junior High School now stands. This explains why the street to the north of the present school site became known as Spring Ave.

    The Stenger Brewery distributed its beer to saloons throughout the Chicago area - as far north as Elgin and as far south as Ottawa. Local trade was also served. There was free beer on tap for all who worked there, but the men knew they must drink with discretion or lose their jobs. They were mostly the west-siders of German extraction.

    For several years, the Stenger Brewery employed as its foreman, Adolph Coors, who started his own brewery empire in Golden, Colorado in 1873. In 1893, the Stenger Brewery ceased operations. Competition from the large breweries was strong and John Stenger was aging. He sold out to a Chicago syndicate that soon closed it down.

    The growing of mushrooms in the former brewery buildings, the windows of which were boarded over for the purposes of mushroom cultivation, was begun In 1917 by A. V. Jackson. This business flourished for some 30 years, but then it too ceased.

    The stately brewery buildings were demolished in 1956, giving way for construction on that site of the Naperville office of the Illinois Bell Telephone Co. One of the large stones bearing the words, "J & N Stenger Brewery 1856," has been restored and preserved and may be seen today at the Naper Settlement Museum Village, 201 West Porter Ave.

    During its 150th birthday celebration in 1981, Naperville once again had its very own "Stenger Beer". The official Sesquicentennial brew, in specially-designed cans, was only distributed locally to commemorate what was Naperville's principal industry during the last half of the 19th century.

    Supplier of the contents of the cans was the Jos. Huber Brewing Co. of Monroe, Wisconsin. The firm had its origin in 1848, the same year in which the Stenger Brewery began modest operations. The depiction of the imposing Stenger Brewery is the principal feature of the label, while a brief history of the brewery's operation also appears on the can.

    The original painting by Les Schrader, a Naperville artist, was used as a basis for the design of the beer can label and is on display in a gallery at the Meeting House of Naper Settlement.
  2. ErikStenger
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    ErikStenger Admin Admin

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