Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Brewery and Food Products Manager William Stoehr [otd 03/22]

Brewery manager William Stoehr was born March 22, 1880 in Bethalto, Illinois, 25-30 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri. As a youth, William worked as a cooper, his father's trade. However, his real interest was the brewer's craft, so as a teenager he took a job at a large brewery in St. Louis. After five years there, he moved to Chicago to attend the American Brewing Academy, perhaps the top brewmaster’s school in the U.S. at that time.

Stoehr received his certificate in 1902, along with a gold medal as top performer in his class. After that, he spent six months at a brewery in Illinois, and then became master brewer at a large plant in Seattle.
Beer by mule, Idaho Brewing & Malting Company
IMB logo on the hogshead.

Then a Spokane company bought the Idaho Brewing Company in Boise. The Idaho Statesman reported (June 20, 1905) that, “William Stoehr of Seattle … has resigned his position there and will have charge of the Boise brewery as manager.”

The facility he was hired to run could trace its roots, as the “City Brewery,” almost to the founding of Boise City. Certainly by September 1864, it was a thriving business. The plant had a succession of short-term owners before Joseph Misseldt, an emigrant from Prussia, acquired it in 1870. Sadly, he fell down a well and drowned in 1878. His widow sold the business to John Brodbeck. When Brodbeck sold it in 1901, the new owners changed the name to the Idaho Brewing Company.

Aside from his manager’s position, Stoehr immersed himself in the business and social life of Boise. One of his several investments led him to a position as Secretary and Treasurer of the Boise Gas Light & Coke Company.

However, prohibition came early to Idaho – in 1916 – thereby making the core product of the IB&M Company illegal. Officers quickly reinvented the business as the Idaho Products Company, making a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. They also set up plants in Meridian and Payette to dry fruits and to pack fruits and vegetables.

After awhile, company developers also devised an effective process to dehydrate potatoes. In fact, the company won a contract to supply dehydrated potatoes to the U. S. Army, but World War I ended before it could be completed. In addition to their own packing and shipping operations, Idaho Products handled sales and shipping for other regional producers. Most of the firm's managers – including the President – worked in Spokane, leaving Stoehr as the highest officer in Boise.

When the U. S. gave up Prohibition as a bad idea, the company jumped back into brewing. The firm's President said (Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 27, 1933), "Bohemian Club Beer will be manufactured at Boise and new equipment will be installed in the old Idaho Brewing and Malting company plant there immediately."

The article went on to note that, “The Boise staff will be headed by William Stoehr, in charge of manufacturing.”

Some records suggest that Stoehr remained with the brewery, in some capacity, until it was bought out in the late 1950's. He passed away a few years after that.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Bob Kay, “Bosworth, Atlantic Brewery,” Correspondence files, Atlantic Brewery Company, Chicago (2008).

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