History of Beer in Chicago

There is some dispute as to when Chicago gained its first brewery; was it in 1833, the same year the city was incorporated, or was the first commercial beer production seen closer to 1835? Many sources quote the 1833 date, but there is also some evidence that J. & W. Crawford’s Chicago Brewery may have been the first in town, in 1835. While further digging into local archives could settle the matter, it is clear that the first brewery to make a real impact on the city was the one founded by William Haas and Conrad (or Konrad) Sulzer.

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The German-speaking immigrants arrived from New York, and were quickly producing hundreds of barrels of beer annually. William Lill arrived from England and bought into the brewery in 1839, the same year Chicago’s first mayor, William Ogden, did the same. Beer historian Gregg Smith notes in his Beer In America: The Early Years—1587-1840 that the mayor was very much involved in the business, and not just a silent partner: he wanted to ensure that the brewery’s hops came from New York’s Finger Lakes region… read more >

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