In 1868 Felix Steinle, a German beer maker, came to America and began looking for a good-sized town in which to establish a brewery. His ultimate choice of Delphos led to the creation of a significant industry specializing in beer, soft drinks and ice.
In 1883 he purchased the Delphos Brewery and by 1885 was producing 5,000 barrels of beer a year. The Delphos Herald reported, “The beer manufactured by the Delphos Brewery is gaining a wide-spread reputation, and competent judges pronounce it superior to that made at Cincinnati and Milwaukee.”
Within another ten years “Steinle’s Delphos Beer” was being turned out at the rate of 7,000 barrels a year. The Company was also producing about 3,600 tons of ice. (Prior to the development of an ice works around 1890, ice from the canal was cut in February and March and stored under sawdust from local mills until needed in the summer.)
By far, the largest part of the Steinle Company’s production was beer for sale “on tap;” that is, drawn directly from an oak barrel and put into kegs. Smaller kegs like the one in the picture, were for home delivery. Some beer was bottled and today Steinle bottles are coveted by collectors.
A new plant was constructed around 1902 and was located along East Second Street. . The old plant was behind it on what was then First Street and is now an extension of the St. John parish cemetery. Directly across Second Street from the new plant was the Steinle home, which still stands.
Between 1907 and 1918, the average output of the brewery was 9,000 barrels of beer per year—approximately 25 barrels per day. To reflect the popularity, the name of the beer was changed during this time to “Steinle’s Famous Delphos Beer.” But in 1918, although business was good, prohibition loomed on the horizon and the name “The Steinle Brewing and Ice Company” was changed to “The Steinle-Delphos Company.”
Prohibition became effective on January 16, 1920 and beer making became a thing of the past. The company discarded much of the brewing equipment, reconfigured the area and, by utilizing their ice-making equipment, entered into the retail ice business by supplying the city with “artificial ice.” In addition to their previous bottled soft drinks, they also bottled a beverage known as “near beer.” Production dropped to 1000 barrels a year and the company began losing money. Prohibition was repealed in 1933 but the country was still deep in the Great Depression so no attempt was made to begin brewing beer again. The Steinle family remained owners of the company until the death of Felix’s son, Charles, in 1947. After several other owners, the building was razed in 1971.
The museum has various items from the Steinle Brewery and Ice Company on display We also have Steinle T-shirts for sale. We are open every Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m.
Printed in the Delphos Herald May 8, 2010 by the Delphos Canal Commission.