Star Union Brewery

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Star Union Brewery. Remaining Building

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Star Union Brewery. Remaining Building

In the towns along the Illinois Michigan Canal, breweries were established in the mid and later 1800’s. These businesses had variable success. Early on competition was virtually non existent due to the lack of refrigeration and pasteurization. A few of these breweries were successful and prospered for years. One of these was located in Peru, Illinois. It’s name was the Star Union Brewery.
The predecessor of Star Union was called Fred Kaiser Brewery. It was established by Mr. Kaiser. It’s location was on Pike Street in Peru, Illinois. In 1860, Kaiser sold the business to Benjamin Ream. For a number of years, the plant was run by Anton Hall, Mr. Grasmick, Mr. Eck, and Mr. Winheim during the Civil War. Subsequently, the company was purchased by Phil Link, Charles Bereiter, William Meyer, Fred Schulte, and Fred Seepe. It was incorporated under the name Union Beer Company in 1868. In 1880, Henry Hoerner bought the interests of Mr. Meyer, Mr. Schulte, and Mr. Seepe. He changed the company name to Star Union Beer Company. He served as president of the company until 1930. Mr. Link was a minority owner. The company ran as a brewery until prohibition in the 1920’s
The company converted to ice making and the manufacture of sodas and ginger ale. During this time, it was known it was known as Star Union Beverage. In the late 1930’s, the name was changed again to Star Union Products Company. After the repeal of Prohibition, the company resumed its brewing business. It became one of the largest breweries in Illinois. It had over 100 employees.
The bottling works was constructed some time in the interval between 1892 to 1909. It was expanded to the west in 1909 and 1916. It remained unchanged for many years. East of Pike Street the limestone walls of the brewery deteriorated and were torn down. There was an 80 foot red brick chimney. This was torn down in 1978
In 1931, Mr. Hoerner retired from the business. His son and daughter ran the business.
2 of the more well-known brands were Sepp’l Beau and Star Beau.
In 1963, Star Union was sold to Canadian Ace Brewery of Chicago. Canadian Ace had a long and somewhat checkered history. It was founded in 1893. It’s original name was the Manhattan Brewing Company. In 1919, Johnny Torrio (a known mobster) and Joseph Stenson ( a brewing magnate) bought the brewery. Later, Louis Greenberg ( the finance man for the Al Capone gang) gained control of significant stock in the brewery and assumed its management. During Prohibition, Greenberg and other underworld elements reorganized under the name Malt Maid and in 1925 Fort Dearborn Products. Beer was illegally produced on the premise. In 1932, Greenberg and well known mob boss Frank Nitti purchased the brewery. After the repeal of Prohibition, the company returned to regular beer production.
In 1933, the name was changed back to Manhattan Brewery. Until the mid 1936, beer distribution was confined to states adjacent to Illinois.
This changed with the introduction of the keglined beer can (metal coated to prevent contact of beer with it). This allowed for a more widespread distribution. The flag ship brand was Old Manhattan.
The brewery had business relations with other firms. It owned stock in Prima–Bismarck Brewery; it loaned money to Flood City, Whitewater, and Ann Arbor. Manhattan canned and bottled brands for these breweries.
In 1941, Frank Nitti committed suicide. At the time of his death, he owned 85% stock in Manhattan and an interest in Prima–Bismarck. In order to change the image of the brewery,
The name was changed to Canadian Ace in 1947. They also discontinued brewing Manhattan brands.
Canadian Ace ran the Peru Brewery brewery until 1966. It was closed because of the competition and costs of running the business. It remained a distribution center for Canadian Ace until 1868. The general manager at the time of the brewery closing was William Dresbach. He purchased the former bottling plant in 1968 and set up Dresbach Distribution Center.
In 2011, a Interesting event occurred in the area related to the old beer company.
One block from the Illinois River, an old limestone wall crumbled. This was part of the old brewery which sprawled over several acres. The ground opened up across from the Dresbach Distributing Company (part of the former bottling plant). This revealed a series of tunnels extending in all directions and connecting to the many buildings in the plant. It is believed that these served to remove beer by products dumping them in the Illinois River. It is also thought that ice and beer might have been stored in these tunnels at one time.

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