Dixie Brewing Company

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The Dixie Brewing Company was located at 2401 Tulane Ave. The original building still stands on the site, but was severely damaged after Hurricane Katrina, then looted of most equipment. It has not reopened, and the site of the brewery is now a proposed future site of LSU/VA hospital complex.

History

The Dixie Brewing Company’s history traces back to 1907, when Valentine Merz opened the brewery. At the time, there were numerous breweries operating in the city. Mr. Merz had entered the beer business as a saloon keeper (selling Anheuser-Busch’s Faust, among other products). He switched over to the supplier side in 1893, serving as president of the Jackson Brewing Company, and then joining the New Orleans Brewing Co. in 1899. [1] In 1900, the New Orleans Brewing Company was producing 190,000 barrels of beer annually in three different breweries — the Louisiana (corner Jackson Aven and Tchoupitoulas), the Weckerling (corner Magazine and Delord, now Howard Avenue, home today to WWII Museum) and the Pelican (N. Peters Street, between Clouet and Louisa). [2]

Merz was appointed president of the brand-new Dixie Brewing Company in 1906, just as the company was constructing its new brick brewery on Tulane Avenue. Fully equipped with modern machinery, it cost $85,000. [3]

Georg Merz

Merz’s uncle was Georg Merz, an immigrant from Germany who, in 1855, became the first man to brew lager beer in New Orleans at his Old Canal Steam Brewery on the Carondelet Canal. It was only four years previous to this feat, in 1851, that real lager beer, imported from Pittsburgh, was first served in the city. Apparently, the only beer available locally before this time was something referred to as “City Beer,” a brew so “dry” that most preferred to mix it with molasses to make it palatable. [4]

A red-letter day in the city beer industry came on December 1, 1864, when Georg Merz, at the dedication of his “Erster Felsenkeller”, introduced the first New Orleans brewed lager beer. It proved, however, unsuccessful because of the high cost of ice sent from Maine, which also often melted before delivery. This difficulty, together with the simple manner in which cheap beer could be substituted for the lager beer without the customer knowing the difference, postponed the permanent arrival of brewed lager beer in the New Orleans area. [5]

City Beer

Before 1852, the Germans of the city were drinking a home product, “city beer,” which could not be shipped out of town because it did not keep well. Many called it “a molasses brew and wormwood.” In spite of its low grade most Germans drank it since it was cheap. This caused the industry to thrive and breweries increased. Five breweries made the “stuff,” and it was freely dispensed in all the popular beer taverns and family gardens. [6]

Beer Manufacturing in New Orleans

The manufacturing of beer was an industry that began prior to 1870, and was almost a monopoly of the Germans of the city. German people have always been fond of drinking beer. With an increasing number coming to New Orleans after 1850, it was not at all surprising that the beer industry should thrive and should be owned and operated in greater part by Germans of the city. [7]

Besides the production of beer, the industry also controlled, in large measure, the distribution and dispensing of the product. To ensure the sale of their beer, all breweries bought suitable property sites for the location of bar rooms, saloons, and small restaurants, where their beer was to be sold exclusively. The Columbia Brewery was the first in this venture, which proved very successful and was followed by all the others in the industry. To be more interested in the man who carried his beer home in a bucket or pitcher than in the “gentleman” who sipped his glass of “nectar” in an exclusive club in the Canal Street district proved a boon to the selling of the brew. [8]

Hundreds of Germans found ready employment in this industry, either directly or indirectly. Besides the workers in the actual making of the beer, which was monopolized entirely by the Germans of the city, there were platform workers, drivers, salesmen, drummers, barkeepers, stable keepers, and ordinary laborers. The work was hard, the hours long, and the wages low. Nevertheless, a good number of those who were in the industry became prosperous and were numbered among the wealthier families of the city, even moving their domicile into the fashionable districts. The industry was good to many German people. [9]

Works Cited

  • Reid, Peter V.K., “Wish I had a Dixie: The Dixie Brewing Company melds past and future in New Orleans,“Modern Brewery Age, (Nov 27, 2000).
  • Magill, John and Hammer, Daniel. “The Germans: From Downtown to Central City,” The Historic New Orleans Collection (20 February 2009), #97-5-L
  • Reid, Peter V.K., “Wish I had a Dixie: The Dixie Brewing Company melds past and future in New Orleans,“Modern Brewery Age, (Nov 27, 2000).
  • Magill, John and Hammer, Daniel. “The Germans: From Downtown to Central City,” The Historic New Orleans Collection (20 February 2009), #97-5-L
  • Deiler, Geschichte der deutschen Presse, 25.
  • Deiler, Geschichte der deutschen Presse, 25.
  • Nau, John F. “The German People of New Orleans 1850-1900,” USM Publication & Printing Services (1958),64
  • Interview, John Rettenmeier, December 29, 1952.
  • Interview, John Rettenmeier, December 29, 1952.

This page was last modified on 27 April 2012, at 03:27

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Dixie Brewing Company

2401 Tulane Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119, USA