​Hands-On Heritage!

​As the heritage chair, it is great fun to actually go out into our district every month and practice what I preach. In the October MBAA Communicator, I shared my research trip from my hometown of Columbus to Cincinnati, where I spent a Saturday exploring the newly discovered fermentation cellars of the Gerke Brewery. I was able to explore Ohio brewing history for a second time on Friday, November 16, 2012, when I traveled north to the city of Toledo. Again, my sole purpose was to enjoy hands-on brewing heritage research. Accompanying me was fellow Heritage Committee member and long-time brewer, Bill Weisenburger. Our mission: To visit the archives at both the University of Toledo and the Toledo Main Library for information about the Huebner-Toledo Brewery. Huebner-Toledo was once the city’s largest brewery, dating back to the post-Civil War period. John (Johann) Huebner learned the brewing trade in Bavaria. He also learned from his father, Jacob, at the family brewery located in Logansport, Indiana. In 1896, John, in association with James E. Pilliod, acquired the Toledo Malting and Brewing Company, which ultimately became the Huebner-Toledo Brewing Co. Prohibition caused most of the Toledo breweries to shut down, including Huebner-Toledo. It never reopened.


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           Huebner-Toledo Brewery in 1915.                                                                Johann Huebner
In preparation for our research day, Bill had made prior arrangements with the university archivist at the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections at the university. Their manuscript collection contains the “Alice E. Huebner Collection No. MSS-133” dated 1861–1976. It had already been pulled from archive storage and was waiting for us upon our arrival. We opened it and our eyes peered upon a fascinating array of donated items, many of which are related to the Huebner-Toledo Brewery. It contains several colorful postcard depictions of the interior and exterior of the brewery dating from 1915. It also includes letters, photos, various honors and award citations, newspaper clippings, and magazine articles.
Bill Weisenburger studying an original Huebner-Toledo recipe.

But for us, the real gem of the day was discovering an actual, Huebner-Toledo pre-Prohibition brewing recipe! It was quite tattered and in poor condition, but Bill and I were able to decipher its details. We put together enough information to attempt to duplicate the recipe! We will soon be brewing a five-gallon batch of this Huebner-Toledo pre-Prohibition recipe on my own homebrew system!

A portion of a pre-Prohibition Huebner-Toledo recipe.

For a heritage guy, it just doesn’t get any better than this! This is quintessential hands-on heritage…total immersion in discoveries that quench the thirst of the mind and the thirst of the palate. Simultaneously, it is a tip-of-the-hat to all of the brewers who brewed before us. This find is a testament to the spirit of “heritage,” to the very core of what brewing used to be, and to how we want to respectfully ensure that brewing remains for others.

And finally, in the spirit of the “WOW FACTOR” of actually discovering and brewing an archived pre-Prohibition recipe, one that was once the very life-blood of a proud, local industry that reflected all things “Bavarian” to an indigenous German population and all things “local” to the city of Toledo, to mash this recipe will be humbling and exciting at the same time!

Again, this is quintessential hands-on heritage. As I continue to lobby for, and nurture, the district heritage chairs, this is but one more example of what is possible in your home district. As far as our five-gallon batch of the Huebner-Toledo pre-Prohibition recipe….I promise I will give you a full report.

Over the holidays, raise a glass of your favorite beer and toast all those brewers who brewed before us, all those brewers who are part of the 125-year heritage of MBAA.