Since 1587, when Virginia colonists first created ale using corn, beer has been a big part of American history.
The first known brewery in the New World opened in 1612 in New Amsterdam (now New York City). The Massachusetts Provincial Council mandated in 1775 that each soldier receive a daily quart of spruce beer (flavored with spruce tree needles) or cider during the Revolutionary War.
Omaha’s first hops-and-grains manufacturer, founded by Frederick Krug, came nearly two centuries later.
Krug trained as a brewer in his hometown of Niederzwehren, Germany, before leaving the country at age 19. He founded Fred Krug Brewery in 1859 at 26 years old. The original factory was in a small building near 10th and Farnam streets.
He moved his business in 1867 to a plant at 11th and Jackson streets and soon occupied the entire block. By 1880, Omaha had four large-scale beer makers: Storz, Willow Springs, Metz, and Krug, the largest of them all.
On October 17, 1894, Krug unveiled a new plant at 24th and Vinton streets. The new brewery employed approximately 500 men, many European immigrants like their boss.
A new century brought with it new opportunity—and new advances in…uh, medicine? Advertising in 1910 extolled Krug’s beer brands as “a tonic,” stating it “leaves no bad after effects.” Brand names included Cabinet, Fred Krug, and Luxus.
Krug’s capital gains helped them support an amateur baseball team, called The Luxus after the brew, which reached the 1915 National Amateur Baseball Tournament in Cleveland. The Omaha players lost 11-6 to home team the White Autos as a record-breaking crowd of more than 100,000 watched. That event is considered one of the highest-attended baseball games in history.
The loss symbolized things to come for Krug. The thirst-quencher known to cause startling behavior (and subsequent memory loss) gained political adversaries, who succeeded in getting the 18th Amendment passed. Prohibition hit the nation at midnight on Jan. 16, 1920, and pubs and breweries closed while speakeasies filled the void. The Krug plant reopened in 1933 following the repeal.
In 1936, the Falstaff Brewing Company of St. Louis acquired Krug and remodeled the plant that operated as one of the country’s best-equipped breweries before folding. They experienced a half-century of business before closing for good in 1987.
The new American at the helm of the company served on the board of directors of the German Savings Bank and of the State of Nebraska immigration board. He also owned Krug Park, an amusement park in Benson.
Krug and his wife, Anna, lived just south of downtown on 20th Street.
Krug’s brewery was a family affair. His sons, William, Fred H., Jacob, and Albert worked there. Frederick Krug and three of his sons are buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery, believed to be Omaha’s oldest.