The History of Pfeiffer Brewing Co.
Pfeiffer’s brewing history dates back to before the invention of the airplane and survived through both world wars, the Great Depression and Prohibition. Michigan, particularly Detroit, has a rich brewing history. Pfeiffer was a big part of this history. It was referred to as part of Michigan's Holy Trinity by local collectors along with fellow "monster brewers" Stroh Brewery Company and Goebel.Pt. 1: Meager Beginnings
Conrad Pfeiffer was an emigrant from the German province of Hessen. When he came to America in 1871 at the age of seventeen, he had a limited education and worked various jobs loosely related to brewing for several years. His formal entrance into the career of brewing began at the age of twenty-seven in 1881 when he began working for the Phillip Kling brewery. Eight years later, in 1889, Conrad started brewing beer under his own name with his nephew Martin Breitmeyer. The Breitmeyer's were a wealthy family as a result of their florist business and provided the neccessary financial backing. In 1902, the company was re-incorporated as the C. Pfeiffer Brewing Co.
Pfeiffer's products included a dark and rich Wurzbürger Beer, an "Export" beer and a traditional lager called Pfeiffer's Famous Beer. The brewery was formed between Beaufait and Bellevue bordered by Mack on the outskirts of downtown Detroit. The complex occupied the addresses of 908, 912 and 940 on Beaufait Ave. Train tracks along the middle of the block allowed for easy deliveries and shipments and this proved to be an early advantage for Pfeiffer. Most Detroit breweries relied on conventional (and less efficient) truck deliveries. Across the street, a stable for the horse-pulled wagons was built as well as some office space. A hospitality area was erected next to the brewery that provided tours and some promotional items such as mugs and tip-trays. It was quite sophisticated with a "glass enclosed palm court and an outdoor beer garden with fountain and band shell."
The next ten years were known as the “golden age” of Detroit’s brewing history. It was at this time that brewing began to be truly studied as a science. Each brewery employed fulltime "brew masters" that managed in-house laboratories. This allowed for more consistent flavor and quality allowing true brand loyalty. The tax-free environment also allowed the construction of elaborate, beautiful facilities. This golden age was part of the second phase in Detroit’s brewing history. This time was dominated by German brewers making lagers and dark beers. (English brewers offering ales dominated the earlier first phase.) Pfeiffer, at this point, was a modest sized, but successful business. The larger brewing clans of the Stroh, Kling, Martz and Darmstaetter families enjoyed the larger brewhouses and stronger sales.
Conrad Pfeiffer passed away at the age of 57 in 1911. He and his wife Luisa had two daughters and three sons, but none of the boys survived past childhood. After Conrad's death, Luisa Pfeiffer and her daughter Lillian took control of the company with Luisa as president and Lillian as vice-president. The Breitmeyer family continued to be to involved in the company as well.