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The G. Heileman Brewing Company of La Crosse, Wisconsinmarker, USAmarker, was a brewery firm that operated in 1858-1996. It was acquired in the latter year by Stroh's, and its independent existence ended. From 1872 until its acquisition, the brewery bore the family name of its co-founder, brewer Gottlieb Heileman.

History

Key brewery CEOs in the life of Heileman's were Heileman's son-in-law and successor, Emil T. Mueller, and Russell Cleary. Mueller introduced what was to become Heileman's leading "premium" beer label, Heileman's Old Style Beer, in 1902. Cleary headed an acquisition and consolidation effort in the 1970s and early 1980s that gathered a significant percentage of old-line brewery names and intellectual properties into the Heileman family. After doing this he lost control of the firm to Alan Bond of Australia.

Bond, who already controlled the Tooheys name and beer interests in Australia, hoped to build a worldwide brewing combine. Lacking cash, he financed the acquisition of G. Heileman with junk bonds. The collapse of Bond's financial empire led indirectly to the end of Heileman's existence as an independent brewer. After further consolidations, G. Heileman's brewery names and intellectual properties became part of the Pabst Brewing Company, the current owner (as of 2007). Pabst oversees the brewing of several well-known Heileman brands, including Old Style and Special Export, under the G. Heileman name.

Historic U.S. brewing names that were consolidated into G. Heileman during its final years include Blatzmarker, Blitz-Weinhard, Drewry's, Falls City, Grain Beltmarker, National Bohemian, Olympia, and Rainier. At its height the Heileman's combination was the third largest brewer in the United States, behind Anheuser-Buschmarker and Miller.

Controversy

As an indirect result of the Alan Bond collapse, the G. Heileman Brewing Company declared bankruptcy in January 1991. The troubled firm sought salvation with an aggressive push into the malt liquor market. In a controversial move, company leadership developed a new brand of malt liquor to be named Power Master. "Power Master" brand of malt liquor was brewed with an alcohol content of 5.9%, significantly higher than existing malt liquor brands.Protestors cited Heileman's distribution and advertising strategies as evidence that the company was targeting the high-alcohol beverage toward urban African-Americans, especially in Chicagomarker, one of Heileman's core markets. Fr. Michael Pfleger took a leading role in opposing Power Master, helping to organize a threatened boycott of one of Heileman's established malt liquor brands, Colt 45 which, at the time, had an alcohol percentage of 4.5%. The Colt 45 boycott was called off when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives succeeded, in July 1991, in persuading Heileman to pull the "Power Master" brand from the market.

Today

As of 2009, the former Heileman's flagship brewery in La Crosse is owned and operated by the City Brewing Company. The brewery chose to use the name that the former Heileman's used as its startup name in 1858-1872.

City Brewing brews beer and packages bottled tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks. It does not have the right to use any of the intellectual property, including beer brand names, associated with the G. Heileman Brewing Company.

World's Largest Six Pack

Motorists driving past the Heileman's facility in LaCrosse were greeted by a billboard reading, "Shhh...slow down...Heileman's aging here." For many years, the large storage tanks on the street side of the brewery were painted in the can design of "Old Style," the flagship brand of the brewery. With the rebirth of the brewery as The City Brewery banners were wrapped over the tanks in the style of La Crosse Lager beer.

Notes

  1. "History of the Brewing Industry in La Crosse"
  2. Kirby, Doug; Smith, Ken; Wilkins, Mike. " Return of the World's Largest Six Pack." Roadside America, 2008.


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