American Brewery: 1882-1969
and compiled by William Marentette CBS #194
This article originally appeared in the Canadian Brewerianist
(C.B.); other articles of Bill’s appeared in Brewed
in Canada, Brewed in Detroit and Breweriana Collector (N.A.B.A.)
British American Brewery was Windsor’s oldest continuously
operating brewery when it ceased operation in 1969. It was
established in Windsor on the Detroit River’s south
shore in 1882 by Louis Greisinger Jr. His father, Louis Sr.,
was a well known Detroit architect and contractor who built
many notable structures in the Detroit area, including the
Bernard Stroh Brewery (1850), Voight Brewing Co. (1866-1919),
Phil Kling Brewing Co. (1863-1919), and the Jacob Mann Brewing
Co. (1866-1889), which later became a branch of the Goebel
Brewing Co. in 1889 and was acquired by the Stroh Brewing
Co. in 1936.
attending schools in the Detroit area, Louis Greisinger Jr.
took a keen interest in the brewery business. He was employed
by Kling and Jacob Mann Breweries for more than five years,
then moved to the Christian Moerlein Brewery Co. (1853-1937).
During his seven years at the latter brewery, he worked with
William Gerst, the brewery foreman who received many gold
medals for his bottled and draught beer. It is said that while
working for the Moerlein firm, young Greisinger learned to
brew what would become his trademark product, “Cincinnati
British American Brewery was located at 115 Sandwich Street
(Riverside Drive) at the corner of Bruce Avenue, and consisted
of a frame house, with a summer porch that doubled as the
shipping department. Greisinger lived in a small cottage opposite
the brewery on the corner of Bruce Avenue with his sister
Pauline, who was the fledgling companies’ bookkeeper.
Grand Trunk Railroad was located a few blocks from the brewery
and the Detroit River was literally at his front door, conduits
for efficiently shipping his beer to market. After operating
in inadequate quarters for three years, Louis Sr. designed
and built a modern, four-storey gravity fed brewery on the
same location, and provided financing, paid back by his son
within three years.
the opening of the expanded brewery, National Export Lager
was introduced, and in 1887, his famous ”Cincinnati
Cream,” along with Dublin Porter were introduced to
May 24th, 1892, Windsor was incorporated as a city with a
grand celebration. In less than a year, Albert Irion became
a partner in the brewery, and a $12,000, 30 x 30 foot, four-storey
high brew house with cellars was erected, which increased
the capacity from 18,000 barrels a year to a potential of
40,000 barrels; a new wash-house and cooper shop was also
the next four years, many more improvements were implemented,
including a 35 tonne Viter ice machine. More shipping options
became available as the Michigan Central Railroad and Canadian
Pacific were now operating within a few blocks of the company.
The company was brewing 30,000 barrels annually.
1898, Louis Greisinger Jr. was forced to retire due to a serious
injury suffered in a fall at the plant, but the brewery continued
to operate under Irion’s supervision. On October 6,
1902 BA brewery founder Louis Greisinger Jr. died at his home
on Ouellette Avenue and was buried in Woodmere Cemetery in
his native city of Detroit. Greisinger was survived by his
wife and three children.
Greisinger name lived on in Windsor. One of his sons, Lt.
Col. William, was Director of Sales at the nearby Walkerville
Brewery and later purchased the Windsor Lumber Company, and
operated it for many years. He was well known in local military
and political circles, serving in the Ontario Legislature
for several years as the Progressive Conservative member for
British American Brewery advertisement that appeared
in the Windsor Record.
1903, the British American Brewery was incorporated for $90,000
with the following officers: President Albert Irion, Vice
President; Head Brew Master W. R. Bonds (Mr. Bonds married
one of Louis Greisinger sisters, and was a graduate of the
Chicago Brewing Academy); and treasurer Miss Pauline Greisinger
(Louis Greisinger’s sister.)
brewery continued to flourish with its Cincinnati Cream Lager
and Dublin Porte,r favoured by a discriminating beer drinking
First” was Albert Irion’s motto. Irion was a passionate
horse breeder and racer, and while a resident of Windsor,
he maintained the finest stable of driving horses in the city.
1912, Albert Irion ws in complete control of the company,
and brought in his sons, Louis and Raymond, to help run the
day to day operations. They employed thirty-five workmen with
annual production exceeding 20,000 barrels. Due to health
problems, Irion moved to California, until his illness compelled
him to return to his Detroit residence on Chicago Blvd., where
he died on June 19, 1917. He, too, was buried in Woodmere
his death, his widow Ida became president of the British American
Brewing Company with the other officers – W.R.Bonds
and Pauline Greinsinger – remaining on the board. The
plant’s management was carried out by her two sons,
Louis and Raymond. Ida Irion remained as president for two
years until production was curtailed due to Prohibition (read
about Prohibition in the March, April and May 2003 issues
or on the web @ walkervilletimes.com). She then turned control
over to her son Louis.
brewery survived Prohibition by producing 2.5% beer for local
consumption, and a stronger beer for the export trade. The
company also advertised heavily in the local newspapers from
the 1900s and continued its aggressive marketing during Prohibition;
thus the “Cincinnati” brand was constantly before
British American Brewery truck in
front of the C.N.E in Toronto, 1945. Photo courtesy
many alcoholic beverage concerns, during the twenties the
company was in the export business. Prohibition was a great
time for the British American Brewery, as thousands of B-13
Custom Export permits were issued, especially for their Cincinnati
Cream Lager, with its export label on the bottle.
with the introduction of the Ottawa-Washington anti-smuggling
pact, which limited liquor “exports” and closed
many export docks in the border cities, beer business was
brisk. By 1925, with the introduction of 4.4% beer and large
exports shipments still thriving, the company announced a
$150,000 addition to the plant, consisting of a three-storey
brick and steel building built in the yard surrounding the
existing buildings, which increased the breweries’ capacity
by 25 per cent. All storage rooms were built of steel and
concrete and the glass-lined tanks featured storage for 25,000
company’s prime location on the Detroit River and the
border region – one of the busiest beer and liquor export
ports in Ontario – was good news for local breweries.
The Bermuda Export Company Ltd., one of the many exporting
companies operating during the 20s, was managed by C. F. Clapp
of the British American Brewery, with the following docks
listed in the 1927 telephone directory under Bermuda Export
Co.: LaSalle Dock No. 1, Turkey Creek; LaSalle Dock No. 2,
LaSalle; Brighton Beach Dock, McKee Road Sandwich West; all
docks were located on the Detroit River within easy driving
distance from the brewery.
April 1928, “real beer” became legal in Ontario
once again, and the British American Brewery obtained a permit
to erect an $80,000, three-storey ale storage plant to age
and store its recently introduced brands “Black Pirate
Ale” and “British Ale.”
same year, the Irions attempted to divest their holdings and
established a stock company through Detroit brokers John Giesel
& Company. The capital structure of the company consisted
of 100,000 “Class A” shares and 100,000 “Class
B” shares. The buildings and machinery had an estimated
book value in excess of $600,000, a land value of $200,000,
while the trademark for Cincinnati Cream was valued at $500,000.
This stock offer failed and the Irions took back the company
one year later.
the stock market collapse of October 1929, the brewery was
operating at only one third of its capacity (over one million
gallons a year by 1930), and beer consumption leveled off
across Ontario. At this time, the Irions sought a buyer for
their brewery. Edward Plunket Taylor proposed a deal between
the Irions and his newly formed Brewing Corporation of Ontario.
1942 the brewery, located at 115 Sandwich Street (now
Riverside Drive) at the corner of Bruce Avenue, expanded
east along Sandwish Street and around the corner along
River Street to Pitt Street on the south side, making
it one square block in size. Now part of a vacant lot,
the land is the site of the proposed Western Super Anchor
Brewing Corporation of Ontario, incorporated in March 1930
when Taylor merged the Bradings Breweries Limited of Ottawa
and the Kuntz Brewery in Waterloo, offered the Irions $200,000
cash and a controlling interest in the company, with the outstanding
shares owned by the general public. Mr. Walsh of the firm
Walsh Advertising, acting on behalf of the Brewing Corporation
of Ontario, bought up enough shares to give the corporation
absolute control of the British American Brewing Co. Minority
shareholders could exchange their BA shares for shares of
Brewing Corporation of Ontario.
the Irions no longer associated with the company, the board
appointed new directors, Charles King, president; Cecil Clapp,
vice-president (General Manager); and W. Chester Butler. During
Prohibition Mr. Clapp was manager of the Bermuda Export Co.,
which operated five export docks along the Detroit River.
The Bermuda Export Co was founded by eleven Ontario brewers
to control the price and export of beer south of the border.
Mr. Taylor was elected vice-president the following year.
the British American Brewing Company changed owners, the company
was brewing Cincinnati Cream along with a Heavy Munchener
beer, and a line of ale and stout sold in government stores
or at the brewery for $3.20 for two dozen small bottles. By
1934, beverage rooms were finally legalized in hotels, further
boosting demqnd for the local breweries’ products.
next year, the Brewing Corporation of Ontario purchased all
securities and collateral of the Riverside Brewing Corporation
(located on the east side of Windsor, and a competitor of
British American) held by a local bank and immediately sold
all its assets and closed the plant. The majority of Riverside’s
business was picked up by the British American Brewery. On
April 21, 1937, the Brewing Corporation of Ontario changed
its name to Canadian Breweries Limited.
May 1938, the BA brewery continued to expand with a two-storey
addition at a cost of over $65,000, being only a fraction
of ambitious construction plans. Two years later, British
American added new fermentation and storage cellars with a
capacity of 43,000 gallons, and new modern office quarters
were built, doubling the floor space, at a cost of $100,000.
A fleet of modern streamlined vans was added both for local
and long distance deliveries. All BA transport drivers were
competent to render help and first aid to anyone on the road
Director Clapp claimed a higher rate was paid to its employees
than at any other brewery in Ontario. Each employee received
health and sickness benefits, and anyone reaching the age
of 65 retired on a company pension, based on wages or salaries
earned during their working years.
1942, the brewery celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. As a prominent
landmark in downtown Windsor, the company had steadily expanded
from humble roots as awareness of its brands widened.
BA brewery, now five stories high, had expanded east along
Sandwich Street and around the corner along River Street to
Pitt Street on the south side, west to Bruce Avenue, and north
to Sandwich Street, making it one giant square block in size.
During the thirties, the company erected a giant electric
sign spelling out its name and brands across the entire width
of the building, creating an imposing neon-lit ad facing the
city of Detroit; British American had become one of Ontario’s
major brewing concerns.
1943, during WWII, beer rationing was re-introduced in Ontario
and the brewery struggled yet again. The Windsor area was
flooded with a huge wave of migrants who flocked to the area
seeking employment in the war factories. Breweries were only
able to produce a percentage of its previous year’s
production. Hotels and taverns slashed hours of business due
to booze shortages.
Charles E. Henri, a BA manager with 33 years of service retired
in 1945, he was succeeded by Anthony F. Fuerth, a former manager
of Industrial Relations at Chrysler Corporation Windsor.
December 1946, Louis Irion, now manager at Carling Breweries
(Walkerville Division), and former president of British American
Brewery, wrote a letter to the editor of “The Sheaf,”
the Canadian Breweries employees’ newspaper, pertaining
to the motto “Who Wants the Handsome Waiter?”
which adorned all Cincinnati Cream Labels and trays for many
the year 1913, when my brother and myself had a controlling
interest at British American Brewery, Raymond received a calendar
from the States with a picture of the “Handsome Waiter”
on same. He was very much impressed and suggested that it
might be a good idea to bring out a new serving tray for the
trade using the “Handsome Waiter” as a motif.
We had a firm in the United States make these trays up for
us and they made an instantaneous hit.
on when we were in the export business, we found that many
people in the United States were faking Canadian labels so
we decided to bring out a new label.
decided that we would have to change the shape of our label
and instructed our lithographers to put as many colours as
was possible to make the label hard to duplicate, and the
label used today by the British American Brewery is practically
the same label that we brought out in 1921.
is quite true that a certain party in Windsor threatened to
start suit because he thought that we were using his likeness
on our labels but I can assure you he was not used as model
for our label as it was taken from a cut we had used on our
1950, Canadian Breweries Limited merged its British American
Brewery with Bradings Brewery of Ottawa (another C.B.L. owned
brewery) and changed the name to Brading’s Cincinnati
marketed the same label as British American Brewery on its
Cincinnati Cream Lager and added the words “BRADINGS,”
printed above the band spelling out Cincinnati Cream. British
Special Ale was dropped, replaced by Brading’s Old Stock
Evolving Cinci label and can designs
Bottom: local advertisement for Cincinnati Cream (1922
next to a more modern 1963 Cinci ad
Cincinnati Cream Brewery undertook extensive renovations and
remodelling in 1954 and 1955 at the former British American
plant, doubling its capacity, including a new three-storey
fermentation building, administration building and a two-storey
bottling and shipping building, with an area of 54,000 square
feet, at a cost of over $3,000,000. Across the street from
the plant, at the corner of Bruce and Riverside Drive, a retail
store was built with increased parking facilities. River Street
was closed and a new bottling plant extended to Church Street
on the east side.
years, the brewery offered a full line of brewing products,
but by 1955 it was devoted solely to making Brading’s
Cincinnati Cream Lager, at a rate of 12,000 gallons every
eight hour shift!
previous year, Brading’s purchased the assets of Pellers
Brewing Co. Ltd., Hamilton and began bottling Cincinnati Cream
along with other Brading’s brands. The Cincinnati label
was updated to a somewhat more modern design upon winning
first prize for Canadian Lager in Paris, France in 1953. Then,
Brading’s redesigned the Cincinnati label once again,
replacing a detailed handsome waiter with a silhouette and
the words Brading’s Cinci in large red letters; it no
longer resembled the label of the twenties.
Cream Ale is promoted as a City of Windsor bus crosses
the international border in the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel
was truly one of Windsor’s flourishing industries, with
heavy investments and construction, and with its “Cincinnati
Cream,” a trade mark in the brewing industry, it appeared
Canadian Breweries’ future in Windsor was secure. Quite
an accomplishment for a company that had its beginnings in
Windsor twenty-two years before Henry Ford founded an auto
fleet of 65 specially-designed trucks and vans moved its finished
products to domestic markets, while large shipments quantities
were exported overseas and to the United States.
only six years producing the Brading’s brands, on September
13, 1956, Canadian Breweries Limited announced a consolidation
its subsidiary companies. Carling Breweries Limited purchased
the plant and equipment of Brading’s Breweries Limited
Windsor. Brading’s company in Ottawa became an O’Keefe
plant. Two other Canadian Breweries plants in the Windsor
area were affected with by this announcement: O’Keefe’s
Old Vienna Brewery’s line (the former Walkerville Brewery)
was moved to Toronto; and the Carling Brewery (the former
Old Comrades Brewery), in nearby Tecumseh was absorbed by
the Brading’s Windsor plant, operating under the name
of Carling Breweries Limited.
at the Carling (Tecumseh) plant in 1956 was 50,000 barrels
annually, while the Brading’s Windsor plant produced
250,000 barrels; the integrated Windsor Carling facility operated
at a top capacity of 300,000 barrels annually. Carling continued
to market the Brading labels and Cincinnati Cream became Carlings
Cinci, with the full name “Cincinnati Cream” spelled
out on the neck band.
employees affected by the plant closures and were absorbed
into Carlings’ Windsor plant; a severance package was
offered to those who didn’t transfer.
1957, the Windsor plant was shipping Carling’s products
to five American states and to the West Indies. The plant
had 220 employees working two shifts year-round, except for
a two-week maintenance shut down, with a payroll of over $80,000
the introduction of the compact amber bottle, or the “stubby”
in 1962, the bottling line at the Windsor plant was moved
to a huge new Canadian Breweries plant near the 401 Freeway
1968, the shares of Canadian Breweries Limited, held by the
Argus Corporation Limited were sold to Rothmans/Pall Mall
for $28.8 million.
1969, the new owners announced the closure of the Windsor
brewery; after eighty-seven years of brewing at the same location,
the taps were turned off. Employees were offered transfers
to other Canadian Breweries plants or retirement, while others
found employment elsewhere.
the old brewery was not quite ready to give up the ghost;
Frank Wansborough, Windsor’s mayor in 1973, proposed
converting the old brewery into a new home for Windsor’s
that time, the art gallery was located in Willistead Manor,
the estate home of whisky baron Hiram Walker’s son E.
Chandler Walker. After lengthy negotiations with Carlings,
the city’s offer of $350,000 was accepted.
breweries’ warehouse and shipping buildings were deemed
ideal for an art gallery, as they had few windows, were solid,
secure structures of reinforced concrete and steel, and less
than twenty years old. All buildings but these two sections
were demolished in 1974 and the Art Gallery of Windsor moved
into the 56,000 square foot site in late 1975.
1994, the old brewery found a new tenant when the Art Gallery
of Windsor leased its building to the Ontario Casino Corporation
for use as Casino Windsor; the Art Gallery of Windsor moved
into Devonshire Mall. “From brewing suds to slot machines,”
noted Frank Wansborough at the time.
Windsor opened its doors in the old brewery on May 14, 1994,
while a high-rise condominium rose in the parking lot adjacent
to the historic site– where one hundred and twelve years
earlier Louis Greisinger founded his small brewery, and built
his home in 1882.
what became our cities’ famous Cincinnati Cream? After
relocating to Toronto, Carling Breweries Ltd. changed its
name to Carling O’Keefe Breweries and redesigned a new
label using the abbreviated form “CINCI” and the
slogan “Enjoyed by Canadians Since 1882.”During
the seventies, Carling O’Keefe adopted a new marketing
scheme, introducing new brands including Carlsberg, Trilight,
etc., and dropped the “Cinci” brand.
1985, the O’Keefe Brewery in British Columbia relaunched
“Cincinnati Cream” to Americans, employing a label
somewhat like the original with the “Handsome Waiter”
motto and “Original Since 1882” on the label.
Windsor residents were unable to purchase this favoured local
brand in beer stores due to Provincial barriers in place at
that time; it was, however, available in the Detroit market.
Savvy Windsor consumers could buy their favourite oldtime
drink in Detroit taverns and stores, but not in local bars
or retail outlets. The “new” Cinci’s relaunch
was unsuccessful, as it was only on the market for a short
time before it was dropped. Apparently, it was popular in
the Michigan area but in other markets, it was not recognized
as an old time beer.
if it’s ever reintroduced, someone should try returning
the famous “Cincinnati Cream” to its place of
origin, Windsor, Ontario.
Marentette wrote about the origins of The Walkerville
Brewing Company in Issue #11 (November 2000). Click
here to read this facsinating story!
here to go back to the home page.