This story appeared in the Sioux City Journal on July 25, 1954, in the Centennial section for Industry.
One of Sioux City's oldest industries is one which has had a rocky and interrupted existence because of Iowa's more than 100-year-old debate on the liquor question -- and that is the beer brewing industry.
Although the beer business here has had its ins and outs during Sioux City's 100 years of history, there is evidence that whisky -- either legal or illegal -- has flowed rather freely much of that time.
In 1871 when William Shaw, publisher of the city directory estimated the city's population as between 4,500 and 5,000, the directory listed 35 saloons. Competition must have been rather keen, for in 1875 the number had shrunk to 26. But in 1880, when the population was 7,830, there were 31.
Sioux City at present has one brewery, the Sioux City Brewing Co., W. First and Isabella streets, which is one of three breweries in the state of Iowa.
The first brewery was established in Sioux City in 1860 by Rudolph Selzer, a native of Germany and at one time a theological student.
The history of the brewery business here, and the fortunes of Sioux City's saloons -- and later taverns -- have been tied together because of the effect on their existence of the continued disagreement over what to do about liquor since before Iowa was a state.
From the time that Iowa became a territory, the debate has swirled on the liquor question -- Shall the state prohibit, license, regulate, tolerate, or promote the sale of intoxicating liquor? -- What is intoxicating liquor? -- Shall the state have saloons, government salerooms, beer parlors or prohibition?
The state of Iowa has tried various methods of coping with the liquor situation, including several tries at complete prohibition, with the result that the Sioux City brewing industry has been in and out of business more than once.
When settlers first filtered into what is now Iowa, there was no civil government, but only federal regulations relating to the public lands and the Indians. Among those was one forbidding the sale or gift of liquor to the redman, although it was seldom enforced.
Liquor brought into the Iowa frontier settlements usually was high powered -- at first whisky was the "favorite drink and best known medicine." A few years later, however, largely because of the increasing number of immigrants from Europe, especially Germans, the preference began to grow for wine and mild beer.
Two forces were striving for supremacy in Iowa's earlier history -- as at the present time, for that matter. There were the temperance forces, fighting for complete prohibition, and those who preferred the control of liquor sales -- or no control at all.
In 1855 the Iowa legislature passed a law prohibiting manufacture and sale of all intoxicating liquors as a beverage with two exceptions. Homemade wine and cider might be sold in quanitities of not less than five gallons and liquor might be imported in original packages. Agents were appointed by the county judge to supervise the sale of liquor for medicinal, mechanical and sacramental purposes.
The law met with open resistance, especially in the river towns. Some of the first cases to be presented during the first term of district court in Woodbury county in 1857 were against several citizens for selling the forbidden fluid.
In the late 1850's, Iowa passed a combination license and local law, which, however, was declared later to be unconstitutional. In 1868 a law was passed, giving Iowa municipalities authority to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors not prohibited by state law, such as bee, wine and cider.
It was about that time that Rudolph Selzer moved to Sioux City from Omaha. Selzer was born in Geissen, Germany, in 1828, was a theological student there, but gave up his plans for the ministry and entered business. He and his wife came to the United States in 1853, living successively in Philadelphia, Rock Island, Ill., and Council Bluffs, Ia., where he worked as a shoemaker.
Selzer moved to Omaha in 1858, where he came associated with Fred Krug in the Fred Krug Brewery -- Selzer furnishing the capital and Krug the experience. The firm -- Omaha's first brewery -- began operations on a small scale -- the extent of the early operations indicated by the fact that they delivered their product with a wheelbarrow.
The business grew rapidly, however, and in 1860 Selzer sold his interest to Krug and moved to Sioux City, where he established the first brewery here, locating on Fourth street between Iowa and Court streets, but soon moving to the corner of Ninth and Douglas streets. His trade rapidly increased, and for about 22 years he carried on a profitable business.
Then the state of Iowa stepped into the picture. In 1882 Iowa passed a state prohibition law which went into effect in 1883. That forced Selzer to close his business with considerable loss, according to Constant R. Marks, early Sioux City historian. Selzer had, however, comfortable means, and from that time he retired from active business. He died in 1898.
Three of his sons, Charles, Louis and Otto, became their father's successors in business. Charles Selzer, after his graduation from college, and following experience in breweries in Cincinnati and St. Louis, assumed full control of his father's plant as foreman until the Iowa prohibition law went into effect.
In 1887 Charles Selzer established a wholesale liquor business across the Missouri in Covington, Neb. -- now South Sioux City.
The state of Iowa again affected the fortunes of the liquor business in 1894 when the mulct law was passed. By that time public opinion apparently had moved in the direction of legalizing the conditions which had grown up in many communities. The mulct law designated to the various communities the decision as to whether or not liquor could be sold under official sanction.
Charles Selzer returned to Sioux City, and with his brothers several years later opened a wholesale and retail liquor firm under the name of Selzer Bros., which operated for several years until the death of the brothers and changes in the law ended the concern.
About 1880, 20 years after Rudolph Selzer reopened Sioux City's first brewery. Franz & Co. opened the Sioux City Brewery at 103 W. Third street. The 1886 Sioux City directory lists Charles F. Hoyt, pioneer Sioux City businessman as president of the Sioux City Brewery.
Hoyt, a native of Illinois, who came to Sioux City in 1871, was one of the city's leading business men. He also served six years on the city council, completed an unexpired term as mayor, and was elected to that post at the next election.
At the time that he was listed as president of Sioux City Brewery, he was also listed as president of Sioux City Brick and Tile Co., which he had established, and as an official of the Sioux City Vinegar and Pickling works. His biographies don't mention any connection with the Sioux City Brewery, and he evidently didn't serve more than a year or two as president, as the 1888-89 city directory dropped the brewery presidency from his listing.
The Sioux City Brewery also went out of business when the state prohibition law was passed in 1882 and evidently no attempt was made to open the business when breweries again became legal.
Shortly before the turn of the century, the Sioux City Brewing Co., the forefunner of the present Sioux City Brewing Co., was organized. Its plant was located on Third street west of Water street where the Fairmont Creamery now has headquarters.
In 1907 the Interstate Brewery Co. was incorporated with offices at 817 Fourth street. A short time later the company moved to its new brewery on W. First and Isabella streets where the Sioux City Brewing Co. now is located.
When the Sioux City Brewing Co. began the manufacture of beer around 1899, the trade name Western Brew was taken. Seven years later, the company added another name, Heidel Brau.
Both plants, the Sioux City Brewing Co. and the Interstate Brewery Co. went out of existence as a result of the passing of the 18th -- or prohibition -- amendment to the constitution in 1917, which went into effect in 1920. At that time the Fairmont Creamery purchased the Sioux City Brewing Co. plant, which later was remodeled and rebuilt.
When 3.2 beer was legalized in Iowa following the repeal of the 18th amendment through passing of the 21st amendment to the constitution, the Sioux City Brewing Co. was reorganized. The company took over the old Interstate Brewery Co. plant on W. First and Isabella streets, and acquired the beer brand names which had been used by the Interstate company.
The newly reorganized plant was opened in 1934. In 1946 a $350,000 addition to the brewery -- a shop for bottling and packaging beer -- was added to the plant. Herman Galinsky is president of the company.
Before prohibition, there were at least a dozen breweries in Iowa. Now there are three -- in Sioux City, Davenport and Dubuque.