Saint Paul, MN

Public Tour of the (New) Hamm's Brewery (September 27, 1894)

Matt Reicher
Hamm's Brewery, St. Paul.Photo byMNHS

ST. PAUL, MN - People from all over St. Paul were abuzz in the early afternoon of September 27, 1894. The Hamm's Brewery, located above Swede Hollow, was holding a tour of its brewing complex as part of a grand unveiling of its new facilities. This moment was years in the making.

Hamm's Excelsior Brewery was the second-largest brewery in the city by the mid-1880s after it was acquired and renamed by Hamm in 1865. Formerly a small, hand-cranked brewery, it had grown enormously over the years. The brewery was on the verge of great things; however, its facilities needed to be improved to support continued future growth.

By the fall of 1894, the (new) Hamm's Brewery was ready for its grand unveiling.

A public inspection was scheduled to start at 2:00 PM. However, excitement was so high that the brewery opened its doors fifteen minutes earlier. Streetcars heading to Hamm's via the city's Rondo and Lafayette lines were so packed with riders that people were turned away at every stop. The company tried adding cars to accommodate the increased traffic. Eventually, cars heading to the brewery arrived at stops in ninety-second intervals.

The updated brewery was considered a financial boon to St. Paul. Up to that point, companies had imported many consumer goods sold in the local market from out of state. Hamm's grand step to bring a great Minnesota beer to Minnesotans was the beginning of a push to compel other companies to both make and sell their products locally.

When people arrived—local papers unofficially estimated over ten thousand came out for the event—they were greeted by a grand complex adorned with decorative bunting and flags of all nations—including American flags at multiple prominent points. The brew house, a reddish-brown brick and sandstone Victorian Romanesque wonder, was, in particular, a sight to behold.

Mayor Robert A. Smith, former state senator Albert Scheffer, (future) chair of the State Capitol Board of Commissioners Channing Seabury, and former governor Alexander Ramsey—who addressed the crowd at the event's close, were among the prominent local dignitaries present. Inside, the music of the Siebert Orchestra welcomed attendees.

William Hamm, Theodore Hamm's eldest son and president of the brewery, was stationed front and center in the brewhouse. He welcomed everyone as they arrived and handed them off to one of the many nearby guides. Groups were then taken on a tour of the facilities.

Excited tour-goers took over ninety minutes to get a firsthand glance at brewery sites and learn more about the brewing process. The tour ended in the malt house, where ham sandwiches and a dozen bartenders provided food and drink to those in attendance. Local police officers kept participants from overcrowding the 100' X 100' space.

According to some estimates, the brewery provided upwards of fifty to one hundred barrels of beer to those in attendance. Everyone agreed that St. Paul finally offered a beer product to rival Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati.

As the event wound down, Ramsey stepped forward to address the crowd that had gathered outside. He spoke of the city's early days when Theodore Hamm made beer with a few kitchen pots and kettles and his son William was only a child. As Ramsey ended his stories about both men's careers, he praised how far the Hamm's Brewery and the city of St. Paul had come.

The Hamm's Brewery, formerly an interspersed series of buildings, was now a large campus of interconnected facilities. Among the many improvements, it boasted a larger brewhouse, bottling works, and refrigeration centers. The brewery, which produced thirty-five thousand barrels of beer a year only ten years prior, was now equipped to make thousands of barrels each day.

Growth, both in sales and facility size, continued for many years. In the 1950s, the brewery rose to national prominence as the beer from the "Land of Sky Blue Waters."


  • Hoverson, Doug. Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • Millett, Larry. Lost Twin Cities. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1992.
  • Minnesota House of Representatives.
  • The Saint Paul Daily Globe. "Brewery Inspection." September 27, 1894, 2.
  • The Saint Paul Daily Globe. "Gambrinus was King." September 28, 1894, 8.
  • The Saint Paul Daily Globe. "Saint Paul Local Pick-Ups." September 26, 1894, 2.
  • Tieberg, Alex. "Theodore Hamm Brewing Company." MNopedia | Minnesota Encyclopedia. Last modified November 20, 2019.
  • Trimble, Steve. "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters." Saint Paul Historical.

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