Quincy has a robust heritage of German immigration that began as a trickle in the 1830s and widened greatly in the 1850s and 1860s. This surge in the flow of migration brought with it an ethnic tradition of brewing beer. Most Germans looked on the beverage as "liquid bread" and brewing as a means of storing the sustenance of the grain. Germans in Quincy began brewing as early as the mid-1830s with the arrival of the first wave of immigrants. At the zenith of the city's brewing industry, eight brewing establishments could be found in a single city directory. Over the course of time at least 18 different brewing locations are believed to have existed.
A few years ago a group of glass plate negatives were given to the Historical Society. They had been taken by landscape photographer John Sanftleben. He worked from 1869 until the mid-1890s producing photos of local businesses, turning them into stereo-view cards that one could place in a viewer to see the business. An image of the Bluff Brewery was one of those given to the Society.
The Bluff Brewery was built by Henry Rupp, who in 1837 immigrated to Quincy from Bavaria, where he had been an apprentice in the soap and candle making trade. Upon arriving here he established a business to practice his trade, which he did for 20 years before constructing the brewery. The Bluff Brewery was built on the city's western edge, two miles north on the bay in 1857. Rupp continued to operate both businesses for two years when the brewery was destroyed by fire.
After being rebuilt, the brewery was operated by the Luther Brothers, probably through a lease arrangement from 1861 to 1864. The Luther Brothers advertised festivals with brass bands performing concert music. Festival-goers could meet at the city riverfront and take the steamboat Lewis Adams up to the brewery for a nickel. Once they arrived they could enjoy the best of lager beer and other refreshments in the beer garden while being entertained by the band.
At the end of the arrangement, Rupp took back the day-to-day operation of the bluff location. Jacob Luther became the proprietor of the Washington Brewery at Sixth and State streets and soon his brother Adam started the M.X.8 Brewery at Fifth and Oak streets. Rupp maintained the tradition of the little brewery in the country with its summer garden and water-cooled breezes that flowed off the bay. It remained a popular place to escape the seasonal city heat and enjoy German-style lager beer.
In January 1869, Rupp was again plagued by fire. A kettle of hot resin being prepared for use on kegs and barrels overturned into the fire. The flammable liquid quickly spread, and the fire destroyed the malt house and 3,000 bushels of barley. The loss amounted to $20,000, of which only $6,000 was covered by insurance.
The Bluff Brewery was again rebuilt and after suffering his second big financial loss, Rupp remained listed as brewer in the city directory until 1876. In February of that year he sold it with three acres to Frank X. Schill. Rupp died the next year.
Schill was born in Oberbergen, Germany, in 1841. His father died when he was 5 years old, and his mother married John Haumesser from the same town. In 1862 the family came to Quincy, where Frank learned brewing from Ferdinand Kampmann, who owned the Western Brewery at Seventh and York streets. In 1866 Frank became a brewer for Dick Brothers and remained there for seven years. In 1875 he ran a brewery in Sedalia, Mo., before coming back to Quincy to purchase the Bluff Brewery.
Once he took over the brewery, Schill began reinstituting Sunday celebrations in the garden featuring music and excursions. Starting in late spring, Sunday events would begin in May and continue into September. Concerts featured popular local bands such as the Gem City Band or Kuchu's band. Local steamboats such as the Frank Sherman brought excursionists from the city landing to the brewery.
At the end of April the Bluff Brewery, like most Quincy breweries, announced that bock beer was available. Bock beer was brewed in the fall, then stored and aged in a cold environment until spring. This process of brewing and cold storage was referred to as lagering the beer. The making of bock began when the ingredients were freshly harvested and represented the beginning of the brewer's year. Bock production was followed by the brewing of other lager beers to be consumed later in the summer. The bock beer consumed in April was a hardier, more flavorful beer that was meant to be sipped more slowly than the summer lagers that were to follow.
An article reflecting on the brewing history of Quincy in The Whig in December 1918 stated that Schill made the most famous beer in Quincy. It said that Schill's beer had the distinction of having won many prizes for its purity at several of the country's top expositions, including the Chicago World's Fair. In 1905, an article published in the U.S. Trade Reports stated that after careful investigation it was found that the beer brewed by Schill beat all others in purity and cleanliness. In June of 1908 a government health bulletin pronounced the Bluff Brewery beer as exceptionally pure.
Schill stressed quality over quantity in his brewery. Sanborn insurance maps list his barrel capacity at 1,500 in 1888 and 3,000 in 1898. By contrast, Dick's capacity was 45,000 and 75,000 respectively.
In October 1908, Schill died, and in January 1910, the family sold the brewery and five saloons to the Leisy Brewing Co. of Peoria. Twelve years later the brewery burned to the ground. It had been used as a boardinghouse. Leisy only wanted to use the saloons to get deeper into the Quincy market.
Dave Dulaney is a local historian and a member of several history-related organizations. He is a speaker, and author, and a collector of memorabilia pertaining to local history, steamboats and breweries.
"Another Fire -- Bluff Brewery Burned," Quincy Daily Whig, Jan. 5, 1869, p. 4.
"Bluff Brewery Bock." and "Bock! Bock!! Bock!!!," Quincy Daily Whig, April 28, 1888, p. 3.
Bornmann, Heinrich J. Bornmann's Sketches of Early Germans of Quincy and Adams County, Ill.
Reprinted: Quincy, Illinois, 2013. Published by the Great River Genealogical Society.
"Brewing Industry Has Flourished In Quincy Since 1839 But Has Been Made A Thing of the Past By War," Quincy Daily Whig, Dece. 15, 1918, p. 14.
Cray, Marcia Kuhlman. undated, Breweries of Quincy, Illinois: 834-1950. Self-published Quincy, Ill.
"Eighty-two Years of Brewing in Quincy," Quincy Daily Herald, July 14, 1919, p. 6.
"F.X. Schill's Bluff Brewery." Quincy Daily Journal, April 18, 1905, p. 2.
"Fire Destroys Old Brewery on North Road," Quincy Daily Herald, Sept. 27, 1922, p. 1.
"Frank Schill Passes Away," Quincy Daily Herald, Oct. 12, 1908, p. 7.
"Grand Concert." Quincy Daily Herald, May 17, 1878, p. 3.
"Grand Excursion." Quincy Daily Herald, Sept. 10, 1876, p. 3.
"Henry Rupp to Frank X. Schill," Quincy Daily Whig, Feb. 3, 1876, p. 5.
"Picnic at the Bluff Brewery," Quincy Daily Herald, June 14, 1878, p. 3.
"Pleasure Excursion--Grand Union Festival," Quincy Daily Herald, May 13, 1861, p. 2.
Quincy City Directory, 1863, p. 107.
Quincy City Directory, 1864-65, p. 81.
Quincy City Directory 1866, p. 114.
Quincy City Directory, 1868-69, p. 205.
Quincy City Directory, 1869-70, p. 199.
Quincy City Directory, 1871-72, p. 156.
Quincy City Directory, 1876-77, p. 236.
Quincy City Directory, 1878-79, p. 40.
"The Brewery Deal Is On," Quincy Daily Journal, Jan. 31, 1910, p. 10.
"The City," Quincy Daily Herald, May 14, 1878, p. 3.