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Gluek's history here predates the city

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Local business, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: November 3, 2012 - 10:24 AM

 

Gluek brewery during 1966 demolition                             Star Tribune file photo

Gluek brewery during 1966 demolition   Star Tribune file photo

The city's Heritage Preservation Commission on Monday is scheduled to act on a developer's bid to to raze one of the surviving Gluek "tied houses" in Cedar Riverside.

But Linda White has no doubts how she'd vote.  "I just don't want to see them tearing down buildings," said the 69-year-old Edinan. That's natural. She's the great-granddaughter of Gottlieb Gluek, who founded the brewery during the panic of 1857, one year before the city of Minneapolis was organized..

We got more background on tied houses -- saloons serving only one brewer's product -- from the man who wrote the book on Minnesota beer, Doug Hoverson.

He ties the advent of company-linked taverns to the 1880s, when one temperance strategy was to jack up liquor license fees in Minneapolis, to as much as $1,000 annually (you can get a beer-only license today for as little as $1,179). Breweries stepped in and paid those fees on the condition that a bar serve only its product.  Later, breweries built saloons and leased them to operators. The competition among tied houses, chiefly native brewers Grain Belt and Gluek, grew so strong that they began buying corner lots in underdeveloped subdivisions to secure future sites, Hoverson said, citing a 1908 Minneapolis Journal article,

The brewing of strong beer came to a halt with Prohibition. Some tied houses became speakeasies, some went into other uses and some were sold, Hoverson said.  Not long after Prohibition ended, Minnesota legislated its three-tier system, which separated the businesses of making, distributing and selling alcohol. That forced breweries to divest their outlets. Hoverson attributes the law to a fear that brewers would control politics through saloons, which were seen as centers of political corruption frequented by ward bosses. That law wasn't breached until the advent first of brewpubs, then growler sales and now taprooms opened by microbreweries.

Some of the state's businesses got their start managing the real estate arms of breweries, including their tied houses. The prime example is the Pohlad-owned United Properties, which had its roots in managing Hamm's properties.

Gluek mansion on NE Marshall St.                     Minnesota Historical Society photo

Gluek mansion on NE Marshall St. Minnesota Historical Society photo

Before Prohibition, its 86 tied houses helped Gluek sell 95 percent of its beer within Minneapolis, but distribution broadened once it survived Prohibition. It brewed beer at its NE Marshall St. complex until 1964, when the brand was sold to G. Heileman Brewing Co., LaCrosse, Wis. Cold Spring Brewing ended production of Gluek in 2010. The old Minneapolis brewery with walls five feet thick was sold to a boxmaking company, which tore it down in 1966. That was just a tantalizing few years before the 1977 attempt to demolish the nearby Grain Belt brewing complex, by which time the preservation movement had taken hold. The neighboring Gluek mansion was also razed.

It was White's uncle, Charles Gluek II, who sold the brand. She paints a charming picture of the relative nonchalance about beer in German brewing families.  She recalled that her mother would call in orders, and as a 15-year-old White would drive the family car from Lowry Hill to the brewery for the order to be loaded. something illegal today. She diverted only an occasional six-pack, she said. The family was wealthy enough that it took precautions against kidnappings and there were at least four Gluek mansions, one on Marshall, ones in Lowry Hill and Lowry Hill east that still stand and one on Crystal Bay in Orono that was razed.  Her home is landscaped with slate and peonies from the Crystal Bay mansion, which was owned by her grandfather. 

The Heritage Preservation Commission's decision likely will rest on two questions.  One is whether this particular tied house is worthy enough to preserve in the face of a planned housing development or whether it is a poorly preserved example.  The other question is whether the building is worth preserving as only one of four vintage buildings surviving in the area west of Cedar Avenue from its era. 

    

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