vintage picture of men holding up Grain Belt Beer in Shingletown, California

Where is Grain Belt Beer Sold?

Grain Belt Beer is currently owned and operated by August Schell Brewing Company, founded by German immigrant August Schell in 1860. Schell was running a successful brewing company in New Ulm, Minnesota when, on July 15, 1890, the heads of four brewing powerhouses consolidated to form the Minneapolis Brewing and Malting Company. Soon after, “Golden Grain Belt Old Lager” made its first appearance in 1893. You can check out Grain Belt Beer's Instagram HERE. Ready for some heady, mind blowing history?


The 1830s were the beginning of the long struggle to unify the German states into a single country. In 1834 the Zollverein (the German Custom Union) formed under Prussian leadership creating free-trade area throughout the participating German states. Germany was caught in a clash between Conservatives trying to achieve national unification by aggressive force, and their Liberal opponents who wanted unification through slower diplomacy - the crown verses parliament. The result was violence and turmoil made worse (or better, depending on your position) with the economic growth from the Industrial Revolution. By the 1860s, anyone who could afford to leave the area for a better life elsewhere, did.

That paragraph is part of many stories of German immigrants we’ve covered in this blog including Colonel WEHRLE, the BROMANN Brothers, and Bernhard GLOEKLER. Grain Belt Beer is another story from the same conflict.

Have a seat

Vintage Leather Armchair and ottoman with lumbar pillow at Industrial Artifacts


Before August Schell started his brewing company, Anthony Yoerg and John Orth were the first breweries to permanently locate in Minnesota. In 1848 Yoerg started his beers in St. Paul, while the Orth and family started theirs in Minneapolis a few years later in 1850. Of the 14 breweries that opened over the next 10 years, all but one were run by German immigrants. 

Grain Belt Beer and Minneapolis Brewing Company founders

In 1874, John B. Miller and John Heinrich purchased a small brewery in Minneapolis and started Miller & Heinrich Brewery. That later became Heinrich Brewing Association and John’s son, Gustav, became the general manager.

Frederick D. Noerenberg was born in Germany and immigrated to the U.S. in 1860. He worked at Stahlman’s Brewery for a few years then he operated a hotel in St. Paul from 1870-1875. Noerenberg moved to Minneapolis in 1875 and co-founded Zahler and Noerenberg Brewery. When his business partner, Anton Zahler died in 1878, Frederick took over the business as F.D. Norenberg Brewery and Malt House from 1879-1890.

Grain Belt Beer Sign in Minneapolis with vintage Grain Belt advertisements

John B. Mueller worked with John Heinrich under the name Mueller and Heinrich. Mueller's daughter married Heinrich's son. Mueller started Germania Brewing Company in the 1880s with J. VanderHorck as president, who brought in ice harvester Herman A. Westphal (different Westphal than THIS man, but plausibly related).

In July of 1890, Mueller found himself missing money as part of a embezzling scheme by a butcher named Emil V. Koessel. Both men were part of the Robert Blum Lodge in Minneapolis. On July 12th of 1890, Mueller committed suicide over the fallout, supposedly using a folder to reach the trigger of a Winchester long rifle. After his death, Koessel was found and went to jail, but would claim the real embezzling scheme was from Mr. Mueller. 

Here's your sign

Antique Green Seal Beer Sign at Industrial Artifacts


On July 15, 1890, less than a week after Mueller's untimely demise, the four companies of John Orth Brewing Company, Heinrich Brewing Association, F.D. Noerenberg Brewery and Malt House, and Germania Brewing Company merged to become Minneapolis Brewing & Malting Company with John Orth as president. Each brewery continued to produce beers, but in order to be a viable competitor in the big leagues, a new facility needed to be build. In 1892, a new complex was built at 1215 Northeast Marshall Street. Over the next 10 years, Minneapolis Brewing would produce an annual production capacity of half-million barrels.

Minneapolis Brewing Golden Grain Belt Bock Beer ad and photograph from a tavern or pup


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In 1893, the company was incorporated under the name Minneapolis Brewing Company with Matthias J. Bofferding as president, who also died by suicide in September (money problems). But before his departure, Golden Grain Belt Beer was introduced for the first time, “Grain Belt” referring to the midwest’s “amber waves of grain,” as described in Katharine Lee Bates’ America, the Beautiful (1913).

Grain Belt Park and Grain Belt Beer advertising

The new facility was a massive leap forward in the technology with glass-lined tanks, atmosphere control, and using “carbonic acid gas pressure” to force the beer from the tanks to fill 14,000 bottles per hour without the beer ever touching outside air. The process included pasteurization, and automatic label making.

Antique Oak Counter

Antique General Store Counter at Industrial Artifacts


Minneapolis Brewing Company tried their best to adapt after the passing of the Volstead Act under the name Golden Grain Juice Company, but eventually succumbed to Prohibition in 1927, and remained closed until 1933 when Prohibition was repealed.

Grain Belt Beer at a mock Prohibition meeting

Even more disastrous was the 1970s when businessman Irwin Jacobs bought the company by strong-arming the Board of Directors, only to turn around and sell it all to G. Heileman Brewing Company from La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 1975, after 85 years in business, the company was sold off for parts and Grain Belt Beer was no more. 

In case you're interested, Irwin Jacobs did THIS, and it was also due to money problems. 

But all is not lost for the North Star State.  Rising on the horizon of 1991, Minnesota Brewing operating out of the old Schmidt brewery in St. Paul, purchased the Grain Belt brands from G. Heileman, and returned the Grain Belt brand to the Land of a Thousand Lakes.  In 2002, Minnesota Brewing shut down and sold the Grain Belt brands to August Schell Brewing of New Ulm, where it remains in production today. If you're over 21, check your local beer supplier.

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