Charles Kiewel continued his father Jacob’s brewing legacy by owning and managing multiple breweries, including Kiewel Brewing Company in Crookston. His diverse business interests, from creameries to a farm to a bank, set him apart as one of Crookston’s most well-known businessmen.
Kiewel was born in Moorhead, Minnesota on October 28, 1875, to Jacob and Rose (Niggler) Kiewel. He grew up in Fergus Falls and moved to Little Falls in 1893 when his father purchased a brewery there. Kiewel married Kathryn Blake in 1896 and they had two sons, Charles and Dewey.
The Jacob Kiewel Brewing Company quickly expanded, adding a new malt house and bottling plant to support its White Rose beer brand. Kiewel learned the trade from his father. In 1899, he and Jacob added a business in Crookston.
Crookston was growing rapidly, with a population that increased from 3,457 in 1890 to 5,359 in 1900. The Kiewels purchased the existing Crookston Brewing Company’s three-story brick building with an annual capacity of 20,000 barrels. Jacob sent Kiewel to Crookston to manage the new brewery.
Early in their ownership of the Crookston brewery, arson destroyed the cooper shop and barn. Fire would become a recurring problem for Kiewel. His father’s original Fergus Falls brewery burned down, and fires damaged the Crookston brewery multiple times.
These setbacks didn’t prevent Kiewel from growing his business. In 1899, he made plans to increase the size of the main building and add new machinery. He eventually brought capacity up to 30,000 barrels. With business booming, Kiewel announced a $15,000 investment in Crookston’s Main Street with the building of a two-story block made from Crookston brick.
In 1906, the two Kiewel breweries were officially incorporated as the Jacob Kiewel Brewing Company (in Little Falls) and the Kiewel Brewing Company (in Crookston). Kiewel, his father, and his brother Frank were the incorporators in Crookston; Kiewel continued management of the brewery.
In 1909, the brewery expanded its offerings to include a highly concentrated fermented malt tonic said to “build up the vitality”. Language touting medicinal benefits was not unusual in ads for Kiewel’s popular White Seal Beer and Cream of Malt Tonic. A 1909 advertisement called the beer “nectar for the gods” and praised it as a “fountain of youth and renewed vigor.”
Kiewel became an active businessman beyond the brewery. He maintained a highly respected farm, featuring hogs (and a “hog barn that is worth taking a day off to see”), cows, crops, and an orchard. He also bought interest in Polk County State Bank in 1916 and the Crookston Creamery in 1918.
With the onset of prohibition in 1919, Kiewel Brewing Company stopped beer production in both Little Falls and Crookston, but Kiewel kept working. He manufactured Cremo, a non-alcoholic beverage with the “health-giving properties of beer,” and White Seal Brew, which offered the same taste as White Seal Beer but with a legal alcohol content. He focused efforts on the Crookston Creamery, where one million pounds of butter was produced in 1926.
Kiewel also expanded his endeavors to Canada. In 1924, he built a $250,000 Kiewel Brewing Company in St. Boniface, Manitoba. This proved to be a smart move, as the brewery made $700,000 in its first year. He sold the Crookston brewery buildings and shipped the machinery to St. Boniface.
In 1927, Kiewel became managing director of the Toronto Brewing Company. Soon after, the large Canadian Brewing Company acquired his breweries in both Toronto and St. Boniface. Kiewel stayed on as manager in Toronto while his brother George ran the St. Boniface business.
When prohibition ended, Kiewel became vice president and general manager, and later president, of the large Minneapolis Brewing Company, which produced Golden Grain Belt beer. Though no longer living in Crookston, he came back for a special visit in 1933 on a Golden Grain Belt Goodwill Tour of the state.
Kiewel retired from the Minneapolis Brewing Company and from his post as president of Polk County State Bank. He then moved back to his Crookston farm. Despite retiring, he was still active on his farm and served as chairman emeritus of the bank’s board. Kiewel died on February 11, 1969, at the age of 93, preceded in death by his wife and son Charles.
“Age 90, 86 Years on the Job.” Crookston Daily Times, October 27, 1965.
Bingham, William H., and Major R. I. Holcombe. Compendium of History and Biography of Polk County. Minneapolis: W. H. Bingham, 1916.
Borsodi, William. Borsodi’s Advertisers Cyclopedia of Selling Phrases. New York: The Advertisers Cyclopedia, 1909.
“Brewery Here is Sold for Potato House.” Crookston Daily Times, August 18, 1924.
“Buy Interest in Local Bank.” Crookston Weekly Times, February 26, 1916.
“C. E. Kiewel Contempt Conviction Reversed.” Crookston Daily Times, May 7, 1953.
“Charles E. Kiewel, 93, City Businessman, Dies.” Crookston Daily Times, February 12, 1969.
“Chas. Kiewel Buys Interest in Creamery.” Crookston Weekly Times, September 21, 1918.
“Chas. Kiewel is Released; Returns Home.” Crookston Weekly Times, August 30, 1919.
“Crookston Brewery Co.” Polk County Journal, October 26, 1899.
“Fire Sale at Kiewel’s.” Crookston Weekly Times, July 29, 1905.
“Grain Belt Tour Here Tonight!” Crookston Daily Times, October 14, 1933.
“Incendiarism.” Polk County Journal, February 23, 1899.
“Incendiary.” Polk County Journal, March 2, 1899.
“Jacob Kiewel, Well Known in City, Expires.” Crookston Daily Times, September 10, 1928.
“Kiewel Brewing is Joined with Canadian Corp.” Crookston Daily Times, December 6, 1928.
Kiewel, Charles E. “United States Patent: 141,993 – Trade-mark for beverage containing malt, hops, and cereals,” May 3, 1921.
“Kiewel has Ideal Farm.” Crookston Weekly Times, August 30, 1913.
“Kiewel has New Product.” Crookston Weekly Times, May 22, 1909.
“Kiewel Name Associated with Development in Red River Valley and City.” Crookston Daily Times, February 2, 1929.
“Kiewel Plant Sold Outright to Bridgeman.” Crookston Daily Times, July 10, 1933.
“Kiewel Takes Over Management of New Brewery in Toronto.” Crookston Daily Times, June 6, 1927.
“Kiewel to Sell Beer at T.R.F.” Crookston Daily Times, September 15, 1933.
“Local Man to Build Brewery at St. Boniface.” Crookston Daily Times, April 29, 1924.
“New Kiewel Car Badly Scorched.” Crookston Weekly Times, May 25, 1912.
“New Kiewel Concern at St. Boniface Makes Big Gain in 2nd Year.” Crookston Daily Times, January 20, 1927.
“New Plant of Kiewel Brewing Company at Winnipeg, Canada.” Crookston Daily Times, March 14, 1925.
“Reincorporates Kiewel Brewery.” Polk County Journal, June 21, 1906.
“Twenty Five Thousand Club Gets Good Cold Storage Proposition.” Crookston Weekly Times, January 18, 1909.
Wahl, Dr. R., and Dr. M. Henius, eds. “Syndicate Matters.” American Brewers’ Review 20 (January–December 1906): 468. https://books.google.com/books?id=lVo5AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP8#v=onepage&q&f=false
“Will Build Block.” Crookston Weekly Times, April 6, 1907.
“Will Enter Wider Field of Activity.” Crookston Weekly Times, January 2, 1920.
“W.S. Ericson New Polk Bank Head.” Crookston Daily Times, January 5, 1955.
In 1899, Kiewel and his father, Jacob, purchase a brewery in Crookston. Kiewel agrees to manage the business. He rapidly expands the facility, brings capacity up to 30,000 barrels, and uses his profits and influence to invest in businesses around the Upper Midwest.
Charles E. Kiewel is born in Moorhead, Minnesota, on October 28.
Kiewel’s father Jacob purchases a brewery in Little Falls and moves his family and business there from Fergus Falls.
Kiewel marries Kathryn Blake.
Kiewel and Jacob purchase a brewery in Crookston and Kiewel begins managing its operations.
Jacob Kiewel Brewing Company in Little Falls and Kiewel Brewing Company in Crookston are officially incorporated.
Kiewel Brewing Company begins offering Cream of Malt Tonic.
Kiewel is charged with “hoarding” butter but fights the charges; his 18,000 pounds of butter are returned to him.
Kiewel builds Kiewel Brewing Company in St. Boniface, Manitoba.
Kiewel manages Toronto Brewing Company.
Jacob Kiewel dies on September 9 at the age of eighty-two.
Kiewel visits his hometown of Crookston on the Golden Grain Belt Goodwill Tour to bring beer back to Minnesota after prohibition.
Kiewel fights contempt charges for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury in St. Paul; a judge dismisses them.
Kiewel retires from Minneapolis Brewing Company.
Kiewel retires as president of Polk County State Bank.
Kiewel dies on February 11 at the age of ninety-three.