Brewing up history
The history of Hamm’s Brewery began after a German immigrant, named Theodore Hamm, acquired a small brewery in what is now the Swede Hollow neighborhood on the East-side. In 1865 Hamm’s Brewery was born, with additional branches opening in Baltimore, Houston, Los Angeles, & San Francisco.
Within a short period of time, Hamm and his son had transformed the brewing business and grown the complex to four acres. Hamm’s Brewing soon became the largest brewery in the state, producing an average of 26,000 barrels per year. It grew to be the fifth-largest brewing company in the nation, with a slogan and catchy jingle that proudly boasted its Minnesotan heritage “Hamm’s Beer: From the Land of the Sky-Blue Waters.”
At it’s height, Hamm’s Brewing complex had 67 buildings and their own postal zip code, before eventually being acquired by Heublein, then Olympia, Pabst, and lastly Stroh Brewing Company in 1983. Stroh closed its Saint Paul Brewing doors in 1997, and the buildings lay in ruins until 2014, when the building was acquired by Swede Dayton Properties.
Today, Saint Paul Brewing proudly occupies three of those original Hamm buildings after some intensive labor and restoration of its historic space. We strive to honor the original history of our space and continue the rich tradition of brewing that started right here in Saint Paul.
Stories from the past
We recently caught up with Stevan Miner, of Winnebago, MN, who might be the world’s leading authority on Hamm’s Brewing history (if not one of the largest collectors of amazing Hamm’s art and memorabilia!).
Steve started out collecting Hamm’s beer cans, and started meeting people in the brewing collectibles world. After amassing 4,000 cans, he started to edit and narrowed down to just beer cans from Minnesota. Hamm’s, Schmidt, Grain Belt, Schell, etc. As he got further into his hobby, he remembered the first time he saw a Hamm’s scene-o-rama sign, with the moving water and the jolly bear. Eventually his can collecting shifted to signage, and by the mid-1970s he was fully focused on Hamm’s Beer signs only.
Every year on his day off from work for his birthday, he and his wife would drive up to St. Paul, visit the Hamm’s brewery, and buy one of everything from the gift shop. The man was committed to his hobby! Then, in his spare time, he’d come across old Hamm’s signs, some broken and damaged, and he’d spend hours lovingly repairing and restoring them. He has a shop today on Main Street in Winnebago, Minnesota, and was featured on “Finding Minnesota.”
While Hamm’s, and the other beer brands, are long gone from the buildings where Saint Paul Brewing brews beer today, enthusiasts still gather in this historic spot to enjoy friendship, beer, conversation, stories, and their collections. As Steve says, “it’s the SMELL of the brewery, it just invites you in and it’s so welcoming. This place is so important to the East side of St. Paul.”
“This place is so important to the East side of St. Paul.”-Steve Miner
The Hamm’s Club (collectors of Hamm’s memorabilia) started gathering in the parking lot after the brewery closed. They’d bring a couple of kegs, everyone brought picnic food, and collectors brought their treasures. One year, they invited all of the former employees and distributors that were still around. “Some of them broke down in tears, they were so grateful to tell stories and see old friends and all the vintage items,” Steve said. “The thing that stood out to me was every person that told a story, everyone who had ever worked there or worked with them, they ALL said what a great company it was to work for, and what a great community it built.”
“Seeing Saint Paul Brewing preserve the actual brewery itself – continue the tradition of making great beer – it’s so important to all of us,” Steve said fondly. “That it’s still there, still standing, and they continue to honor the history of Hamm’s, we all just love it.”
It’s true. All of us at Saint Paul Brewing love the history of this space, the history of the people and the beer and the gathering of friends and neighbors. This building has survived over the years because of the spirit of the East Side of St. Paul and the people who live here, and those who visit. Delicious beer, a beautiful patio, comfortable and welcoming spaces indoors to gather and drink and eat – the history of Hamm’s AND the future of Saint Paul Brewing is a story still being told and created.