On March 5th 1907 a group of brewers, employees, family and friends proudly celebrated the launch of the first Engelhardt Pilsner at the brewery at Thulestrasse 54, in today´s Pankow district of Berlin. Led by Ignatz Nacher, the brilliant German-Jewish entrepeneur and philanthropist, Engelhardt had become Germany´s fourth largest brewery before it was taken over by the Nazi regime in the early 30s, in what turned out to be one of the largest cases of expropriation.
104 years later, on March 5th 2011, a group of artists, historians, brewers, neighbours, beer and art lovers gathered again on the site of the former brewery for a one-day art event celebrating the life of Ignatz Nacher, the history of the building and its artistic evolution under its new occupant the HomeBase LAB. On this day, Braumeister Kolja Gigla also brewed on site the first batch of Ignatz Bier, an artisan Pilsner based on an old receipe, which will be offered for sale in bottles made by leading contemporary artists (click here for more information). A limited label of 1000 bottles was also launched on March 5th in collaboration with Quartiermeister.
About Ignatz Nacher
Ignatz Nacher was born on November 25, 1868 in Austria-Silesia, and was brought up by his grandmother. After school he was apprenticed to a cigar store in Breslau/ Wroclaw, where he remained for several years as a sales assistant. At the beginning of 1901, Max Wasserzug, a relative living in Berlin, offered him a position in his failing brewery. After some hesitation, Ignatz Nacher agreed on the condition that the commercial interests of the brewery became his own responsibility. In April of that year he moved to Berlin with his wife Olga and became manager of the Breslauer Wheat Beer Brewery Ernst Engelhardt Nachf. Thus began a career that is incomparable in the history of German brewing. Nacher knew from his work as a sales representative that a vendor could only find success by listening and responding to his customers, earning their loyalty by maintaining the quality of the goods produced. He also knew that to be profitable a company had to be of a certain size, especially in a competitive market like that of the Berlin beer industry in the early 20th century. In his first days on the job, Ignatz Nacher went with his drayman to meet the brewery’s clients and interview them. At the end of this market research, he made two potentially risky business decisions: first, he would increase the shelf life of the top-fermented beer. Second, and as soon as possible, he would widen the product range to include the increasingly popular lager beer. His plan worked. With his new pasteurized malt beer, he was able to boost the sales of the small brewery and turn a handsome profit. Ignatz Nacher saw a chance for further success and pounced on it. With his business partner Otto Mayer, he acquired the Engelhardt Brauerei, a little later the Josty Brauerei, and finally the Berliner Exportbierbrauerei in Pankow, which was set up as a brewery for the production of bottom-fermented beer. Nacher was now a prosperous entrepreneur in the capital. He received German citizenship and, lacking children of his own, adopted his nephew from Silesia, Hermann Eisner. He also held important roles in the Berlin and North German Brewery associations. Ignatz Nacher saw it as his duty as a successful businessman to spend part of his fortune helping the needy. He founded a home for old people in Gliwice, supported the Jewish orphanage in Pankow and gave generously to numerous other charitable institutions. He also promoted scientific research in brewing technology by setting up the Ignatz-Nacher Foundation in Berlin and Bamberg. Celebrating his 25th anniversary in the brewing business in 1926, he could rightfully take pride in his life’s work. He could not imagine then that just a few years later, he would be robbed of all this by the Nazis. Fighting to the end, he eventually lost both his fortune and his position as one of Berlin’s greatest brewers.
THE HISTORY OF THE BREWERY
In 1905 the opportunity arose to purchase the large, modern Berliner Exportbierbrauerei in the Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße 21/29 (since 1938 Thulestraße). This brewery was built probably around 1895 but still had not gone into operation since no brewing water from private wells was available. Ignatz Nacher had new wells drilled, which finally led to success. For better utilization of existing capacity and in response to constant demand from customers, the Engelhardt-Brewery took up the production of bottom-fermented light and dark lager beer. On March 5, 1907 the brewery delivered its first brew of Engelhardt Pilsner. With the expansion of the production program, the group of consumers of Engelhardt beer was growing larger, thus the production continued to grow and the brewery finally became one of the largest breweries nationwide. Division I (i.e. Pankow-site) of Engelhardt Brewery made it through two world wars and times of crisis without major damage.
IGNATZ NACHER’S BREWING EMPIRE
The Engelhardt brewery owed its meteoric rise in the twentieth century to one man: Ignatz Nacher. He joined the management in 1902, eventually making Engelhardt the fourth largest brewery in the capital. When Ignatz Nacher and his friend Otto Mayer bought Ernst Engelhardt’s brewery on Chausseestraße 33 (Berlin-Mitte) in 1902, it was a relatively small operation, producing top-fermented malt beer (Süßbier) and wheat beer. In a very short time, they managed to bring the failing brewery back on track. Their main innovation was to pasteurize all the bottled beer. In this way, it was possible to sweeten the beer in the brewery and quickly bring the affordable and long-lasting Engelhardt Caramel Malt Beer to the market. With the high demand for Engelhardt malt beer, the brewery’s capacity soon became insufficient. The acquisition of another brewery at Bergstr. 22 (Berlin-Mitte) in 1903 solved this problem only temporarily. In 1905, the purchase of the Berliner Exportbierbrauerei on the former Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse became the basis for further expansion. A little later the Engelhardt Brewery was transformed into a corporation, and when the entire production was moved to Pankow, the old factories were sold off. In 1910 the Engelhardt Brauerei AG acquired the Kaiser Brewery in elegant Charlottenburg. The operation in Pankow was named Division I, while the new brewery in Charlottenburg became Division II. In war-torn 1917 the Victoria Brewery in Stralau was taken over, adding a third division and a malthouse to the brewery group. Business during the war wasn’t as bright as during the golden years that preceded it, but Ignatz Nacher continued to risk the acquisition of other small breweries in Berlin. By the 1920’s Nacher’s beer empire included 16 breweries in the German Reich, employing about 2,500 workers. Exports were strong, even reaching non-European regions. The pasteurized beers enjoyed great demand in Asia, Africa and South America. In 1919, the group’s headquarters were located at Engelhardt House in Berlin’s busy Alexanderplatz. Later, the central office was moved to Krachtstraße.
In Germany, since 1871 Jews had the same rights as Christian fellow citizens. They were well integrated economically as well as socially. Nevertheless during the expansion of Nachers Brewing corporation anti-Semitic tendencies in the German Reich could not be overlooked. The takeover by the Nazis in January 1933 completely changed the situation in the German Reich at all levels of society. Even if in the first years the physical destruction of the Jewish population was not yet foreseeable, many contemporaries saw the writing on the wall. Ignatz Nacher was one of those forward thinking people. Since the rise of the Nazis he had no illusions: in 1933 he was pushed out from the management of his own corporation and other organizations he was involved in; the selling of his stock at a fair price was made impossible and. under heavy pressure from the Nazis he had to transfer his wealth and fortune to the Dresdner Bank. In order to force his signature to the document, he was put under police custody at the prison in Berlin. In 1939 he was able to buy for his wife Olga and himself the permission to emigrate to Switzerland. Ignatz Nacher died on September 15, 1939 in Zurich. BLACK, BLONDE, RED: THE HISTORY OF A BEER Ignatz Nacher was one of those sharp forward thinking contemporaries of the turn of the 20th century, a self-made man who helped developed the German industry, especially in Berlin. He made no secret of his Jewish identity. As a self-confident citizen of the German Empire, he sought to bring his goals in line with those of his time. He marketed his Berlin beer under the well-known brand with the dark-haired angel as the corporate logo. Not only the company itself and the brewery buildings, but also the corporate logo and trade mark of Nachers Engelhardt beer had its own story under the Nazis. Under the Nazi regime, with a stroke of a pen the angel of the Engelhardt-Brewery was changed from a brunette to a blonde. An outwardly inconspicuous aryanization of the label had taken place, which probably went unnoticed by many Germans in such times of change under the Nazi regime. But this change too had deeper meaning. Like no other German political system, Nazi Germany introduced a planned and carefully designed system of signs. For that it did not matter whether the sign to be replaced had a deeper meaning before being used as a trademark. A lock of hair from an innocent angel was obviously seen as offensive. From the mid 1930s, the aryanized angel was placed on the companys beer bottles, beer mats and drum labels. This corporate logo was being used even after the end of the war, both in East and West Germany Ignatz Nachers angel is back with red hair just for todays event: Ignatz is back. This company logo has been designed solely for the March 5, 2011 event.
THE HISTORY OF THE BREWERY AFTER 1945
After the end of the Second World War, the city of Berlin was divided. Two parts of the Engelhardt Brewery, the Pankow and Stralau divisions, were located in the Soviet sector and the one in Charlottenburg in the British sector. The brewery in Charlottenburg was heavily damaged and the Malthouse in Stralau had been totally destroyed. The resumption of production at each brewery took place at different times, according to their situation. At the beginning of 1946 both of the factories in the Soviet sector were seized according to rules and regulations No. 124 and No. 126 of the highest principal of the Soviet military administration in Germany and No. 52 of the Allied forces and set under trusteeship. In May 1949, the factories in Pankow and Stralau were transferred were nationalized without compensation of the original owners. Due to a decreasing demand for beer, the people-owned enterprise (VEB) Engelhardt Brauerei Pankow had to close down at the end of 1949, as did three other breweries in East Berlin. In 1950 the property was rented out to the FDJ (Freie Deutsche Jugend Organization of Young Communists). Because of recompensation claims of Ignatz Nachers heirs, the Engelhardt Brewery in Charlottenburg was under control of the heritage administration until 1956. Despite the fact that the remaining breweries lost their autonomy and from 1983 on even the Charlottenburger Pilsner was manufactured by other breweries, Engelhardt Beer was still available in both parts of the city. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the last chapter of the Engelhardt company-history began. The new competitive market and the need to concentrate production led to the closing of the Engelhardt-Brewery in Stralau. In 2011, the Engelhardt brand is only available in a few locations in the city of Berlin.
A timeline of the old Engelhardt Brewery at Thulestrasse 54, Pankow:
- Ca. 1895: Foundation of the Berliner Exportbrauerei AG Berlin-Pankow
- 1905 – Brauerei Ernst Engelhardt Nachf., Berlin-Pankow
- 1907 – Brauerei Ernst Engelhardt Nachf., AG Berlin-Pankow
- 1910 – Brauerei Ernst Engelhardt Nachf., AG, Abteilung Pankow
- 1917 – Engelhardt Brauerei, AG, Abt. 1, Berlin-Pankow
- 1946 – Engelardt Brauerei AG, Division Pankow, under trusteeship
- 1949 – VEB Engelhardt Brauerei, Berlin-Pankow
- 1950 – Closing of the brewery and leasing of the compound to the FDJ (Freie Deutsche Jugend)
- 1990 – The space is evacuated and remains deserted after the fall of the Berlin Wall, for almost 20 years
- 2007 – LRC Management purchases the building 2010 – HomeBase V Project lands at Thulestrasse 54
- March 5th 2011: Installing a microbrewery, launching Ignatz Bier and building HomeBase LAB, a year-round Home for HomeBase projects