The History of the Konig Brewery, Duisburg,Germany
An unpopular start for this brewery
Born to a wealthy West German farming family, Theodor Konig finished his military service and worked on a large farm, which had its own brewery, for two years before deciding that his interests lie in brewing rather than farming. Deciding to learn the craft from scratch, he began as a journeyman. He traveling to Munich, the capital of beer brewing at the time, and to Vienna where he learned about the Pilsener beers being brewed in Bohemia. Returning to Western Germany in 1855, he worked as an experienced brewer and began laying the foundations for his own brewey. In 1858, Theodor founded the Konig Brewery at the age of 33 in the country district of Beeck. At the time of its start, this area was not a part of the city of Duisburg. He began brewing a lager in the Pilsener style, in spite of the unpopularity of the bottom-fermented style of beer at that time.
The brewery enjoys steady growth through the nineteenth century
With the exception of the interruption of wars in 1866 and 1870, the area of Beeck became an area of industrial growth. The Konig Brewery grew along with the area and became a popular stop for the workers of nearby iron, coal and steel industries. The brewery continued to expand and update to keep abreast with demand. From 1881 to 1891, the production grew three fold to a level 70 times the production of the first year of operation. In 1888, the first steam power was introduced as a steam engine was installed on a cooling unit. In 1891, after their father’s death, the oldest sons, Leo and Hermann Konig took over as heads of the brewery.
The beginning of the new century saw prosperity for the Konig Brewery
The year of 1899 saw the company go public as the demands for equipment and modernization increased. In 1900, beer production reached 50,000 hectoliters for the first time. The first decade of the 20th century saw a shift in the consumer taste for beer. The better-off consumers, in particular, were shifting from the heavy, bottom-fermented beers to the lighter Pilsener beers which contained more hops. In 1911 Konig Pilsener was introduced and became exceedingly popular. As steel and aluminum tanks replaced the original equipment and delivery cars began to be seen, World War I brought things to a sobering slow down.
Turbulent times came to the Brewery as the war rationing was followed by hyperinflation
During the war, a beer was produced which contained almost no hops or malt and hardly tasted like beer at all. It was during this time that the third generation entered into management at the brewery. By 1924, a currency reform brought things back to normal and and in an attempt to “crisis proof” the company, it was decided to reach beyond its regional district into more distant markets. The first of these markets were found in Cologne and Dusseldorf. Soon after, the Konig brand became well known throughout the Rhineland. In 1925, Hermann Konig’s son, Max Konig, and Leo Konig’s son, Richard Konig, took over the family business. With new markets to serve, the brewery went through a lot of modernization and growth. 1929 saw the first year of 100,000 hectoliters if production and sales. By 1934, the last wooden keg and horses were replaced by modern methods.
Survival of the brewery during the great depression
The depression which began in New York and spread its way around the globe had its effect on the West German industrial area near Duisburg. Many factories and businesses closed down and up to half the citizens were existing on welfare. By 1932, Konig was down to half its work force and half its production. 1930 saw the German government impose a 46 percent beer tax increase and in 1932 required breweries to cut their prices significantly. The brewery reacted with a sharp cost cutting program and successfully sought to expand into the Netherlands and Belgium. In 1937, the company returned to private ownership to maintain its family run character. The name of the company was changed to Konig Brauerei K.G. By 1938, production again hit 100,000 hectoliters
The return of “war beer” during World War II
September of 1939 saw the return of war and the return of shortages of barley and malt. Konig’s master brewer Schuler found that the malt could be replaced by a dairy by-product called molke. This “war beer” became explosively popular and production reached a level of 170,000 hectoliters. Due to transportation and logistic problems, the production of “war beer” was subcontracted out to 22 breweries located near the expanding markets. From October to December of 1944, heavy bombing destroyed most of the original brewery.
The post war era became a time of further growth
Rather than rebuilding the original site, management looked ahead and constructed a new state-of-the-art facility which would enable Konig to meet production during times of regrowth after the war ended in 1945. By 1948, the last of the subcontracts were canceled and full production returned. The year 1958, on its 100th anniversary, Konig managed a record production of 500,000 hectoliters.
Konig attains national brand status in the 1960′s
The brewery’s name continued to grow through the latter part of the 20th century and in 1967, passed the 1,000,000 hectoliters of production mark. A good advertising campaign combined with leadership provided by Leo Konig, who studied business as well as brewing, and his cousin, Renate Konig, led Konig to national brand status. Konig Pilsener gains in popularity and begins to be sold in up-scale restaurants and establishments as a premium beer.
The Konig Brewery is sold
On February 1, 2000, the Konig Brewery became a subsidiary of the Holsten Group. In 2004, this group was in turn sold to the Danish Carlsberg concern. The Holsten Group was broken up and Konig Brewery was sold to Bitburger Holdings along with the Licher Brewery.
The most important product for the brewery continues to be the Konig Pilsener brand
An ale, brewed in the form of the local Rhineland, Altbier, was developed in the 1970′s. This was later discontinued along with Konig Export and Konig Malz, a malt beer. New products have been developed including the alcohol-free Kelts beer which has been renamed Konig Pilsener Alkoholfrei as of 2005, and a beer-lemonade mix under the name Konig Pilsener Lemon in 2006.
Konig Pilsener, the King of beers
Despite its recent tumultuous history, Konig Pilsener remains a great export beer and has maintained its authenticity and taste throughout. Belukus Marketing, Inc. knows that this is truly the “King of beers” which is why it is a part of their line of fine import beers. Read more about the breweries affiliated with Belukus Marketing. Visit Belukus Marketing’s website and explore the great line-up of beers they offer the United States market.