The Way It Was


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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE BURTON HISTORICAL COLLECTION, AUTOMOTIVE HISTORY COLLECTION (LAZARNICK COLLECTION)

1907​Ask anyone what Detroit is largely known for, and autos will likely be the knee-jerk response. That may be true today, but there was a time when that answer was only part of the equation. Detroit was also known as a producer of pharmaceuticals, seeds, cigars, railroad cars, stoves, shoes, shipping parts, music publishing, and beer. As The Detroit Almanac points out, there were 29 breweries in Detroit in the 1870s alone. Many, such as Stroh’s, Goebel, and Pfeiffer, were founded by German immigrants. Bernhard Stroh began brewing his yet-to-be famous fire-brewed Bohemian beer in Detroit in 1850. In time, the name Stroh’s defined Detroit as much as Vernor’s, Sanders, Awrey’s, and Hudson’s. This circa-1907 photo of men unloading Stroh’s beer cases reveals two things the area was famous for. Aside from the Stroh’s name, the trucks were made by the Rapid Motor Vehicle Co., which were manufactured in Pontiac beginning in 1902. General Motors bought the company out in 1909, which was the start of GMC Truck. Eventually, times turned flat for Stroh’s as it attempted to expand too quickly. Stroh’s stopped brewing in Detroit in 1985, and, in 1999, sold its brands to the Pabst and Miller brewing companies. But in August 2016, Stroh’s started brewing in Detroit again. In an agreement with Pabst, Brew Detroit in Corktown created its version of Stroh’s Bohemian-style Pilsner, based on an original recipe, and the brand is readily available once again. You can’t help thinking old Bernhard would like to hoist a foamy glass of Stroh’s in approval. 

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