A Brewery Childhood
For some members of this global collection of families, early memories of the family business include hands-on experience.
“Geert and me, we are the eighth generation running the Lindemans Brewery,” says Dirk Lindeman of the Belgian lambic brewery that bears their name. “But you have to see this in the context of history: in the past were a lot of farms who also made beer in the winter period for the employees, friends and local pubs. Slowly, our brewery became more important than the farm activities and in 1950 they decide to stop the farm activities and go on with the brewery.”
“As kids, we saw the brewery as a magnificent playground,” he continues. “Nevertheless, there was a lot of manual work: lay out the bottles of gueuze and kriek in the ‘caveaus’ for refermentation, or bring them out for labeling. Cleaning the bottles, charging and unloading trucks, helping with milling the wheat and malted barley. Year after year, the brewery was growing, as well as our fascination and passion for the art of brewing. As kids, we already understood that we had something unique (lambic) in our hands that could create a lot of opportunities in future. Every weekend and school vacation we worked in the family business. The brewery became a part of our life.”
In 1877, the Heller Brewery in the center of Bamberg, Germany, was purchased by Andreas Graser, a man whose odd flapping arm-movements—termed schlenkern—gave the brewery the name “Schlenkerla.” The Graser/Trum family has owned the brewery for six generations. Matthias Trum is the current brewer, the fourteenth in the brewery’s history.
Like the Lindemans, Matthias Trum also considers the brewery where he now works as his first playground: “I used to climb around the grain storage facilities. The main entrance towards our living area (directly above the tavern) is inside the guestroom in the tavern and all the regulars would basically watch me come home from school.
“At school, it was of course a ‘cool thing’ to live in a tavern and brewery. My parents were always discussing business topics at lunch or dinner, so I quite soon got the idea what it means to run your own company. The combination tavern/brewery is especially demanding, as you never really have time off. The tavern is open on most weekdays and all weekend; the brewery throughout the week—so no total free days ever.”
Melissa Coors, the daughter of Pete Coors, chairman of Coors Brewing Co., remembers family time spent at the brewery. “As a child I remember the special Saturdays when Dad would take my sister and me to work with him. He let us sit at his secretary’s desk and ‘work’ while he caught up on his work.
I also remember many trips to sporting events that Coors sponsored. Mom and Dad were eager to introduce us to co-workers, employees and other corporate sponsors. Dad’s involvement with and love of the company was clear as he was happy to be the corporate representative.”
For the famous German weissbier brewer, Georg Schneider, the bottling department is his earliest memory of the brewery. “I often sat next to the man who checked to make sure the beer bottles were clean. He was known as the “Durchleuchter” (a lamp, which x-rays the beer bottles for stains and dirt). He would tell me great stories from the past.”
He continues, “As a child I wanted to become a farmer, boat captain or pilot. At the age of 10 the variety of jobs in the brewery and the ability to work with many people influenced me to decide to enter our family business.”
Hugues Dubuisson first became familiar with his family’s brewery in Pipaix, Belgium, through its beer. “When I was child, I did not go to the brewery, but I remember some discussions with my grandfather,” he says. “Naturally, my parents served and tasted the ‘family’ beers at home. At that time, the brewery brewed almost non-alcoholic beers that children could enjoy.”
August Busch IV’s connection to the world’s largest brewing business, Anheuser-Busch, was acknowledged at birth: “I was fed a few drops of Budweiser from an eyedropper, as soon as I was born. It’s a family tradition. I don’t remember that, of course, but my family has told the story often. Still, I can’t recall ever not being aware of the business. It’s part of our family’s history and part of who we are as individuals. Our family has been deeply involved with it longer than any of us has been alive.”