Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beck's Bock Boosts Brewery in 1901

Just as today, in April and May a century ago, beer lovers eagerly awaited their bock beer! And in the spring of 1901, the Capital Brewery had special reason to promote it.

Pre-Prohibition brewing was a lot more like contemporary craft brewing than you'd think. Mid-century brewing habituated us to watered-down industrial lager. But as we saw with the prospect of Westacott's strong ale that workers on Minto's property found in 1909, early brewers made a range of beers. Bock beers were a springtime seasonal, often originally made by monks as carb-rich "liquid bread" that powered them through Lenten austerities.

Here's an ad for Klinger & Beck's bock in 1901.

The Capital Brewery's Famous Bock will be on draught in all Salem and country saloons on and after

APRIL 6, 1901

Try it and be happy. It's the best ever turned out. We also put up our Bock Beer in bottles.


Inheritance and estate transfer at the turn of the last century was no easier then than today.

Two years before the ad appeared, on April 25th, 1899, Seraphin Beck died. Settling his estate appears to have taken at least two years and came at the cost of dissolving the Klinger & Beck partnership
Seraphim Beck, of the Capital Brewery, Passes Away

After being more or less incapacitated for transaction of business for several years Seraphim Beck, a full partner in the Salem brewing firm of Klinger & Beck, died at his home on South Twenty-fifth street at 7 o'clock Thursday evening, aged 48 years.

Deceased was born in Alsace-Lorraine in 1851. When 21 years of age he came to the United State, locating in Chicago. After a two year's residence at Denver, he came to Oregon in 1875. In August, 1877, he associated himself with Mr. Klinger, in the brewing of beer, in which he has since engaged.

He married in January, 1878, to Miss Maggie Neibert, who survives him. He leaves two children a son and a daughter, viz. Joseph aged 16 years and Leona, aged 7 years.

The deceased was an industrious business man, of a quiet and unassuming disposition. He was a man of the highest integrity.

The funeral will be held in St. Joseph's Catholic church Thursday at 10 o'clock. Burial will take place in the Catholic cemetery, south of this city. The funeral cortege leaves the house soon after 9 o'clock.

Deceased leaves quite a large property to his wife and children by will.

The Catholic cemetery is St. Barbara's on Liberty Road and Missouri in south Salem. (Beck's headstone here and detail here.) Interestingly, a partial survey of the graves suggests a cluster of Germanic brewers in Salem. The list shows Beck buried near a Mrs. Mary Eckerlen. Mrs. Eckerlen was also from Alsace-Lorraine, and perhaps the family knew the Becks. Further, there was an Eckerlin Saloon, and E. Eckerlin was one of the partners in the 1903 Salem Brewery Association. Even with the vowel switch (easily explained in the unstable orthography), just how many Eckerlins could there be in Salem? More research to come!

Two years after the death, the brewery advertised the bock beer. It turns out this was just a month before putting up the brewery for sale.1

In May, 1901, Beck's widow bought the brewery and cashed out Klinger.

At 2 o'clock this afternoon, Tilmon Ford and B. F. Bonham, referees, sold the Capital Brewery plant and other property of the Klinger & Beck partnership, in order that the settlement of the business in the interest of the heir of S. Beck deceased, might be effected. The sale included the brewery plant, fixtures, etc, lots 3, 4, 5 and a portion of lot 6 of block 35, Salem; the north 1/2 of lot 5, block 36 Gervais, and two promessory notes of $800 and $425 respectively.
The bidding began with an offer of $17,000 by M. Klinger, and at 3 o'clock was bid in by Mrs. Margaret Beck for $30,000. M. Klinger bought the Gervais property at $325.
Another account references the sale as having occurred in Dallas, with some Dallas property also in the estate and sold.

Here's a photo of Maurice Klinger from the Oregon State Library collection. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a photo of Beck.

Whether the bock continued to be brewed I don't know. I'll try to find out that as well. But here is at least one instance of a specialty seasonal brewed and advertised almost as they are today!

1I haven't verified that the advertising occurred yearly; it's possible this was a one-off in order to boost cash-flow for the brewery's sale. But I believe it's most likely the beer was a yearly seasonal and that the advertising would be similarly seasonal. It is "famous" and the "best ever," both of which suggest repetition and expectation. Maybe this is untrue advertising hype, but I just don't think so. While it's possible one of the partners sought to boost sales artificially, that would seem likely to interfere with an orderly process of cashing out. I will confirm.


  1. Hey ...if you ever need more info, pics, etc.....I have a lot of Salem brewery items, Sicks brewery items and even some Capitol brewing items. This includes labels, bottles, cans, barrels, trays, letterheads, glassware,openers, foam scrapers, ads etc. I suspect I even have the oldest bottles of Salem beer brewed (still trying to prove it)...the Oregon Historical Society thinks that it may be from the 1860's. They are 1 gallon stone crocks with corks in them that say "Fime Hotel,Portland, Oregon sole agents for Salem Beer"
    Let me know if you neeed any pics or info.
    Eric Palmer

    1. Hi, I am interested in Capitol brewing items. Mourice Klinger was my great uncle. Thank you, Marj

  2. Wow! That's pretty cool. I would love to blog about some of the images & photos & whatnot! I'll be in touch.

  3. Forgot to add that the Bock beer was indeed a yearly event. I've located ads for the 1900 and 1905 versions in addition to this ad for the 1901 version.