Pearl Brewing: A Book Teaser Part II

By 1887 Otto Koehler and company had taken over City Brewery and rechartered as the San Antonio Brewing Association. From there it gets wild and crazy through Pearl's second period which runs through 1918 and the start of Prohibition. Welcome to part two of a preview into 'Pearl: A History of San Antonio's Iconic Beer' due out December 2017. 


Chapter Four

Though the San Antonio Brewing Association’s beginning is set in 1886, Koehler did not actually leave the Lone Star Brewing Association until 1887. It was during that year that Koehler made his now we'll know trip from San Antonio to Bremen, Germany and to the Kaiser-Beck Brewery to acquire what would become the recipe and trademark for San Antonio Brewing Association’s XXX Pearl Beer.  

An alternative theory on how Otto Koehler came upon the name Pearl and possibly the recipe lies with recently discovered match safe bearing the name ‘A. Griesedieck Brewery Co’ with dates stamped on it ranging from 1879-1886, the very year the San Antonio Brewing Association debut its XXX Pearl beer. Coincidence? Perhaps, but consider again that Otto Koehler worked for Anton. Griesedieck. “Kaiser-Beck did not have a Pearl beer and Anton, as well as his future sons, did not continue to call their beer Pearl,” says Charlie Staats a local historian and collector of Texas brewing memorabilia and who discovered the match safe. “It is possible that Otto struck a deal with Anton to purchase the recipe and Pearl name from him, making one wonder what Otto Koehler was actually doing in Germany if he was not at Kaiser-Beck.”

Though many know the famous brew as Pearl, it was known as XXX Pearl for so long. Pearl referred to the Pearl-like bubbles that resulted from the carbonation. The XXX designation had, since medieval times, been used to designate the quality of the beer produced by European monasteries, with XXX being the highest quality. In fact, a brewery representative in 1887 promoted the beer in print, paying homage to the brewery name folks had become accustomed to, as well as the brewery’s new name. “The new City Beer, just out, and very fine, try it. Have you tried the new brand of City Pearl Beer? The finest flavored beer in the market. Be sure and try, and you will be convinced. Warranted to be the same at all times. Ask for it, drink no other.”  

Chapter Five

Despite the popularity of XXX Pearl and Texas Pride, rumblings from the so-called ‘dry camp’ were heating up around the same time. Anti-drinking rhetoric from the Anti-Saloon League was weighing heavily on the booming beer business in Texas. In an attempt to slow their momentum and a possible future prohibition on alcohol, the Texas Consolidated Brewing Association added the Dallas Brewing Company and the Galveston Brewing Association to its ranks, reforming the group into the Texas Brewers’ Association.  

This new group’s sole purpose was to pour money into a campaign to stop the possible ban on all alcohol. Each member brewing pledged twenty cents per barrel to the endeavor in an attempt to ‘persuade’ lawmakers and judges that their ‘wet side’ was the right one. These efforts did bring an ally to the wet side, one Oscar Branch, and into the Governor's mansion gaining him the nickname “Budweiser Branch’ to his pro dry opponents.  

Not all of their efforts could be dedicated to staving off what would be the inevitable and thus the San Antonio Brewing Association brewed on. By 1910 the Association appears to have switched to metal barrels, though photos of time suggest they were still using a fair amount of wooden barrels. The brewery also began adding an enzyme to their beer that helped with clarification of its natural haziness and even moved passed a labor strike that lasted just one day.

Chapter Six

In the early 1900’s, Emma Koehler is reported to have been involved in a terrible car accident that left her virtually an invalid and perpetually bed ridden. Though no evidence is actually found to support this, leading one to ponder the actual cause of the injury. “It could even be that she was injured during her summer 1909 visit to Germany, which would explain hiring a German nurse, rather than starting out from San Antonio with help.” muses San Antonio researcher Martha Rand Hix. It is also possible for this to be the truth, as there is mention in the memoirs of Emma Koehler’s great-niece, Margaret Pace Willson, that her Aunt Emma had been injured in an auto accident. To ease his burden and yet make sure his wife was attended to; Koehler hired a nurse in 1909 by the name of Emma Dumpke.

The Koehlers, while on one of their many trips back to Germany, had hired Dumpke.  Dumpke had been described in a later account as a “pretty, petite brunette.” Dumpke appears to have taken a shine to Mrs. Koehler, even as she and Otto Koehler became closer. Not long after Dumpke’s hiring, Koehler and Dumpke’s affair began in earnest. Not much is known as to Otto and Emma Koehler’s relationship at the time, but it most certainly looks to have taken a turn after her accident.  

At some period after Dumpke was hired, she brought around a nurse friend of hers to the Koehler mansion. Dumpke had already spoken to her friend about her affair with Otto Koehler. When Emma Hedda Burgermeister arrived with Emma Dumpke to the Koehler mansion, she could not escape the wandering eye of the San Antonio Brewing Association president. Soon, she too joined the love triangle. Each was given a stipend, with Dumpke receiving one hundred $25 dollars and Burgermeister receiving only $50 per month. It's hard to say if this caused any friction between the two friends, though it most certainly could not have helped matters any.  

Chapter Eight

Many witnesses testified for and against Emma Burgermeister. One such witness was Henry Cordt, who resided across from the ‘Emma’ Cottage with his wife. At the time Dumpke was living out of town with her husband, Cordt advised the court that Burgermeister had forged a telegram in his name, sending it to Dumpke in St. Louis and urging her to come back to San Antonio to her aid. Dumpke confirmed this, stating she returned to find Burgermeister just fine.  

Cordt would also testify that he heard Dumpke yell Burgermeister's name on the night of the murder, prompting him to run across the street to the cottage. Upon entering the cottage, Cordt heard three or four shots. Burgermeister's bedroom door was half open when he approached and after fully opening it, Burgermeister presented herself and portrayed herself as that of a victim, and claimed she was hunched over Koehler's body, cradling his head and crying. Cordt confirmed this adding that he asked Burgermeister what she had done, to which the young nurse replied “he tried to murder me,” saying nothing more as Koehler's body still twitched.  

Burgermeister must have been quite the charmer. She made friends with the jail matron, Brooks, who had admitted during the trial that she and Burgermeister had become friends and accepted gifts from her. This possible friendship may have prompted matron Brooks to provide questionable testimony in favor of her friend, including testimony that Burgermeister had bruises on her body, including the throat. Even one of the responding officers, a Detective Crosby Marsden, who advised that two knives were found at the scene, one of them bloody, in addition to a loaded revolver and Burgermeister's used .32 caliber revolver. Perhaps the bloody knife, later shown to have been dull, led to Burgermeister's proclamation that Otto Koehler had tried to kill her. The detective, who would later serve as a Texas Ranger, admitted to having done some detective work for Burgermeister in the past, as well as giving her defense attorney photos from the crime scene that would aid in her defense.  

Chapter Ten

One individual who was brought on in the middle of 1914 and would help keep the San Antonio Brewing Association going in years to come, especially after Otto Koehler’s death, was engineer William Isaacs, known as Billy to his friends. Isaac worked at the San Antonio Brewing Association for almost 50 years and retired as vice president of plant operations. 

Isaacs was a Texas born and raised engineer. Born on July 4, 1896, he came to San Antonio around 10 years later. He was hired by the San Antonio Brewing Association July 14 of 1914 after having completed his studies at St. Mary's College, and now St. Mary's University. When World War I broke out for the United States in 1917, Isaacs served as an automotive instructor in Austin at Camp Mabry. He came back a couple of years later when US involvement of the war ended.

Things were a little different than just two years prior. Prohibition had begun and the San Antonio Brewing Association was now Alamo Industries. By 1922 he was chief engineer and in 1924 to further add more to his brewing to belt he attended the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, a revered Brewing school that exists today. While at Siebel, Isaacs took classes in baking, milling, engineering, refrigeration and other topics related to the food industry, since teaching people how to brew was not allowed. He later became a registered engineer and a member of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. His wife Dorothy may have even worked as a stenographer for Alamo Industries. By 1943 Isaacs been promoted to plant manager and in 1952 plant superinetendent by the time of his leaving in 1957 he was a member of the Board of Directors and Vice President of Plant Operations.