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Eichbaum was founded in 1679 as a small brewpub, and while the exact location changed, its domicile has always been Mannheim. Its traditional art of brewing in accordance with the German Purity Law dated 1516 guarantees Eichbaum beers’ top quality – since 1679.
Eichbaum-Brauerei was “born” on Friday, 3 October 1679, at least in accordance with the Julian calendar, which then still applied in Electoral Palatinate, ruled by Elector Karl Ludwig. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, which in the 17th century, however, was only used by Roman Catholic rulers. Be that as it may, the Gregorian calendar provides for the 13th of October as the day of establishment, when the Mannheim council, chaired by Heinrich Clignet, approved of Jean de Chaine’s application for a licence for a brewpub at his home in Q 5, 23–24 (u.i.F.: moderne Adressenangabe? Dann sollte, wo zutreffend, hinter die Angaben: today’s address) and allowed him “to hang up a “zum Aichbaum” sign at his home in Mauritzgaßen”.
After having been destroyed in the War of the Palatine Succession, Mannheim spent almost a decade in agony. Only the Peace of Rijswijk in 1697 and Elector Johann Wilhelm asking refugees to return home changed that. While Mannheim thus saw its second rebirth within one century, the “Zum Eichbaum“ brewpub’s rebirth took a bit longer. Its site in Q 5 had also been destroyed in its entirety.
The pub licence mentioned above was only re-activated, for “Zum grünen Eichbaum“, in 1717, when it was acquired by Jean Blancard (Plancard), born in Hanau in 1664 and with roots in a Wallonian family of brewers. When he was granted Heidelberg citizenship in 1692, he had already germanised his name to Johann Blanckart and in 1698 he seems to have been one of the first who relied on the marketing power of the new Mannheim town privileges. Having been granted Mannheim citizenship in 1705 and obviously successful as a brewer and landlord, in 1717 he bought another house, in P 5, 9, for 300 guilders and applied for another pub licence – for “Zum grünen Eichbaum”.
In 1723, Elector Karl Philipp issued the Mannheim brewers guild laws, confirmed by his successor, Karl Theodor, in 1746. The guild included no fewer than 69 beer brewers at 50 breweries in a town of only 9,000, of whom almost a third were soldiers, servants or court staff. The guild was successful in ensuring its members’ livelihood, and this is attested to by the fact that by the middle of the 18th century the number of breweries had only risen to 71 although the number of inhabitants had doubled. And “Zum grünen Eichbaum“ was certainly one of the established brewpubs in Manheim. The documented owner in 1733 was a certain Johannes Werner Ziegler, who two years before had married Katharina Elisabeth, Philipp Michael Blanckart’s widow. In 1735, the couple expanded its estate in P 5, acquiring the adjacent house for 500 guilders.
In 1820, the heirs of Johann Philipp Mayer, who had died in 1817, received 10,000 guilders for “Zum grünen Eichbaum“ from Philipp Dewald, the master brewer here since 1817. The new owner, however, was not really successful. In March 1827 - only seven years later, that is - the entire estate had to be auctioned off, the beneficiary being 24-year-old master brewer Heinrich Forschner from Schriesheim, who paid 150 guilders.
Mannheim’s population finally increased again from the mid_1820s and continued to do so – with the exception of people fleeing the area after the failed revolution in 1849 - until it had reached 25,000 by the mid-1850s. Another indication of the prevailing optimism in Mannheim is the construction of the first solid bridge of the River Neckar, the “Kettenbrücke“, which was opened on 15 November 1845.
Forschner seems to have been equally dynamic. And now wonder: since by the middle of the 19th century only 20 breweries were left, these 20 had to make up for the loss. But this, of course, raised the question of how to store beer properly. Cooling cellars could not be built in the town centre, but with the new “Kettenbrücke“ the northern bank of the Neckar had been developed. Forschner made use of this opportunity in conjunction with his 34-year-old fellow-brewer Ignaz Rößler of the “Zum Schneeberg“ brewpub and acquired a 2,200 sq m field in the 5. Sandgewann on the road to Käfertal, where the two built a 10 m deep and almost 100 m long so-called summer beer cellar. This is how the brewery started to end up in Käfertal.
In FY 1886/87, then, the brewery’s output crossed the 100,000 hl mark for the first time. Such a volume could, of course, not be sold in Mannheim alone. “Eichbaum“ had already presented itself at the Wereldtentoonstelling van Antwerpen in 1885 and won a gold medal. While Mannheim and its environs remained the main sales area, beer was also shipped to more remote areas in Germany and to France. The picture shows the brewery in Käfertalerstraße in 1890.
By about 1900, the number of Eichbaum staff had risen to 147, 13 thereof office staff and 4 production managers. The brewery also had a “fleet” of 32 carts and 50 horses for short-distance transport and also railway cars for long distances.
In March 1900, Edmund Hofmann, the director who since 1896 had been the sole chief executive at “Eichbaum AG“, died at the age of only 59. He was succeeded by his 31-year-old son of the same name, who had already worked for the company since 1893, of late also with full managerial authority. Edmund Hofmann jun. ran Eichbaum-Brauerei for the next 19 years, after which he was chairman of the supervisory board until his death in 1924.
In 1923, Edmund Hofmann jun. became a member of the Worms-based “Werger-Brauerei AG“ supervisory board, with which in the same year Eichbaum had formed a syndicate. That was the time of hyper-inflation. The Treaty of Versailles had made Germany pay reparations, with which it was now in default. The turbulences in 1923 meant Eichbaum and Werger-Brauerei in Worms started talking, and on 10 October both companies’ supervisory boards and executive boards agreed on a kind of syndicate, for which purpose Eichbaum shares were to be swapped for Werger shares, but with Eichbaum remaining operationally independent. Louis Rühl, a member of both companies’ executive boards since 1924, sort of personified the link.
This link was made a merger in 1929, and the new company was called “Eichbaum-Werger-Brauereien AG“, domiciled at Worms. Both companies remained in operation, independently in Mannheim and Worms and with all their staff.
At the beginning of the 1940s, in December, Mannheim was the target of its first RAF area bombing. Mannheim was hit more than 150 times until the war was over and in May 1945 three quarters of all buildings had been destroyed, with half of all residental areas gone.
While surprisingly industrial buildings had not been destroyed to the same extent. Eichbaum-Brauerei had already had suffered damage rather early on. During the night-time raid on 9/10 May 1941, one bomb exploded in front of the brewhouse, damaging some windows. Much worse, however, was the fact that 45-year-old master brewer Georg Riedlinger suffered a stroke and died.
While previously Worms had had the edge over Mannheim in terms of beer output, since 1945 the Mannheim part of Eichbaum-Werger was now in the lead, with the first post-war 100,000 hl mark exceeded in FY 1950/51. By FY1954/55, the mark stood at 200,000 hl, three years later at 300,000 hl. Profits were also gratifying, and by FY 1950/51 the dividend pay-out was 4 per cent, rising to 16 in FY1958/59, a level it kept until 1966/67.
Before the summer season 1952, the brewery launched a new beer: “Eichbaum Pilsener“. With its hoppy taste, it soon began to replace the full-bodied “Export“. And there was another innovation: pilsner bottles got crown caps, replacing the traditional swing top. Beer in bottles became ever more important and by 1953 its share already amounted to 45 per cent of total sales.
Incidentally, the bottles showed the oak tree (Eichbaum) and the Werger Brauerei’s red ring.
Extensive investments notwithstanding, Eichbaum-Werger was always profitable back then. In 1963/64, the dividend pay-out even stood at 18 per cent. Eichbaum-Werger was therefore part of the post-war economic miracle. 1960 saw a capital increase in order to swap Eichbaum shares for “Frankenthaler Brauhaus AG“ shares and acquire a majority interest in it. After another capital increase, 92.3 per cent of “Schwartz-Storchen AG“ Speyer were bought and 95.21 of Frankenthaler Brauhaus AG.
After two and half years of preparation, in October 1969 Eichbaum launched its premium pilsner “Ureich“. The exclusivity of “Ureich Pils“ was not only attested to by its 0,33-l-Ale bottle with its silver foil on the neck but also by its specially developed “Ureich” glass, which was not only available to pubs and bars but also to end consumers! The new beer was highly successful. In its first year alone, more than 10,000 hl were sold. By 1973, output had tripled, and in 1976 it stood at more than 50,000 hl.
At the beginning of 1971, the Eichbaum history saw a sudden twist. The news was that the Feitel heirs in Switzerland and the three banks having an interest in Eichbaum-Werger wanted to sell off their shares. These did indeed go to “Henninger-Bräu KGaA“ in Frankfurt. But the Eichbaum-Werger executive board was able to keep its company more or less independent in this new complex structure, not least because of the gratifying profits fed into the Henninger coffers and very convincing KPIs. The name change to “Eichbaum-Brauereien AG“ in 1972 – the company still being domiciled at Worms – was followed by another emphasis, in terms of advertising, on the “Eichbaum” umbrella brand. In 1973, "Durlacher Hof AG" was acquired and integrated - with its huge annual output of 120,000 hl not an easy undertaking. This acquisition also raised the number of staff by about 120 to the highest number ever: Eichbaum at the end of 1973 employed 777 people, in both Mannheim and Worms.
In the autumn of 1987, there was another surprising development. Brothers Michael and Günter Herz, having had a majority interest in “Reemtsma“ since 1980, sold off their brewery interests. The buyers finally turned out to be the Rosenheim “März-Gruppe“, with the “Bayerische Hypotheken- und Wechselbank“ in the background. Senior boss Josef März by then had acquired quite a group of breweries. After Eichbaum had exceeded the 1mn hl mark in FY1990/91, one year later it even saw an output of more than 1.3 mn hl, a level it kept for three years in a row. The brewery now was the top one in Baden-Württemberg.
But unfortunately all was not well in Mannheim. Having expanded too fast and being much leveraged, “Gebrüder März AG“, the parent company, had been in trouble since the early 1990s. In 1994, first rumours of a disposal of Eichbaum could be heard. In 1998, Dietmar Hopp acquired a majority of the shares in “Henninger-Bräu“ including its subsidiaries Eichbaum and Freiberger Brauhaus, later consolidated as “Actris AG“.
After the synergic effects of this consolidation hadn’t fully materialised, FY 2001 (now the calendar year again) saw even more restructuring. To prepare for the disposal of Frankfurter Brauerei, as of 1 November 2001 its operations were spun off as the new “Henninger-Bräu AG“. “Karamalz“ and “Gerstel“ stayed with “Actris“ and were now brewed and bottled in Mannheim.2010
Over the next few years, "Odenwaldquelle GmbH" and “Park&Bellheimer AG" became part of the Actris Group and Freiberger Brauhaus was sold. And finally, Hopp sold off his shares, thus breaking up the Actris structure.
After a feasibility study and a purchase price agreement, as of 30 December 2009 the Eichbaum-Brauereien AG assets and businesses were assigned to the newly to be founded “Privatbrauerei Eichbaum GmbH & Co. KG“. Thus starts a new chapter in our long Eichbaum history. The new company has been made leaner and thus more efficient, all in full cooperation with the works council.
Most important in brewing is the combination of tradition and technology. After all, beer has been produced from four ingredients in accordance with the German Purity Law for five centuries now: malt, hops, yeasts and water. The balance between traditional brewing and state-of-the art technology makes Eichbaum brew beer that is not only unique but also of top quality – a real market leader...
Experience more than 335 years of brewing live! See how crystal-clear water and select regional ingredients are turned into prize-winning Eichbaum beer specialities. And conclude the 3h-tour with a nice little snack and two of your favourite beers from our historic cellar. Or check it out here and now on a virtual tour.