In honor of two of Richmond’s legendary brewing pioneers, Peter Stumpf Brewing Company and Rosenegk Brewing Company are planning a relaunch. The two breweries will set up at the vintage themed Siegel’s food and beverage development in Swansboro just west of Manchester. The hope is for the Siegels development to be a food & beverage hall where iconic Richmond brands that were lost to history are made once again. Peter Stumpf and Rosenegk Brewing plan to join previously announced Richmond brands such as Climax Beverage, Pin Money Pickles, Valentine’s Meat-Juice, and Aragon Coffee at Siegel’s.
Richmond’s Former Golden Age of Brewing: Peter Stumpf and Rosenegk Brewing
You probably don’t need to be told that Richmond has found its beer groove. But the recent brewing renewal follows another golden age of Richmond brewing from 125 years ago. In 1892 Richmond’s local beer creativity sprung into action when Peter Stumpf and Alfred von Nickisch Rosenegk both opened Richmond breweries within months of each other. They even gave their two competing breweries nearly identical names. Rosenegk named his operation “Richmond Brewery” while Stumpf named his brewery “Richmond Brewing Co.” To address the obvious confusion, they changed their brewery names to Rosenegk Brewing Company and Peter Stumpf Brewing Company.
Stumpf and Rosenegk shared an idea to create locally made and supported “home” breweries to differentiate themselves from the “come heres” who were opening branch operations in Richmond. At the time, out-of-town breweries such as St. Louis’ Anheuser-Busch, Pennsylvania’s Yuengling, Milwaukee’s Pabst, and Cincinnati’s Christien Möerlein were setting up shop in the attractive Richmond market.
Given the similar vision, brewery names, and German heritage, the competitive juices started flowing immediately for Stumpf and Rosenegk. Local beer expert Lee Graves told this story in his “Richmond Beer: A History of Brewing in the River City” which was later republished by Style Weekly’s Brandon Fox in her article: Beer Rivalry. Here is what happened:
“As if things weren’t tangled enough between these two, an incident at the 1892 State Exposition, the equivalent of today’s State Fair of Virginia, put some thorns in the thicket. Judges awarded ‘premiums,’ aka ribbons, for everything from cattle to cantaloupe — and for lager beer. Rosenegk’s Richmond Brewery initially won the top prize. What ensued is best described in a colorful Richmond Dispatch account that ran on Oct. 16, 1892, under the heading ‘Wrangle About a Premium.’
‘Protest against this decision was made by the Peter Stumpf Brewing Co., and a new committee of five was appointed to ‘sit on’ the question. The samples from the two breweries were served so that the judges could not tell which was which. Several ‘big, large schooners’ of the foaming beverage were duly disposed of, and the beer was all so good that the judges could not for the life of them decide which was better. Two favored the Richmond Brewery and two Peter Stumpf. The odd man disposed of a schooner or two, and finally it was deemed best to draw straws … and Peter Stumpf was an easy winner. The premium was accordingly demanded from the Richmond Brewery, and Mr. Rosenegk declared that nothing less than brute force could take away the pretty blue ribbon.
The coveted premium was finally obtained from Mr. Rosenegk, and was soon gracing the stand of Peter Stumpf. … Mr. Rosenegk at once sued out an injunction against the society, and the Chancery Court took possession of the beautiful ribbon.'”
The case went to court with Rosenegk eventually declared the winner. Rosenegk celebrated with his head brewer by way of a parade including a “a large float with an immense cask, upon which was seated Gambrinus, the symbolic protector and promoter of the brewing industry.” A little much would you say?
But these two breweries weren’t done. Bottle wars ensued. Rosenegk accused Stumpf’s brewery (which later changed its name again to Home Brewing Co. after Stumpf retired) of imitating his bottles with advertisements asking patrons to make sure the proper label and trademark are on each bottle “as we understand our package is being very closely imitated.” Just inches to the left, a Home Brewing Co. ad also has a sketch of its bottle, identical in size and shape.
To up the ante, Rosenegk launched what would becaome his flagship “Challenge” beer. The Challenge beer was so named after Rosenegk challenged any brewery to match the age, purity, and quality of his beer. Yikes-that sounds like a German style throw down.
Despite their success, prohibition was adopted in Virginia in 1916 and it derailed the plans for both Stumpf and Rosenegk. Rosnegk Brewing Co went out of business almost immediately, and owner Alfred von Nickisch Rosenegk’s health deteriorated rapidly as he watched his brewing empire implode. Rosenegk died shortly thereafter as did Peter Stumpf. Richmond’s brewing community was dealt a mighty blow as the two bastions of the German community were lost in such a short span of time. Home Brewing Company shifted over to making local soft drinks such as “Climax” sodas in an attempt to remain financially viable while it waited, hoping that prohibition would someday be repealed. Luckily for Home Brewing, it survived. Relaunching its brewing operation after the repeal of Prohibition, it eventually introduced Richmond’s once ubiquitous Richbrau beer. But the competition was too great from mega breweries such as Anheuser-Bush which had the advantage of a national footprint during a time when low cost was paramount and flavor mattered less. Home Brewing Company ceased operations in 1969.
Relaunching the Old Beers of Peter Stumpf and Rosenegk Brewing
Peter Stumpf Brewing will bring back Stumpf’s Ale, Porter, Weiss Beer, XXX Brown Stout, Extra Brew Porter, Weiner, & Palest. It will also add two modern beers: “Guvernator” (named after prior brewing operator before Stumpf took over), and “Home Brew” as a nod to the company’s rename to Home Brewing Company given the desire to identify as a local Richmond brewery.
Rosnegk’s old lines of beer such as his flagship Challenge beer along with his Tidal Wave, Edelbraü, and highly popular Champagne beer will also live again. And a new “Come Here” brew from Rosengk will be a perfect complement to Stumpf’s Home Brew to hopefully get some friendly competition going.
If you would like to follow both breweries social media accounts as they make preparations to open and compete once again, you can follow them at the links below.