History of The Falk Brewing Company (1856 - 1892)
On March 24th, 1882 Franz Falk opted to incorporate as the Franz Falk Brewing Company, proceeding with $400,000 of capital stock. Only a few months later, August of 1882, the death of their father Franz to a stroke required the elder brothers to take over the family business. After William Gerlach's death in 1884 his estate would briefly run Gerlach's malting business before Goes' sons George W. and Fred E. Goes regained ownership the malt business in 1901. Frederick Goes died in 1894.
By 1886 the Falk operation was consuming 200,000 bushels of barley, 160,00 bushels hops, and 25,000 tons of ice annually. The facilities had added a carpenter shop, machine shop, and shipped beer extensively throughout the Union, the East Indies, Sandwich Islands, Mexico and South America. About 125 Falk agencies were in operation as of 1886 and roughly 25,000 barrels of beer where being bottled annually. The business also maintained an office in Milwaukee proper at the southwest corner of East Water and Mason, directly linked by telephone to the brewery. Falk's beer held a reputation for purity and quality and their manner of conducting business was held in high regard. During the spring of 1886 the Milwaukee brewery workers and maltsters began to form the Local 7953 chapter of the Gambrinus Assembly of the Knights of Labor. The new union drafted a letter to the nine Milwaukee breweries demanding, among other things an eight hour work day, better pay and installation of the union in the breweries. Collectively the breweries, including Falk, penned a response proposing a 10 hour day, including over time pay after 10 hour, but lesser pay increases than requested. Additionally the brewers balked at the proposed union controlled hire of employees. By early May of 1886 most non-office brewery workers, except Falk's, had walked out on strike idling all the major Milwaukee breweries. May 3, 1000 brewery workers marched to Falk convincing the workers it was their duty to strike, and they did, joining the others as well as the larger, city wide labor protests. By May 5 the Governor sent the State Militia to keep order over the growing protests, and they ended up firing on some protestors, killing six and wounding three. Collectively, the brewers then decided to concede on increases in pay, including an advance of 120 dollars per year for each worker. The advance sum of $162,000 was split among the brewers, based on their size. Falk's share being $12,000. Thus we may confirm that Falk had just over 120 employees in 1886, including office executives.
In 1888 sons Otto and Herman joined the brewery, Otto becoming the general manager and Herman the Superintendent and brewery mechanic. A mechanical genius since childhood, Herman's mechanical prowess would lead the Falk name down its future path. November 1st, 1888 the Franz Falk Brewing Company Limited merged with the Jung and Borchert brewery operated by Philipp Jung (a former Pabst brewmaster) and Ernst Borchert (a local maltster's son). Together they formed the Falk, Jung and Borchert Brewery Corporation in 1889. Frank Falk fulfilled the duties of President, Phillip Young the Vice President and Superintendent of Brewing, Ernst Borchert as Treasurer, Louis Falk as Secretary, Otto Falk as Assistant Secretary and Herman the Assistant Superintendent.
The old Jung and Borchert brewery was converted to storage while all operations were consolidated into the Menomonee Valley location. After a large investment in new buildings and expansion up and down the hill, the new facilities were producing 120,000 barrels by 1888, with capability of 200,000 barrels. Closing in on Val Blatz's position at third place in town seemed within reach when an extensive fire ravaged the brewery in July of 1889. Breaking out in the malt house, the fire consumed the bottling house and main brewery buildings. During the fire it was noted that Herman and Otto were seen rolling barrels out harms way to try and save some of their valued product. Holiday crowds at the neighboring beer gardens watched the blaze from the nearby bluffs. Ultimately only the stables and icehouse survived. Milwaukee's Sentinel reported that the rebuild would include a new "fireproof" design and within a few months the brewery was back in operation.