Honoring the legacy of St. Louis' first brewing dynasty

The William J. Lemp Brewing Company



The William J. Lemp Brewing Company traces its roots to 1838, when Adam Lemp established a small grocery and brewing facility not far from the present location of the south leg of the Gateway Arch. Adam named his enterprise the Western Brewery. Learn more about Adam's original brewery

From his small operation, Adam introduced lager beer to the Midwest. His small operation made use of a complex system of caves he discovered near Second Carondelet Avenue (later named 13th Street and presently known as DeMenil Place) to store his beer during the aging, or lagering, process. What was Lemp's cave really like?


Upon Adam's death in 1862, his son, William J. Lemp, took over the operations and purchased the property above his father's cave. In 1864, he embarked on a mission to build one of America's premier brewing plants at that new location. Lemp's well-chosen architectural firm of E. Jungenfeld and Company, were specialists in brewery design. They chose the Italianate/Renaissance Revival style. Lemp's architects and bricklayers were among the most elegant masters of their trades. As a result, the brewery was built to be an outstanding ornament to the community. Explore the hidden history of the Lemp brewery complex


Lemp, who later named the brewery for himself, strove to keep his facilities current and up to date with the latest technologies. The brewery was an early adopter of such innovations as mechanical refrigeration, ice manufacturing, Pasteurization, and even an on-site bottling plant. William J. Lemp became a dominant force in the St. Louis marketplace and beyond. Lemp was one of the first American brewers to "go national," marketing their wares far beyond their local cities. Eventually, Lemp's beers were sold around the world. How Lemp influenced brewing in America


Lemp produced six brands of beer at the plant, including their flagship brand, Falstaff, which dominated sales in their St. Louis market for decades. As the brewery thrived and grew in both sales and physical size, it became the largest manufactory under single ownership in the nation. In 1895, at the apex of its success, Lemp's numbers were impressive: The brewery employed 700 men, and required the services of more than 100 horses and 40 wagons to fill city deliveries. By the end of the 1800s, the brewery had grown to encompass 14 city blocks. With an annual production rate of 350,000 barrels, the William J. Lemp Brewing Company attained the rank of America's eighth-largest brewer. An 1893 souvenir booklet reveals much about the Lemp brewery.



Upon the onset of Prohibition in 1920, the brewery ceased its alcoholic brewing operations. But for a short time, Lemp attempted to market Cerva, a non-alcoholic brew. Due to a lack of satisfactory sales, it was discontinued. Soon thereafter, the brewery's president, William J. Lemp Jr., closed the plant abruptly and forever. The brewery would be dry forever after.


In 1922, William J. Lemp Jr., decided to put his brewing plant up for auction, in the hopes of minimizing his losses upon going out of business. The huge plant offered much to a company in need of manufacturing space, and it was purchased by International Shoe Company which occupied the complex until 1980. Lemp found little solace in the liquidation of the brewery however, because the sale of the $7 facility earned only $585,000. 


Today, the William J. Lemp Brewery complex is largely intact, and with one or two exceptions, the original buildings are still standing. One building constructed by International Shoe Company is still used as a storage facility. The plant's structures still serve as warehouse facilities, office space, and other commercial applications.

Learn more in "Lemp: The Haunting History."