April 20, 1920: Victor Anneke takes over the reins of the Fitger’s Brewing Company

Percy Shelley Anneke. (Image: Zenith City Press)

On this day in Duluth in 1920, Victor Anneke became president of Fitger’s Brewing Company. Anneke’s father Percy Shelley Anneke came to Duluth in 1883 to join with his friend August Fitger to take control of Mike Fink’s Lake Superior Brewery. Fitger himself had arrived in Duluth just six months before Anneke, taking a job as Fink’s master brewer. Less than six months after he was hired, Fitger purchased one half of the Lake Superior Brewery for $18,000. Actually, according to Fitger’s historian Coopen Johnson,“an agreement was reached among three people: August Fitger, Michael Fink, and Percy Anneke. Anneke was a Milwaukee friend of Fitger who believed the beer business would be a good investment opportunity. The agreement stipulated that Fitger would buy half the brewery, which he did in April 1883, and become partner with Fink. Anneke, who was taking care of his ailing mother in Milwaukee, would purchase the other half after his mother’s demise in 1885. The Fitger-Anneke agreement was made with a handshake and not actually written and signed until 1892.” Flash forward to April 20, 1920: Victor Anneke had gone to work for his father and Fitger part-time in 1918, but Percy was ready to pass on his legacy; he and August Fitger were constant and close advisors to Victor during those years. Prohibition had recently begun, so the brewery could not produce its principal product. Percy Anneke and his team pulled the brewery through the Depression manufacturing and selling a variety of goods: non-alcoholic beers, soda pop, candy bars, and even cigars. Though they lost money each year during Prohibition, Fitger’s survived the period, as well as the Great Depression that followed, and hung on until the early 1970s, when nationwide brewery conglomerations, EPA regulations, and the I-35 expansion through Duluth doomed the beer maker. Stayed tuned for Naturally Brewed, Naturally Better: The Historic Breweries of Duluth and Superior, coming in 2018 from Zenith City Press. Meanwhile read our brief history of beer brewing in Duluth through 1972 here.

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