Wrexham Lager Beer Company

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Wrexham – the lager town

'Lager Town' was Wrexham's nickname for years. At one time there were 19 breweries in the town and the eldest was Wrexham Lager Beer Company, operational between 1881 and 2000. There is a strong suggestion that this was the first lager brewery in Britain.

The reason so much beer was brewed in Wrexham was the good supply of water under the town, and the water being rich in minerals. The water was good for growing barley. Wrexham became the main beer brewing centre in Wales. According to George Borrow, who travelled through Wales in 1854, the only Welsh Wrexham inhabitants had was “Cwrw Da” [good beer], without even “os gwelwch yn dda” [please] to follow!

Wrexham Lager Beer Company

'Wrexham Lager Beer Company' was founded in 1881 by two immigrants from Germany, Otto Isler and Ivan Levinstein. The were not impressed by the local beer, and believed that a lager similar to German beer would be popular in Britain. It was decided to locate the brewery in Wrexham as the water was similar to the water in Pilsen, in the Czech Republic.

Work began on building the brewery in 1882, but the local people believed that the area was too warm for beer. By 1883 they had been proved correct. The cellar was not cold enough to create the golden lager as was hoped, but more importantly perhaps, the locals did not want to drink this new drink!

The company was facing bankruptcy, until Ivan Levinstein met Robert Graesser on a train from Liverpool. Graesser was an industrialist who owned chemical works in Acrefair, Denbighshire. He owned an industrial refrigerator, and he believed it could be used to cool the cellars. Graesser joined the company. By this time, the company had begun winning awards for brewing, bu unfortunately, as public houses were tied contractually with other breweries, the places in Wrexham that could sell the company's beer were few. Wrexham Lager Beer Company went bust in 1892.

Relaunching the company

Robert Graesser was a very stubborn man, and he relaunched Wrexham Lager Beer Company aiming at two big markets; the empire and the military. Soldiers in the Sudan had been drinking Wrexham Lager before they fought – and lost – against Mahdi's army in 1898.

The lager travelled well too. The beer was sold on the Atlantic liners, and the company became successful. The company supplied the “White Star Line”, and it's probable thet there were Wrexham Lager Beer Company botles on the Titanic's unfortunate voyage from Liverpool to New York in 1912.

They brewed four different lagers: “Golden Pilsener”, “Dark Bavarian Lager”, “Light Lager” and “Unfiltered Dark”. The last was very popular, especially with the local miners, as it was like a meal in itself.

The First World War onwards

The Graesser family ran the brewery very successfully until 1949. There was trouble during the First World War when the head brewer from Germany, Julius Kolb, was imprisoned on the Isle of Man as an undesirable alien. With anti-German sentiments growing, the company was worried, but in the event the Graesser family did not experience any problems.

After the war the brewery experienced hard times. Wrexham Lager was still winning awards in the 1980s, but with dropping sales, the brewery was forced to close in 2000. The brewery's modern buildings were demolished in 2002-3, but the original, historical building still stands.

In July 2011 it was announced that Wrexham Lager would be returning to Wrexham's pubs as the brewery's former head brewer and businessmen from the area tried to recreate the local lager in a new microbrewery.