History of the brewing industry in Warsaw

In a quarter that cannot be associated with anything but beer, the project appeared. The project preserves the genetic continuity of the place. Warsaw Breweries refers to the brewing traditions of the Haberbusch & Schiele company from Wola not only by its name.

In 1880, there were 21 breweries in Warsaw, only 4 of which were located outside the Mirów area. The concentration of the brewing industry in this area was no accidental. By the end of the 18th century, this area belonged to private towns, of Grzybów and Wielopole. Grzybów, which had existed since 1650 and was one of the largest settlements in Warsaw. The town was famous for the production of beer and trade of this most important drink of the old Poles.

A look back

In the years 1815-1831, significant development of industry took place and influenced brewing as well. The former small breweries, where usually a brewer and a few assistants worked, gradually gave way to genuine factories grounded on western models. This phenomenon was compounded by the introduction of bottom-fermented beer (lager), then called "Bavarian beer". The technological process was much more complicated in comparison to top fermentation beer, which had been widely used until then. As a result, many foreign, mainly German, experts came to Warsaw. They included Błażej Haberbusch, who came to Warsaw around 1840 and worked for several years in the "Schaefer et comp”. In 1846, Haberbusch formed a partnership with a wealthy baker Jan Henryk Klawe. They bought the former brewery of Ludwik Suchocki on the property with the mortgage number 1003, which corresponds exactly to the address of 59 Krochmalna. After a few months Warsaw-born Konstanty Schiele, who had probably also worked for Schaefer, joined the partnership.

In 1850, the company "Haberbusch, Schiele & Klawe" purchased a second brewery (Czarnecki) the property with the mortgage number 1000 - on the opposite side of Wronia Street. Property number 1002 ( 61 Krochmalna) with the former Stencel brewery had not become part of this beer empire until the end of the 19th century.

The brewery was strictly a family business, as Haberbusch and Schiele married John Henry's daughters - Blazej married Anna and Konstantin married Dorothy Karolina. In 1865, 74-year-old Klawe withdrew from the business. Since then, the brewery had been known as "Haberbusch & Schiele". Further history of the brewery is a constant presence in the beer awareness of people in Warsaw and others. In 1877, Błażej passed his shares to his sons, and 5 years later Konstanty did the same. The new generation expanded and modernized the business. In 1898 the brewery employed 140 workers (in 1884 there were 50). The same year company was transformed into a more dynamic form of a joint-stock company. In the 1880s, the famous sphinx also appeared on labels and in newspaper advertisements.

The takeover of the Kijok brewery on Żelazna Street in 1907 strengthened the domination of "H&S" in the Warsaw brewing industry. Beer "from Haberbusch" was delivered to the farthest parts of the Russian Empire - to the Far East and the Caucasus; the company even had its own bottling plant in Ukraine. Nevertheless, as much as one-third of its production was aimed to the Warsaw market.

The First World War brought a total collapse of the market, and consequently a serious crisis in the industry. In this difficult situation, the leading Warsaw brewers decided that the only chance was to consolidate and create one large company. Thus, at the beginning of 1921, United Warsaw Breweries (Zjednoczone Browary Warszawskie) "Haberbusch & Schiele" was established. They included the assets of the following breweries: "Seweryn Jung", "Karol Machlejd", "E. Reych Sons" and "Korona". Sfinks was constantly present in Warsaw thanks to its good quality products (apart from beer, also vodkas, liqueurs, sodas, and roasted grain beverage) and active advertising policy. A job in this modern company was valued among workers, not only because of the relatively high salaries, but also thanks to the pro-social approach of the management.

Bombardments during the siege of Warsaw in 1939 also affected ZBW (United Warsaw Breweries). The boiler house was damaged, but the fires caused by incendiary bombs were put out. In 1940 the brewery was subordinated to the Department of Brewery and Malting Board. This situation gave relatively much freedom to the management of the company. The company supported its employees with rations of groats, distribution of bread bought on the black market and operation of a free canteen. Employment was increased by about 100 people, although some of them did not actually work. They only use the certificate of employment protecting them from deportation to forced labor. On the vast area of the factory cadets of Armia Krajowa (Polish Home Army) were trained as well as weapon caches were located there. During the Warsaw Uprising, the brewery's huge barley supplies saved the fighting city from hunger.

After the uprising, the Germans removed the equipment and set the buildings on fire. The completely ruined brewery was, of course, nationalized, and reconstruction had not begun until 1951 after the removal of huge amounts of rubble and scrap metal. Production resumed three years later. Initially, Warsaw Breweries did not in any way refer to the tradition of "Haberbusch & Schiele" but in 1956 the sphinx returned to the labels. From 1992, the company operated as an employee-owned company. Then, it became part of the Brau Union Polska brewing group. After the merger with "Heineken", the brewery became part of the "Żywiec" group which, aimed to consolidate production, had already liquidated several breweries and the same happened to Warsaw Breweries in 2004. This is how the history of the great brewing industry in Warsaw ended. The beer honour of the capital is now only saved by craft breweries and restaurants.

Read also the full article in Skarpa Warszawska magazine no. 4/2020