For nearly a century, Keeweenaw Peninsula residents enjoyed beer produced locally by the Bosch Brewing Company. So prevalent was this brand that even after its demise, it remains a large part of the Keeweenaw’s history and culture.
In 1874, Joseph Bosch founded the Torch Lake Brewery in Calumet (then known as Red Jacket) where it started ingratiating itself into the community. Joseph Bosch sold his leftover malt to local farmers and would give them free beer while they waited for the malt to be loaded into wagons.
Copper mining was a huge industry in the Keeweenaw in the mid to late 1800’s, giving it the nickname the Copper Country. The industry brought in waves of people to work in the mines, who also enjoyed a good beer. These miners were a major part of the success of the Bosch line of beers.
In 1894, Joseph Bosch bought his partners out and renamed the brewery to Bosch Brewing Company, growing his business to become the second largest industry in the Copper Country. During this time, Joseph commissioned a German artist by the name of Rohrbeck to produce murals to be placed in the brewery.
Sadly, this story ends like most tales of small breweries in the U.S. Bosch was forced to close its door in 1973 due to the overwhelming competition by the big label beer companies. The last keg was sold to Schmidt’s Corner Bar in Houghton, and the sad occasion was documented by the local paper. The bar filled beyond capacity with loyal Bosch drinkers who not only wanted to get one last taste of their beloved brew, but to commiserate with one another. It was the end of an era in the Keeweenaw.
Not all was lost when the brewery shut down, however. Rohrbeck’s murals were purchased locally, and can still be seen in the Ambassador Restaurant in downtown Houghton.
After the brewery was closed, the brand was sold to Jacob Leinenkeugel Brewing Company, who continued to produce Bosch (even hiring Bosch Brewmaster Vincent Charney) until 1986, when weak sales forced them to quit manufacturing the line. In recent years it has been rumored that, with the resurgence of the microbrewery, Leinenkeugel’s might restart the Bosch brand.