Esser's Best Beer and Cross Plains Beer Co.

Cross Plains Beer Co.        (Subsidiary of Sand Creek Brewing Co.)

Cross Plains Beer Co.

2109 Hickory Street, Cross Plains, WI 53528
(608) 798-3911
First Visited: May 6, 2021

Cross Plains Beer Company is a brewery located in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. The company was founded in 1863 by George Esser, a German immigrant who came to America with a taste for good beer. Esser built a brewery in Cross Plains and began brewing his own beer, which he called Esser’s Best. The brewery was a success, and Esser’s Best became a popular beer in the area.

George Esser arrived in Madison, Wisconsin on May 11, 1852, after leaving his German village of Ichendorf. With only the clothes on his back, his masonry skills, and a love for authentic German beer, Esser embarked on a journey that would shape the brewing history of Cross Plains.

John Knipschilt owned a small brewery in Monroe WI, but after a period of inactivity, the brewery had fallen into a state of neglect. George Esser and John Hermann purchased the business in 1858 for $1,500 and began to conduct the substantial repairs that were required to be made to the brewing kettle. In addition, several other enhancements were necessary, including the construction of two cellars, the installation of a malt mill, and the acquisition of a malt drier. By the conclusion of October that year, all the necessary preparations had been completed, and by mid-November, they successfully produced their first lager.

In 1861, a dispute between partners John Hermann and George Esser led to Hermann staying in Monroe while Esser returned to the Madison area. Hermann continued to operate the brewery until 1866, when he went out of business. The dispute between Hermann and Esser is not well-documented, but it is believed to have been over financial disagreements. The brewery was struggling financially at the time, and Hermann may have felt that Esser was not doing enough to help turn things around. Esser, on the other hand, may have felt that Hermann was being too controlling.

Whatever the reason for the dispute, it led to a split between the two partners. Hermann stayed in Monroe and continued to operate the brewery on his own. Hermann’s brewery struggled for a few more years, but it eventually went out of business in 1866

In 1863, Esser acquired 2 1/2 acres of land in Cross Plains, where he built a new facility. This building featured two cellars below and several rooms above, providing a home for Esser’s family. It was in October 1863 that Esser first brewed his renowned beer, known as Esser’s Best. By 1870 Esser’s brewery was comparatively large for a rural brewery, producing in excess of 500 barrels per year and by the end of the decade production approached 1,000 barrels.

In 1881, George Esser’s son Jacob joined him in the brewing enterprise. At that time, the brewery had a capacity of 2,000 barrels. Esser’s Best beer was delivered to neighboring communities by Jacob and his sons, particularly Werner (W.B.) and Peter (Spundt), who often embarked on delivery routes as early as 3 a.m. In 1907, Werner assumed the role of Brewmaster until 1910.

Competition from larger brewers in Madison and Milwaukee forced the Esser family to become distributors for other breweries as well as making their own beer. In 1910, the company mortgaged the brewery to Hausmann Brewing Co. of Madison for $12,000. The family stopped brewing in Cross Plains and moved to Janesville in 1912. The old Hemming brewery was renamed the Geo. H. Esser Ale & Porter Brewery. The Cross Plains business continued to distribute Hausmann’s beer until Prohibition. At that point, their main product became Blatz’s near beer.

During the Prohibition era, from 1920 to 1933, the brewery continued to operate by distributing “near beer,” which was a non-alcoholic beverage made with malt extract. However, family accounts suggest that they continued to sell significant amounts of real beer as well, conducting most of their business at night,

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Cross Plains Beer Company resumed beer distribution specializeing in Fauerbach and Heileman’s Old Style, as well as Ballantine Ale. It’s worth noting that the company faced significant challenges during this time but managed to persevere. In 1937, Roman, the eldest son of Werner, became a partner in the company, marking a significant turning point. The Cross Plains Beer Company then took on the responsibility of distributing Old Style products from La Crosse, Wisconsin. The brewing tradition within the Esser family continued when Del Esser, Werner’s youngest son, joined the firm in 1948.

In 1988, the business underwent another generational transition as Roman’s son, Wayne, assumed control. Two years later, in 1990, Wayne was joined by his son, Larry, thus extending the lineage of the Esser family’s involvement in the beer industry to six generations. n the mid-1990s, Wayne and Larry, reintroduced Esser’s Best and Esser’s Cross Plains Special. They were brewed under contract.

It is worth mentioning that the Essers also acted as distributors for Blatz and Old Style products until they decided to sell their distributorship in January 1998. The buyer of the distributorship was Frank Beer, located in Middleton, Wisconsin. Presently, Frank Beer serves as the distributor for Esser’s Best in the area, carrying forward the legacy of the brand.

May you always have a full belly, a heavy purse and a light heart.

Beers Tried

Esser's Golden Blonde Ale

Golden Ale – Other

4.2% ABV


Rating: 3.31

Esser's Best

Lager – Helles

5.2% ABV

20 IBU

Rating: 3.29

A medium bodied old world German-style lager brewed with a variety of special caramel malts producing a deep amber color, with a full flavor and exceptional finish.

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