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COM: October 2007

Big Mac: circa 1958

This month's can is a nice can from a small brewery in Michigan.  It was a short-lived label that attempted to take advantage of a local wonder, the bridge linking upper and lower Michigan.  (original can upgraded, January 2013)

Menominee-Marinette Brewing Company, 1933-1961

The Menominee-Marinette Brewing Company dates back to the 1870s.  Menominee Michigan was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula along the Wisconsin border. The area was booming with lumber sales.  The fantastic growth of the railroad industry at the time (the Transcontinental Railroad was linked in 1869) led to a similar boom in both the lumber and steel industries which provided the rails and the ties.  The brewery survived until 1916 when Michigan voted to go "dry" begriming the Spring of 1917.   Production was shifted across the border to Wisconsin until the whole US went dry in January 1920.

During Prohibition the brewery was operated by the United Beverage Company.  In 1933 a new group bought the plant and operated it as the Menominee-Marinette Brewing Company.  Sometime in the late 1930s they started using conetop cans to sell Menominee Champion Light Beer.  They were never a very big brewery.  A 1944 story noted that they ranked #19 in sales in Michigan and sole about 27,000 barrels a year.  However, many small breweries suffered low sales during the war years due to rationing so this may be an artificially low number.

Sometime in 1950 the brewery switched emphasis.  They stopped canning Menominee Champion Light Beer and started canning Silver Cream.  While I haven't found any records as to why they changed it was likely due to sales.  Breweries tended to can whichever of their brands of beer sold best.  In 1956 they announced that they were abandoning conetops for flat top cans.  At the time this only affected Silver Cream. 

However, in about 1958 they came out with another brand, Big Mac, apparently to capitalize on the fame of the new bridge.  The brand did not last very long. The brewery was purchased  in early 1959 by a new group of owners.  A story in the April 1959 Brewers Digest noted that would continue making Silver Cream and Old Craft beer, but made no mention of Big Mac.  Perhaps the brand had been discontinued by then.  In any case, even with new owners the brewery struggled and it closed in 1961.

Big Mac: The Bridge

The "Big Mac" on the can is the Mackinac Bridge which links Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas.  Mackinaw City is located at the south end of the bridge. St. Ignace is located at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge. (Menominee is almost 200 miles away) Work on the bridge began in May 1954.  It opened on November 1, 1957. The Mackinac Bridge is currently the third longest suspension bridge in the world at 26,272 feet.  The cables alone have enough metal in them to make 145,723,076 Big Mac Beer cans (more or less).

Big mac bridge.

Cans Produced by Menominee-Marinette Brewing Company

Menominee Champion Light Beer (high profile conetop, IRTP)
Menominee Champion Light Beer (high profile conetop, non-IRTP) (rare)
Silver Cream Beer (high profile conetop, non-IRTP)
Silver Cream Beer (flat top)
Big Mac Beer (flat top)

Name Changes

1870-?   De Heck & Scharmbruch
?-1876   George Harter
1876-1891   Leisen & Henes
1891-1919  Leisen & Henes Brewing Co.
1919-1932  United Beverage Co.
1933-1961  Menominee-Marinette Brewing Co., Inc.

Sources Used

American Brewer (June 1956)

MIBeercans.com: an excellent site for those interested in cans from Michigan.

Parochelli, Augie. "Birth of the Big Mac."  Beer cans & Brewery Collectibles. (June/July 2007)

"Repeals by Implication: Prohibition in Michigan." Michigan Law Review. (April 1919) 17:6. 495-497.

The Mackinac Bridge website.



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