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Location DB > United States > Iowa > Dubuque > Star Brewery
Star Brewery
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 Database Info
created by Clockwork on 12/4/2006 7:58 PM
last modified by Clockwork on 11/5/2007 8:11 PM
Publically Viewable Publically Viewable
This location has been labeled by its creator as Public, and therefore can be viewed by anyone.
Beautiful romanesque brewery architecture. Sits on the shore of the Mississippi near the National River Museum. Also next door to the Shot Tower, which was used to make lead shot during the civil war.
 Basic Information
Type: Brewery
Status: Active
Accessibility: Open to the public. No longer a closed abandonment.
Recommendation: Go see it if you like history.
 Physical Information
Shore of the Mississipi River, at the Ice Harbor.
Dubuque, Iowa
United States
Owner: Stone Cliff Winery is currently leasing it from Dubuque.
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  •  Hazards
  • unsafe flooring
  • Nothing. It is safe for public consumption.
  •  Interesting Features
    There is a worker's locker filled with Peewee herman news clippings dating back to the mid-1980's right before the brewery closed. Pretty strange!

    Large interior with ancient crude staircases zigzagging up through the tower's interior open spaces like Dr. Frankenstein's castle.

    Fantastic views of Dubuque, the Mississippi river, Illinois, and Wisconsin from the top of the central tower.

    The main brewery room on the ground floor features some old brewery machinery, but they've been cemented in place in modern times, indicating their preservation, but in a strange way.

    There is a long-forgotten brewery cave accessible from the outside featuring rusted tin brewery signs pasted to the ceilings and the rotted remains of what once were barrels long ago.


    Actually, there isn't much left of the above features. The office with the Pee Wee Herman locker has been completely torn down. The awesome Frankenstein staircases have all been removed. A really cool antique safe with original painted artwork is still in the building, and can be viewed in-situ as part of the wall of the giftshop.
     Security Measures
  • Nothing. It's open for business.
  •  Historical Dates
    Built: 1898
    Closed: 1985
     Required Equipment
  • No shirt, no shoes, no service. Remember that.
  •  Recommended Equipment
    Digital Camera
    Dubuque Star was established by Joseph Rhomberg in 1898. Until the beginning of Prohibition, the brewery produced Dubuque Star beer. As with many other breweries, the Dubuque Star brewery was forced to close down. Before Prohibition, there were 138 breweries in the state, but afterwards Dubuque Star was the only small brewery left in the state.

    With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the brewery was reopened. Because of its location near the Mississippi River, when the river flooded it would often cause problems for the brewery. The 1965 floods were particularly bad. The brewery operators made protective measures for the river reaching 23 feet, but the river soon reached 26 feet. This caused serious damage to the lower floors of the building, and the production equipment.

    In 1971, Joseph Pickett purchased the brewery. He found that the brewery was not in good shape. Most of the equipment was outdated 1930s era equipment. The brewery had very low market share. Pickett began a massive renovation and modernization of the brewery.

    Pickett introduced Pickett's Premium beer, which by the late 1970s accounted for about 12% of sales in the region. The hospitality room was featured in the movie F.I.S.T., as well as the 1981 comedy "Take This Job and Shove It."

    Agri Industries purchased the brewery in 1980. They produced Rhomberg Beer until 1985. The beers made by the brewery were technically superior products. But the company had a limited advertising budget, which resulted in limited public exposure. The efforts were not successful, and the brewery closed in 1985. There were a couple more attempts in the following years to reopen the brewery. However, despite making superior products, the efforts were again not successful, and the brewery was closed down in 1999.

    The city of Dubuque acquired the building through eminent domain proceedings as part of the riverfront renovation efforts. Work began to renovate the brewery. Madison, Wisconsin based Alexander Company was brought in to redevelop the site, however they were unable to bring any tenants in for the brewery. A group of local investors led by developer Wayne Briggs founded Port of Dubuque LLC, and are in the process of securing an agreement with the city to develop the Brewery site.

    On March 23, 2006 it was announced that Stone Cliff Winery had signed an agreement with Port of Dubuque LLC to lease part of the brewery. This lease is contingent on the city and Port of Dubuque signing a development deal - which Briggs hopes to have in a few weeks. Under the lease, Stone Cliff Winery will lease 10,000 feet of the ground floor for an expanded winery and tasting center.

    As of 2007, the historic Star Brewery has been restored as an upscale winery with historical displays celebrating the history of the building, and offices for the Stone Cliff company upstairs, as well as a fancy restaurant.

    I am happy that I got to explore it, as well as share the exploration experience with other explorers before the building was renewed.
     Media Coverage
    The brewery has been seeing a lot of media attention in the local newspaper for the last decade. Its story is one of on-again-off-again. Many people have attempted to redevelop the building. Some wanted to tear it down. The city had to acquire it from the previous owners through eminent domain, and then failed to redevelop it for over eight years. The city installed a new ampitheatre out in front of the building many years ago, but it hasn't drawn any major events. Now it's apparently going to be used for a winery.
     Future Plans
    The building is now open for public as a winery. The Galena-based company that redeveloped the building has moved all their corporate offices into the upper floors of the old building.

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     Photo Galleries
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    Star Brewery
    Sun, Mar 12th, 2006
    posted by Clockwork
    25 pictures

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     Moderator Rating
    The moderator rating is a neutral rating of the content quality, photography, and coolness of this location.

    This location has not yet been rated by a moderator.
    This location's validation is current. It was last validated by Steed on 6/30/2011 6:13 AM.

     Latest Changes
  • on Jun 30 11 at 6:13, Steed validated this location
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:10, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 005
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:10, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 004
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:10, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 001
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:09, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 152
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:09, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 164
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:09, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 162
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:09, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 161
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:09, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 157
  • on Jun 30 11 at 4:09, Clockwork updated gallery picture Star Brewery 146
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