Heurich’s Pure Beer

In the 19th century, a common marketing tactic among American breweries was to advertise their beer  as ‘pure,’ meaning that their beer did not contain harmful or undesirable additives, such as salicylic acid or bicarbonate of soda.  The Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. advertised its beer as pure, but for Heurich, the claims of purity were not just an advertising trope. What set Heurich apart from others in the brewing industry was that the brewery had medals and awards to back up its claims of purity.

The year 1900 was one of great excitement for people across the world.  The Exposition Universelle in Paris recognized achievements in arts and technological innovation, and it was the first place that the brewery would receive accolades for the quality of its beer.   The Chr. Heurich Brewery Co. won the silver medal for purity and clarity for its Senate and Maerzen beers.  Business was good, and Heurich would continue to gain international recognition for the purity of his beers.


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Heurich’s 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle Silver Medal Certificate   Credit: MS0537, courtesy Historical Society of Washington, D.C., http://www.DCHistory.org


Shortly following the awards from the 1900 Exposition in Paris, the brewery received more good news regarding the substance and purity of its beers. On February 6, 1901, the Bureau of Chemistry, which was then headed by Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, released a study on the Adulteration of Food Products (beer was frequently categorized under “Food Stuffs”).The study found Heurich’s beer to be absolutely pure and free from harmful elements.  This report was not initially released to the public, but Heurich made an appeal to Congress and the results were later released. As a result, Heurich’s ‘Pure Beer’ became even more well-respected by the community.   Of course, this didn’t stop other competitors from advertising their beer as pure, as seen below.

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Heurich’s Maerzen and Senate were widely touted as being of the highest purity and quality; they were even prescribed by doctors for any and all kinds of ailments. The popularity of his beers grew so quickly, that Heurich had to limit what establishments sold his beer.  Saloons were provided with plaques with the brewery or beer name to prove that they sold a legitimate Heurich product, but that didn’t stop some saloon owners from trying to cheat the system.

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June 3, 1901 Washington Evening Star Newspaper Clipping, Courtesy of the DC Public Library


In 1905, Heurich learned that his Maerzen and Senate beers had been awarded the gold medal at the Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Leige, Belgium.  Again, the brewery used this award to further promote the purity and and excellence of its beer by taking out a full page ad in The Washington Post.

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The Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. would continue to tout their various international awards and the purity of their beer on their labels and in advertising until the brewery closed in 1956.  It wasn’t until June 30, 1906 that the Pure Food and Drug Act was signed into law, which mandated the regulation and inspection of products, such as beer. Heurich’s Senate and Maerzen were among the most well-known beers the brewery produced and were a large part of the 19th and 20th century culture in Washington, D.C.

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The 1905 Exposition Universelle in Belgium commemorated the 75th anniversary of independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands and celebrated 40 years of King Leopold II’s reign.  This year for Belgian National Day, which celebrates these events and takes place every July 21, the Heurich House Museum is teaming up with Greg Engert of The Sovereign (a Belgian beer-hall) and will be serving Belgian beers at our monthly History and Hops.

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Heurich’s 1905 Exposition Universelle Liege Gold Medal Certificate. Credit: MS0537, courtesy Historical Society of Washington, D.C., http://www.DCHistory.org

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