This famous landmark was established in 1861 when Rudolph Giller brought his family to Warsaw Illinois, a booming river town at the time. Upon his arrival in Warsaw, he found and purchased a sprawling riverside tract of land and erected the building that would become the Warsaw Brewery. The brewery consisted of a five-barrel kettle with a small arched cellar under the family living quarters. Although small for its time, it was only one of two breweries operating in the area at the time.
Giller operated the brewery until 1863, when he died during an operation attempt failed to save his life after becoming ill. Mrs. Giller and her son John were left with a plant which was deeply in debt. Mrs. Giller later married Martin Popel who continued the operation on a small scale. A beer garden was added on the hillside west of the building overlooking the Mississippi. On warm days the garden was well patronized.
While visiting his mother in Warsaw in October 1879, John Giller was approached by family members to take over the brewery. Giller decided to stay and built a new ice house and had it filled on New Year’s Day of 1880. Later that year, John later became a partner in the brewery and it was renamed to the Popel & Giller Brewing Company. The name was later shortened to Popel-Giller Co. in 1906 and a new plant was built and finished in 1907. The brewery thrived until 1920, when prohibition was passed into law with the 18th Amendment. Prohibition hit the area hard, as the brewery had become a major employer in the area.
In an attempt to stay operational, the brewery had introduced a substitute for regular beer, called near beer. They also produced apple juice, root beer, malt, syrup and jellies to stay in business. Near beer continued to be manufactured in Warsaw until 1924, when federal authorities seized a suspected rail shipment near Quincy. The Quincy newspaper reported, “Something in the product gives an unusual kick and it pops and pounds like the stuff of the pre-Volstead days” apparently the content of the ale was a little too close to beer to be near beer. The brewery was shut down by federal agents and operations ceased in 1924.
The brewery was purchased by Oscar w. Ellis of Moline and incorporated in December of 1935. Continuing in the fine tradition of the past there was continued improvement through the years with the establishment of the Burgemeister and Old Tavern labels. Shipping was increased to include the states of Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa. 1965 was one of the brewery’s best years; the payroll was over $200,000. Finally in 1975, after more than a century of brewing, the Warsaw Brewing Corp. closed its doors.
Twenty years later in May of 1992 Jay Melvin of Macomb, IL purchased the brewery property. Many sections of the roof had collapsed and the building was in bad need of repair. Roof sections were replaced as money allowed and finally in June of 2006 Jay and his wife Pam opened the Warsaw brewery as a restaurant and lounge.