Peter J. Marcher Jr., master brewer, dies

He had been head brewer for National Brewing Co. and was a World War II veteran

  • Peter J. Marcher
Peter J. Marcher
February 08, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Peter J. Marcher Jr., a master brewer who had been the former head brewer for the old National Brewing Co. and developed the formula for Colt 45 malt liquor, died Feb. 2 of pneumonia at Willow Valley Retirement Community in Lancaster, Pa.

The former longtime Wiltondale resident was 92.

The son of farmers, Mr. Marcher was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., and was raised in Roanoke, Ind.

"It was there that he acquired an enduring love of farming and rural living, something to which he would return later in life," said his son, Peter J. Marcher III of Timonium.

His early education was in a one-room schoolhouse near his family farm.

"He recounted that upon entering school, he was unable to speak English, owing to the family environment with his German-speaking parents," his son said. "If he were met years later, one would never have suspected that this was the case, since he had long since acquired a typical Midwestern manner of speaking."

After graduating from Lafayette High School in 1936, he went to work at the Berghoff Brewing Co. in Fort Wayne, where he began his 40-year brewing career.

He was a graduate of Wahl-Henius Institute in Chicago, where he earned a diploma in brewing. He began his career as a brew master at Hillsboro Brewing Co. in Hillsboro, Wis.

While he ate breakfast in a local cafe each morning, an attractive woman passed by on her way to work at a nearby bank.

"He said that one morning, he made a mental note that he would have to look into that,'" his son said.

In 1941, he married that woman, the former Marie Lisker, and settled in La Crosse, Wis.

Mr. Marcher was working as an assistant brew master for G. Heilman Brewing Co. in La Crosse when he enlisted in the Army.

A military policeman, he attained the rank of sergeant and served with Company D of the 788th Military Police Battalion in Iran, where his unit provided security during World War II for the Trans-Iranian Railway that connected the Persian Gulf with the Russian border.

After the war, Mr. Marcher accepted the position of assistant brew master at Liebmann Breweries Inc. in Brooklyn, N.Y., producers of Rheingold "extra dry" lager. In 1949, he left and took a job as head brew master at Hudepohl Brewing Co. in Cincinnati, where Hudepohl beer was brewed.

In 1955, he was named head brew master at the National Brewing Co., then the nation's 17th-largest brewery whose executive offices and brew house were on Dillon Street in Highlandtown, and where National Premium and National Bohemian were brewed.

Mr. Marcher was also in charge of overseeing operations at other company breweries in Detroit, Phoenix, Orlando, Fla., and Miami, as well as the brewing of National Premium and National Bohemian beers and Colt 45.

"He was particularly proud of having developed the formula for Colt 45 malt liquor in the early 1960s," his son said.

The bottle's distinctive blue-and-white label featured the Colts team colors and a kicking horse and horseshoe. It was named for Jerry Hill, the Baltimore Colt running back who wore the number 45 and played for the team from 1961 to 1970.

Sunpaper sportswriter Cameron Snyder, who began covering the Baltimore Colts in 1953, wrote in a 1979 article that it was the Colts fans who "made Colt 45 a top-selling beer."

"Pete was very careful about the quality of the products. He wanted to make sure there wasn't too much oxygen in the beer or it had been overheated in the brewing process. He was very careful about that," recalled William E. "Ned" Eakle, former Howard County executive who earlier had been National Brewing Co.'s corporate director of labor and personnel in Baltimore.

"There were frequent taste tests. He was tough about what he did, and he wanted it done right," said Mr. Eakle, who retired from the company in 1974.

"His favorite beer was National Premium," his son said.

Mr. Marcher retired in 1975.

Mr. Marcher, who never lost his interest in farming, purchased a 115-acre farm near Jarrettsville in 1958, where he spent weekends farming.

"The family joke was that while other men had golf widows, his was a farm widow," his son said.

In 1966, he purchased a second farm of 120 acres near Street, where he raised cattle.

"No gentleman farmer, he fed his Black Angus cattle twice a day in winter and drove his tractor in the fields in the other seasons, planting and harvesting his crops," his son said. "He was also a tinkerer, fixing anything that was broken and improvising solutions when none were readily available."

He and his wife moved to Parkton in 1986, where he continued gardening on a 3-acre tract. Since 2003, the couple had lived at Willow Valley.

"He was a strong-willed man with frequently strong opinions about people and events," his son said. "He was also regarded as something of a character by his family and friends, owing to his penchant for offbeat witticisms and expressions that may have had their origin in his bucolic background."

He was a member of St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Pylesville.

Plans for services were incomplete Tuesday.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Marcher is survived by two daughters, Carol Lagna of Parkton and Marilyn Conn of Houston; and nine grandchildren.

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