After 40 years, Steinfeld was now the fifth largest brewery in Austria, employing 47 civil servants and 650 workers. The small brewery had become a vast industry. A barrel factory was attached to the other production facilities and the danger of petroleum was averted by the introduction of electric light. Instead of ox and horse-drawn carts, a stable towing track to the Köflach railway was built, ice ponds were laid out on gravel and later Linde’s ice machines were engaged. By feeding with malt sprouts and beer drifters, more milk was obtained than e. g. beer in the Königshofer brewery. A canal was laid to the Mur. The social commitment, based on the voluntary, warm-hearted charity, on which as well the empire of Adolf Ignaz was built, created workhouses, a factory hospital and old people’s home as well as a foundation for widows and orphans. When Emperor Franz Joseph visited the “Brothers Reininghaus” in 1883, he admired the modern facilities and in the same year raised Johann Peter to the nobility.
When the beloved son Gustav died in 1883 at the age of only 32, it was a hard blow not only for the family, but also for the future of the company. Johann Peter now had to find the man who would ensure a continued life for his children and the many subordinates to him. He found him in his son-in-law Eduard Keil von Bündten, who became his colleague and confidante. He continued to work tirelessly, so in 1890, at the age of seventy, he built a pneumatic malt house, whose basic idea of protecting the barley from all weather, with a ventilation and humidification system corresponded to a highly-developed technology even then. When he died in 1901, he left everything to Therese, whom he had designated as sole heir. A testimony to how much he valued her not only as a wife but also as a business partner. Together with her son-in-law Keil von Bündten, she transformed the company into a public limited company, the Brüder Reininghaus Aktien-Gesellschaft für Brauerei und Spiritus-Industrie, of which Moritz Ritter von Schreiner, later a member of House of Lords, became president. Eduard Keil von Bündten was Vice President, the other sons-in-law (Dr. Moritz Piffl, Hermann Graf Künigl) and Dr. Leopold Link, later also a member of the House of Lords, as well as Georg II Anton Ritter Mautner von Markhof and Dir. Anton Gruber, formed the board of directors. Subsequently also son-in-law Edmund Baron Cnobloch. Everyone worked incessantly on expansion and modernization. Gigantic beer cooling rooms, barrel swivel halls, storage and peeling cellars were added to the facility. In the business year 1912/13 beer production was already 441,000 hl, the production of compressed yeast over 200,000 kg, 4000 hl 100% alcohol, 2400 hl 10% vinegar, 240,000 kg wagon fat, 225,000 kg brewing pitch and more than 1 million kg animal feed.
The year 1914 came and with it the war. The industries classified as not of importance to the war effort were only allowed to participate in the economic process to a limited extent. State control was no longer based on the wishes of the population, but primarily on the need for food, which led to a ban on alcohol. When beer was allowed to be produced again, there was already a shortage of raw materials. Soon a beer-like drink with substitutes such as cornmeal and bee honey was produced. In the years 1916/17 only 36,031 hl could be emitted, which corresponded to the production of the 1860s. Then the substitutes were also confiscated and a large part of the workers was sent to the front. Those who stayed at home fought for their livelihood and tried to keep production alive with new substitutes. Quantitative production even increased in 1917/18, but at the expense of quality. Sugar beet, beans and millet were used. Only the cultured yeast still covered the own needs. When the war ended in 1918, those industries that were geared towards export could only ship their products to a limited extent, since the surrounding countries had set up protective tariffs. The entire transport system in Central and Western Europe was destroyed, which made transport as good as impossible. Reininghaus also had to find new sales markets. New depots were set up in Fiume and the neighboring area, so the high tariff rates could be overcome and the beer could be sold to other countries.
At that time, an eagle was added to the company coat of arms of the two crossed swords with the initials B. R. as a symbol of advancement and strength to remind that strong men had withstood a terrible war.
As with all post-war products, the company was confronted with a crisis of confidence in their product, since for years the population had been offered a replacement that made the real, origin beer almost forgotten. The Board of Directors of the Brothers Reininghaus-AG appointed Dr. Peter von Reininghaus, the then 24-year-old son of Johann Dietrich, as an authorized signatory. Based on the experience and knowledge of his two teachers, Georg II. Anton Mautner von Markhof and President Wilhelm Kux, he started his work, which was to last well over fifty years. Initially, the Brothers Reininghaus-AG had to overcome the war and post-war raw material worries and compensate for the lost markets abroad through domestic sales – not only for beer but also for other products such as spirits, yeast and vinegar. With increasing consolidation and the further growth of the company, Peter Reininghaus also succeeded in building a bridge to the second large brewery in the country, Gösser Brauerei-AG. He took advantage of the opportunity to buy a considerable block of shares that had previously been in foreign hands. This purchase was the basis for the “Styrian brewing industry”. However, the planned effects were not to be seen until after 1945, as developments initially ran in opposite directions after the Annexation of Austria to the Third Reich. On March 13th, Peter Reininghaus was arrested and expelled from the country without further trial. This was justified with his attitude incompatible with National Socialism. He finally emigrated via Brussels and Lausanne to Trieste and Abbazia, where immediately after July 20, 1944, he received a summons from the Gestapo. He refused to obey and until the end of the war he hid in cellars and attics. During the war years the brewery was subordinated to the son of the general manager, Carl E. Neweklowsky. The name Reininghaus was put last when on March 24, 1944 the Brothers Reininghaus Aktien-Gesellschaft für Brauerei und Spiritus-Industrie faced a forced merger with the Ersten Grazer Actien-Brauerei formerly known as Franz Schreiner & Sons into the Grazer Brauerei Aktiengesellschaft Puntigam-Reininghaus. The question of the merger had already been topical in the thirties, when the Puntigamer company ran into existential difficulties due to wrong investment and sales policy decisions. Despite massive personal and political pressure, Peter Reininghaus was able to successfully oppose it at the time, since Reininghaus’ earnings and liquidity were more important to him economically than the temptation to increase production in hectoliters. The current merger brought about extensive changes, among other things. E. g. a fully automatic malt house was set up.
In 1945, when Peter Reininghaus returned home for the first time in seven years, he was overcome by resignation in view of the human and material heap of rubble that the war had left behind. As Steinfeld had been “plowed down” by air raids, he decided to merge the breweries in Puntigam in order to enable a cost-saving reconstruction. He stuck to the traditional brewing recipes, beer brands and sales areas of Reininghaus and Puntigam. For the Göss Brewery, which got into economic and political difficulties in 1945, he achieved a competent public administration in lengthy negotiations and was thus able to maintain its independence. In 1949 the expansion of a new spirit factory was completed and spirit, quality liqueurs, nutritional yeast and vinegar were produced on a large scale.
In 1953, the cultivation of hops began in the Leutschacher area of southern Styria. This brought the borderland farmers an additional opportunity to earn a living and “the Styrian brewing industry was rooted in the home soil”. From 1957 Peter Reininghaus coordinated the breweries in Styria and Carinthia with the help of the Alpine Working Group for Economic Policy he had set up. This community, which in the following years also dealt intensively with questions of European integration, became the expression of an Austria-wide exemplary market organization for a subsection of the brewing industry comprising more than two million hectoliters. In 1970, a cooperation agreement was also concluded between the Styrian brewing industry and Schwechater Brau AG, which resulted in the most important association of independent brewing companies in Austria.
When Peter Reininghaus “The President” died in January 1973, he was followed by his son Dkfm. Peter, who would lead the company for the next decade. In 1977 the parent companies, Brüder Reininghaus Brauerei-AG and Gösser Brauerei-AG, founded Steirerbrau AG, which was taken over in 1992 by a competitor, Brau-Beteiligungs-Aktiengesellschaft (BBAG). From the perspective of BBAG, the 33 percent stake in rival Steirerbrau that was sold by Creditanstalt was decisive. This gave Brau AG a foot in the door of the second largest beer group in Austria, which also included the Göss and Puntigam-Reininghaus breweries. Despite strong protests from small shareholders, the Steirerbrau was swallowed in its entirety by BBAG. The Austrian breweries were finally merged into Brau Union Österreich AG, which has been part of the Heineken Group since 2003. Reininghaus suffered the same fate as many family-run businesses did in the 1990s, and at the same time it shows how significantly the past has shaped the present and how strongly a brand like “Reininghaus” is supported by tradition.