American Breweriana Journal July/August 2014
The Beers, Breweries and Breweriana of Easton, PA
By Rich Wagner (ABA 2360)
The City of Easton, located on the western shore of the Delaware River near the mouths of the Lehigh River and Bushkill Creek, was settled by Europeans early in the 1700s and has a colorful history throughout the colonial period. But the first known brewery in Easton was erected in a wheat field in 1821 by Frederick Seitz and his uncle John Goundie (ABJ May/June 2010). Easton’s breweries would rise along with the commercial and industrial development facilitated by the Pennsylvania Canal and the railroads.
Frederick Seitz was born near Manheim in the Republic of France in 1801. After apprenticing at his uncle’s brewery in Baden the two of them came to the Lehigh Valley in 1821. Seitz and Goundie’s brewery in that wheat field would have an address on Ferry St. The partnership was dissolved in 1823 when Seitz’s Excelsior Brewery produced 500 barrels of beer and employed six men. In addition to the brewery, Frederick was involved with farming, malting, distilling, and even had a milk route in addition to delivering beer. By the time he died in 1880 the brewery was making 3,000 barrels.
In 1851 Frederick invented an Improvement on the “Mode of Preparing Corn for Brewing and Distilling” which made it possible to brew an ale with just one bushel of malt and 60 pounds of corn meal where most brewers were using 2.5 to 3 bushels of malt to obtain the same amount of sugar. Seitz also claimed the processed corn yielded 20% more whiskey.
Deliveries were made within a 25-mile radius by four-horse teams; each wagon carried 5 tons of beer. Forty horses were stabled at the bottling plant. Beginning in 1855 the plant introduced canal boat delivery on the Morris and Lehigh Canals. Each boat carried 80 tons of beer and could travel from Mauch Chunk, PA, and to New York City via Jersey City on the Hudson River.
His sons John A., Henry W., and William A., continued the firm as Seitz Brothers until it was incorporated as Seitz Brewing Co. in 1898. The company contracted with Henry Steinman, the well known architect of New York City, to draw up plans for a modern 50,000 barrel brewery to be built next to their bottling house on Bushkill Street. A few years later Philadelphia brewery architect Otto C. Wolf completed a stock house. Brothers Frederick and Charles Seitz operated a malt house in Easton and Buffalo, NY. John Seitz ran the bottling department and was the last family member involved in the business. In 1904 he sold his interests to the brewmaster and a group of Easton businessmen who increased output to 65,000 barrels.
During prohibition the company sold soft drinks and a cereal beverage called “Seitz.” They also sold “high-powered beer” and got caught repeatedly.
In May 1933 the American Brewer reported that the old Seitz plant was working at capacity, turning out between three and four brews every twenty-four hours. Brewmaster John B. Schmid said they were far behind in filling orders and that they had placed orders for eight large steel tanks and had plans for a new bottling plant on an adjacent property. The brewery employed 70 men and production surpassed 70,000 barrels.
They lost their license after being identified with the syndication of breweries in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey operated by Reading, Pennsylvania’s infamous “Beer Baron,” Max Hassel. They ran a hose beneath the Delaware River that supplied a racking room set up in the American Horseshoe factory in Philipsburg, New Jersey, a method employed at a number of Hassel’s breweries. It reopened as the Osterstock Brewing Co. in February 1935.
Shortly after re-opening, the brewery lost its license for using “counterfeit crowns.” Pennsylvania brewers paid tax on their crown caps, each having a keystone on them. After investigating, officials said half the crowns they found on bottles in the trade were counterfeit. Subsequently the brewery filed for bankruptcy. The brewery closed in 1938.
Seitz had come to Easton before the canals were finished. The next batch of brewers arrived mid-century just before railroads paved the way for increased commerce and industry. Lager beer had been introduced but hadn’t become mainstream. Three breweries opened in 1850, and two of them didn’t last a year. The one that did survive was started by Xavier Veile (Vy-lee), who had trained as a brewer in Wurtemburg, Germany, and came to Easton in 1847 where he worked for Seitz before setting up a his own brewery on Northampton Street.
The brewery was producing around 2,000 barrels when Veile’s son-in-law became proprietor in 1884. The following year, the firm became Veile & Seip. Together with Xavier’s son Edward, production was increased from 2,000 to 3,000 barrels a year. Conrad Seip died in 1887, Xavier Veile died in 1890 and his son Edward died two years later at the age of 28, leaving Isabella Seip as proprietor in 1893. She moved operations to Spring Garden & Locust Streets where production reached 12,000 barrels. The brewery was incorporated as Xavier Veile Brewery Inc. in 1913. Louis Sulkin purchased the plant at the start of prohibition and manufactured cereal beverages.
In May 1934 American Brewer reported the brewery was unable to keep up with demand. A garage was converted to a bottling plant and a new three-story stock house was added. A year later J.J. Mayrosh, Sr., S.J. Mayrosh and A. Liever incorporated the firm as Bushkill Products Co. The Mayroshes wanted to upgrade the plant, but Liever didn’t agree, so in 1935 they went into receivership. The brewery was ordered to be sold at public auction, where Liever purchased it for $325,000 and the receivership was vacated. The brewery closed in 1941, leaving one remaining brewery in Easton.
Willibald Kuebler came to America in 1848 from Baden, Germany, finding employment in Philadelphia at Engel & Wolf’s brewery (ABJ 02-08). He moved to Easton after a year or so and formed a partnership with Charles Glanz. They started brewing in a small way at Church and Bank Streets. In 1852 they moved to the river bank in South Easton where they dug vaults and began making lager beer. Their brewery was at the intersection of the Lehigh and Pennsylvania Canals and would become Easton’s largest and longest running brewery. Glanz & Kuebler also had a brewery about 35 miles north on the Lehigh Canal in Mauch Chunk (now called Jim Thorpe) for nearly a decade (1870-79). Mr. Kuebler was sole proprietor from 1878 until his death in 1898 when the firm passed to his three sons: William J., Charles E. and Frank A., doing business as Willibald Kuebler’s Sons.
The March 1894 issue of The Western Brewer announced Mr. Kuebler had placed a product of his own design on the market for automatically washing and filtering brewers’ shavings, chips and cellulose. It was said to enable two men to do the work previously requiring eight using much less water. Later that year the brewery erected a bottling house, refrigerating plant, store room and stables, giving the brewery a daily capacity to produce over 200 barrels of beer.
Mr. Kuebler oversaw the erection of a modern 50,000 barrel brewery prior to his death. The sepia view (Northampton Historical Society) beneath the masthead of this story shows the brewery in 1895.His son William J. visited breweries throughout the country and chose the best machinery and equipment for the plant. Son Charles E. was in charge of the brewery’s extensive bottling department which packaged 1,000 barrels of beer, ale and porter per month.
From 1912-13 Philadelphia brewery architects Peuckert & Wunder designed a complete modern plant increasing capacity to 100,000 barrels. And in 1917 a modern pasteurizer, soaker and washer were installed in the bottling department. Brands included Golden Nectar, Extra Brew, Old Style Lager, Kuebler’s Ale and Porter. The company continued making soft drinks and cereal beverages during prohibition.
Kuebler started back up after repeal, but, like many small brewers, experienced financial difficulty, which was exacerbated by a denial for reorganization. In 1936, John Mayrosh, Sr., who had left the Bushkill brewery, purchased the plant with his sons Stephan J. and Joseph J. and incorporated it as the Kuebler Brewing Co. John Mayrosh, Sr. emphasized a consistent program of modernization and introduced a can line in 1938. He remained actively involved until he died five years later. His sons ran the company until it became the last of Easton’s breweries to close in 1953.
Taggert, Edward. Bootlegger: Max Hassel, The Millionaire Newsboy. iUniverse, 2003).
The Lehigh Valley is awash with breweriana collectors and I am in debt to the collectors who permitted me to photograph their collections: Larry Handy (ABA 2960), Brian Sicher (6038), Rich Strisofsky (696) and son Rich (labels), Dan Tucker (bottles, tap knobs, cans), Chris Watt and Daryl Ziegler (ABA 9499). In addition I would like to thank the librarians and curators at the Northampton Historical Society and the Marx Room of the Easton Public Library.
Here is a link to a Flickr Album with pics from an exhibit on Breweries of the Lehigh Valley at the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, WI.