American Breweriana Journal November/December 2014
Breweries Reincarnated as Breweries
By Rich Wagner
It’s been rewarding to see so many old breweries throughout the country adapted to reuse: warehouse space, offices, condominiums, shopping malls, art galleries, restaurants and especially breweries. About ten years ago I was developing a presentation entitled “Brewery Preservation in North America” and created a list of known standing brewery buildings. It’s on my website and currently has over 600 entries. Not all are what would be called “success stories,” many are “diamonds in the rough.” But in the past thirty years or so communities have found it is more profitable to restore some of these hulking structures than tear them down. Not that there haven’t been many that have met the wrecking ball.
The Pearl brewery in San Antonio is a spectacular anchor for that city’s Riverwalk area. The Tivoli brewery in Denver is part of Auraria Higher Education Center’s student center. The Grain Belt brewery in Minneapolis is now home to a variety of businesses including the architectural firm that developed the site. The Stegmaier brewery in Wilkes-Barre shines as a thriving office complex, and in Philadelphia the Bergdoll and Class & Nachod breweries, now used for housing, are probably some of the most beautiful examples of brewery preservation in the country.
But there is something nostalgic about reviving the brewing process in an old brewery building that lends a mystique to the endeavor. After all, seeing and smelling the malty steam rising from a once-abandoned brewery is a thing of beauty. Some have been short-lived, but others have been breweries for decades and there are new ones on the horizon.
When I visited the old Eberhardt & Ober Brewery on Pittsburgh’s north side in 1980, the walls were covered with ivy. It closed in 1952 leaving Pittsburgh Brewing Company with only its Iron City branch in operation. By the mid-1980s Tom Pastorius was marketing a contract beer “Pennsylvania Pilsner,” in part to honor his ancestor who brought the first group of Germans to the Germantown section of Philadelphia in 1685, but also to generate capital so he could open a combination production brewery and pub in the old north side plant, which he did in 1989.
01 Penn Brewery issued postcard featuring this fabulous litho of the Eberhard & Ober brewery.
02 View from the 1950s by “Uncle Ernie” Oest.
03 The old stock house and malt house buildings as they appeared in 1980.
04 Tom Pastorius giving an impromptu tour of his brew house imported from Germany in 1989.
05 Pennsylvania’s second oldest craft brewery.
06 Eberhardt & Ober’s office building.
The Kessler brewery in Helena, MT became home to Mountain Beverages, Ltd. from 1984-2000. They used a variety of old Kessler labels on their products. The Walter Brewery in Appleton, WI was famous for their Alder-Brau and when I visited in 1990 the old brewery had shops, a restaurant and the Appleton Brewing Co. which resurrected the Alder-Brau brand. Today it is the Stone Cellar Brewpub.
07 The old Walter brewery in Appleton, aka “Between the Locks Mall” was developed which included Los Bandidos Brewpub.
08 The company not only was in an old brewery but they resurrected one of Walter’s old brands.
09 Interior of the brew house.
Before purchasing the Hudepohl-Schenling brewery in Cincinnati and the Schaefer plant in the Lehigh Valley, the Boston Beer Co. resuscitated the old Heffenreffer brewery in Boston’s Jamaica Plains neighborhood as their first production brewery which I toured in 1992.
10 Pre-prohibition view of the Heffenreffer brewery.
11 1992 view of the old Heffenreffer brewery now home to the Boston Beer Co.
The Fitger Brewery in Diluth, MN had been turned into a shopping mall when I visited in the early 1990s. But within a few years, Fitger’s Brew House was added and continues as a successful brewpub.
12 The Fitger brewery in Diluth at the turn of the last century.
13 Lighted sign on display.
14 The brewery complex has been developed and the shops include a brewpub.
The old National brewery in Baltimore was owned by Heileman when it closed in 1980 and fifteen years later the bottling house was home to Brimstone Brewing Co. In 1999 Frederick Brewing Co. purchased the brands and production moved to their plant. The site has been converted to housing and passers-by on I-95 can still see the neon “Mr. Boh” sign atop the building.
15 Installing Brimstone’s bottlilng line in Heileman’s old bottling house.
16 Founder and brewer Mark Tewey at the bright tank. Photo by Richard Kennedy, former brewer for Brimstone.
17 National was famous for their National Bohemian aka “Natty Boh” beer.
One of the first rehabbed breweries I discovered was Bube’s (BOO-bees) Brewery and Catacombs in Mount Joy, PA, back in 1982. There were underground vaults with huge casks, tall wooden fermenters upstairs, there was old machinery on display and an incredible display of old Lancaster county embossed brewery bottles on the walls of the “Bottle Shop” bar. Two years later I interviewed a young Sam Allen who dreamed of brewing beer there once again. While we talked I offered Sam a homebrew, talked about the brewing process, and returned to brew a batch of homebrew on Halloween, presumably the first beer brewed at Bube’s since 1917. Eight months later Sam and I enjoyed the finished homebrew, but it would be another sixteen years before he would realize his dream of adding a brewery.
18 Bube’s brewery as photographed by “Uncle Ernie” Oest in the 1950s.
19 The brewery closed in 1917 but some of the old tanks are now part of the museum.
20 Sam Allen purchased a collection of coopering tools which are on display.
21 Brewing returned to Bube’s in 2001.
Parts of the old Terre Haute brewery, famous for their Champagne Velvet brand, were used as production brewery, brewpub and brewery museum when I visited in 2002. They had a seven barrel system in the pub and had just outfitted their production facility with the brew house and equipment from the Commonwealth Brewing Co. in Manhattan. The Vigo Brewing Group currently brews their Brugge Belgian ales and ciders there. It has been reported that they may move to a larger space in Indianapolis.
22 Brewery architecture frequently inspires artists local such as this painting by Bob Follett.
23 The brewpub also had lots of Terre Haute breweriana on display.
24 The new Terre Haute Brewing Company revived the Champaign Velvet brand.
25 The production brewery was located in one of the of Terre Haute brewery buildings.
26 In 2002 the brewery installed equipment from Commonwealth Brewing Co. in Manhattan.
In 2002 the Craft Brewing Conference was held in Cleveland. Great Lakes Brewing Company had just adapted portions of the Schlather brewery to accommodate their new state-of-the-art brew house. Having visited the brewpub fourteen years earlier and seen a seven-barrel system, it was exciting to see them bringing a brewery back to life as they dramatically expanded their production.
27 The Schlather brewery became one of eleven branches of the Cleveland and Sandusky Brewing Co.
28 Great Lakes Brewing is one of the oldest and most successful craft breweries in the region.
29 Great Lakes brew house is located in Schlather’s stable building.
30 Stone sign on display at the brewery.
The best case scenario occurred with the opening in Wisconsin of the Potosi Brewing Co. brewpub and National Brewery Museum in 2008. The brewery had been in ruins for decades, but through a tremendous effort by investors, local businesses, the American Breweriana Association, and countless supporters, the building has been restored to its previous glory. Potosi contracted with Stevens Point Brewery for brands in 12 oz. bottles. Visitors who toured this summer got to see construction in progress for a full scale production plant on the edge of the property.
31 Potosi Brewery, Adam Schumacher. (National Brewery Museum)
32 Site just prior to restoration in March 2004. (American Breweriana Journal)
33 Herb Page leading a tour of the brew house in 2010.
34 View of the production brewery under construction in July.
35 The cold box is already in service.
Six years ago I also came upon the Rockford Brewery in Rockford, IL. It was a magnificent early 1900s modern brewery complex and it was obvious that there were efforts to develop the property, which just happened to be adjacent to a new marina. Currently it is home to the Prairie Street Brewpub. They adopted the old Rockford Brewing Co. name but have been in a legal dispute with a brewery in a town with the same name in Michigan.
36 Rockford brewery awaiting its new life as a brewery in 2008.
There are many more on the list which I have yet to visit, and it seems like new projects are regularly reported. Thirsty Dog Brewing started up in Akron’s Burkhardt Brewery in 2007 and may have to move in order to expand beyond their present 25,000 bbl capacity.
37 The old Burkhardt brewery stock house was the last of the buildings to be developed..
38 The expansion is for additional tanks.
39 Thirsty Dog brewpub in Akron.
Cincinnati’s “Over-the-Rhine” (OTR) neighborhood was famous for its breweries, and the neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places. Christian Moerlein beer had been a contract brand for a number of years. Greg Harden purchased that brand and several other Cincy brands including Burger and Hudepohl which are currently made at the Genesee brewery in Rochester, NY.
Four years ago he opened a production brewery in the OTR neighborhood in an old potato chip factory located on the site where the Kauffman brewery used to stand. The old lagering cellars are still below the surface and Berding Surveying recently did a 3-D laser scan of the network of cellars and posted it as a YouTube video.
40 Berding Surveying 3-D scan of Kauffman brewery cellars.
However, the bottling house of the original Christian Moerlein brewery is now a brewpub called Rhinegeist. Ambitious plans for a brewpub and performing arts center in the old Jackson Brewery have appeared recently in the media and it would appear the OTR neighborhood may become home to two reincarnated breweries. Across the Ohio River in Covington, KY the Bavarian Brewery came back to life briefly as the Brew Works.
41 Litho showing the Jackson brewery complex which the Kleiner brothers operated from 1855-73.
42 Jackson brewery early 20th century. This building matches the one in the lithograph with the tallest tower.
43 The time for a new lease on life for this old brewery has arrived.
44 The Bavarian brewery in Covington, KY became the now-defunct Brew Works brewpub. (Photo by Greg Hume)
The Hamm’s brewery in St. Paul was a Stroh plant when it closed in 1997. Two years ago Flat Earth Brewing Co. found portions of the complex a perfect fit for their expansion, and most recently 11 Wells Distillery has set up shop there as well.
45 Nineteenth century view of Hamm’s brewery.
46Hamm’s modern brewery.
47 Flat Earth Brewing during construction phase.
In St. Louis, Six Row Brewing Co. inhabits part of the original Falstaff brewery and San Diego’s old Mission Brewery is now a Plaza with offices and a brewpub that crafts Acoustic Ales.
48 Post prohibition view of the Falstaff brewery.
49 Old Falstaff plant, 1992.
50 Six Row Brewing Co.
51 Historic view of San Diego’s Mission brewery.
52 Acoustic Ales are being brewed there today.
Wisconsin has five breweries in old breweries. In addition to Appleton and Potosi, the Pioneer Brewery brought the old Badger Brewery back to life in Black River Falls in 1995. A few years later the Sand Creek Brewing Co. was established on a dairy farm nearby, and when they were looking to expand they combined with Pioneer’s owners and reflagged the old Badger brewery as Sand Creek Brewing. Most recently the old brewery in Bloomer, which closed in 1947, has just become home to a brewpub called the Bloomer Brewery, and the owner is hoping to attract other businesses to develop the property. In Algoma, the old Ahnapee Brewery is currently the Von Stiehl Winery which wanted to add brewing to their repertoire but the new Ahnapee brewery is in a separate location nearby.
53 Part of the old Badger brewery is home to Sand Creek Brewing Co.
54 Ulrich Oberbolz founded the Black River Falls Brewery in 1856.
55 Postcard view of Bloomer brewery. (National Brewery Museum)
When I began searching Philadelphia for old brewery buildings I found about two dozen, and a half dozen of those have become preservation “success stories.” Two became breweries briefly in the late 1990s; Poor Henry’s opened in the old Ortlieb “Million Bottle a Day” bottling house, and Red Bell Brewing Co. inhabited the old Poth plant in Brewerytown. Both breweries are out of business, but Ortlieb’s bottling house is being renovated to become offices for KieranTimberlake architects. Today the Philadelphia Brewing Co. is located in the old Weisbrod & Hess brewery, and nearby St. Benjamin Brewing Co. just opened in the Finkenauer Brewery stable building.
56 Poor Henry’s was a brewpub and production brewery wet up in Ortlieb’s bottling house from 1997-2000. KierenTimberlake has invested a great deal restoring the building which will be their offices. Recently, virtually all the buildings except for the old brewery saloon have been razed in the block between American and Third Streets and new housing is going up.
57 Nineteenth century view of the Poth brewery. (Handy Collection)
58 Red Bell Brewing Co. moved into the last standing brewery in Brewerytown in the late 1990s.
59 Brewer Jim Cancrow serves beer from the bright tank to participants of the Philadelphia Brewery Tour in 1997.
60 A.C. Wagner designed a new brewery for Weisbrod & Hess which was featured in The Western Brewer in 1881.
61 Weisbrod & Hess office building as it appeared in 1985.
62 The office building now serves as a retail outlet for Philadelphia Brewing Co.
63 View of the stone sign for “W & H Stable” 1985
64 Philadelphia Brewing Co. is dedicated to continuously upgrading the property.
65 The brewery is located in the bottling house of the Weisbrod & Hess brewery.
66 Beautiful tile work showing Weisbrod & Hess’ bottled product.
67 Letterhead showing the Finkenauer brewery.
68 Otto C. Wolf designed this 75-horse stable in 1895.
69 Workers restoring the arched portion of a doorway to its original appearance.
70 Painting of the block including a large mill recently converted to housing. St. Benjamin’s is in the three story building.
In taking stock of this, there are currently a total of 19 reincarnated breweries in business, at least a dozen of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Pennsylvania leads with six, followed by Wisconsin with four and Ohio with three. The list keeps growing and it is indeed heartening to see brewery preservation occurring along with the growing popularity of craft beer.
After this article appeared in print, it embarrassingly came to me that I had omitted The Other Farm Brewing Co. which is located in the old Boyertown brewery which is practically in my backyard! Thanks Tom Raub.
Gypsy Brewing is now operating in a building that was part of the Leisy brewery in Cleveland, OH.
Tomfoolery Brewing is located in a portion of the bottling house of what was Eastern Brewing Corp. in Hammonton, NJ. Thanks to Mark Haynie, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News February/March 2016.
In January 2017 there was a report of restoring brewing to part of the Jacob Schmidt plant in St. Paul.
In 2011 the Cataract brewery was razed. It is on property of the Genesee brewery in Rochester. They opened a brewpub in Cataract's old bottling house which contains a museum and model of the building which was torn down. Which brings the total of known “reincarnated breweries” to 22. Pennsylvania leading the nation with seven.
September 16, 2018: At my presentation “Brewing in Lebanon – Pennsylvannia's OTHER Iron City” I learned that investors are ready to put a brewery in the old Lebanon Valley Brewery (to be open June 2019).