E.C.B.A. the KEG Summer 2005
A Brewery in Green Lane, Pennsylvania
By Rich Wagner
Ken and Linda Nace are long-time E.C.B.A. members and familiar faces to anyone who's been to breweriana shows. They hail from Woxall, Pennsylvania high atop "the Ridge," just above the borough of Green Lane. So it isn't surprising that Ken should have an interest in the tiny, obscure Perkiomen Valley brewery that made the only locally brewed beer, ale and porter there for some thirty-five years. What is surprising is the number of different bottles Ken has collected from this brewery. To date, Ken has twenty-one different embossed bottles from this brewery and has seen a half a dozen or so slip through his fingers when he was outbid at auction. He is a bit of an artist and keeps a notebook with drawings of each different bottle embossment with him while shopping, so he can tell if he's found a new one. I collect embossed brewery bottles from Pennsylvania, and 'thinned the herd' a few years ago by limiting myself to only one bottle from each brewery. But I can't think of a brewery large or small that produced so many different bottles. Why the "Perky Valley" brewery had so many is a question that remains unanswered, but one that certainly merits some curiosity.
According to local newspaper accounts, Henry Styer built a small brewery in Green Lane between the Green Lane-Goshenhoppen Turnpike (Route 29) and the Perkiomen Creek in 1885. His beer quickly became popular but he died after being in business only a few months. Former Burgess and local businessman, Mark Hiltebeitel was appointed executor to Styer's estate and, after running the brewery for a few months, sold it at public auction to James O. Hendricks. It should be noted that in addition to the brewery, Boyd's Business Directory for Green Lane lists William Shipe as a bottler from 1888-1890 (Shipe & Stringer, 1892-1894).
Hendricks did a thriving retail trade right from the brewery, six days a week. He built a bottle house and added soft drinks to his line. Products could be shipped by rail on the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad to Reading and Allentown and the Perkiomen Valley Railroad, a spur line originating at Oaks, that crisscrossed the Perkiomen Creek, through Arcola, Yerkes, Collegeville, Rahns, Graterford, Schwenksville, Spring Mount, Salford, Perkiomenville Red Hill, Pennsburg and Palm. Double teams of horses pulled open stake-sided wagons and made deliveries on the gravel pike (Route 29) as far south as Collegeville and north to Red Hill, Pennsburg, East Greenville and Palm. His territory also included Sumneytown, Vernfield, Harleysville, Telford and Souderton to the east.
Two years after taking over the brewery, Borough Council granted Mr. Hendricks the right of way to lay a water line beneath Green Street to connect his brewery to an artesian well on Isaac R. Smith's property. The brewery grew to include a brew house, wash house, ice houses, a bottling house and a large stable to house his teams and for grain storage. In 1902 Hendricks increased his capacity with the addition of four 20-barrel storage tanks. Refrigeration was supplied with ice harvested from the Perkiomen Creek.
In 1905 Samuel Jerzy purchased the brewery and ran it for five years before selling it to Pottsville businessmen H.T. Bechtel, I.W. Bechtel and Charles Wittmer in 1911. They incorporated the company as the Perkiomen Valley Brewery with $30,000 worth of stock. The Bechtels bought out Wittmer's shares and envisioned an expansion program to increase production from 4,000 to 20,000 barrels per year. This was a period of rapid expansion and modernization in the industry and whether due to competition or other economic factors, their plans never materialized.
In 1915 the Montgomery County Trust Company took ownership of the company and sold it to the brewmaster, George Schoenfeld who operated the brewery until prohibition came in 1920 when the brewery was razed. The stable was converted to a garage until it was destroyed by fire in 1949. The location of the brewery is just south of the intersection of Sumneytown Pike and Route 29, near a bend in the road, where the Wm. Penn gas station was built on part of the foundation of the brewery.
McLaughlin, Joseph M. "Bibere - Bior - Beer" Manuscript presented to Montgomery County Historical Society, 1981.
Roeder, Larry. "Valley Past, Perkiomen Valley Brewery." The Hearthstone Town and Country. December 11, 2003.