The Keg (Quarterly Newsletter of the Eastern Coast Breweriana Association) Summer, 1999

From The Western Brewer: King Coal or King Beer?

by Rich Wagner

With the E.C.B.A. convention being held in Reading this summer I have seen the need to do something I've had on the back burner for quite some time. I am putting together a guidebook to the breweries of Pennsylvania's southern anthracite fields- ie. Schuylkill County and surrounding area. This area is north of Reading and of course is home to the America's oldest Yuengling Brewery. Aside from the Yuengling plant there are no spectacular architectural wonders to admire such as the Stegmaier brewery building in Wilkes-Barre, however, Kaier's is still standing in Mahanoy City (I think) and there are caves of the Rettig brewery in Pottsville and other bits and pieces here and there. I've collected a lot of information on this area over the years and photographs of breweries, breweriana, etc.

I will be going back to the local libraries to see what more I can find. I've already contacted some E.C.B.A. members who collect breweriana from the coal region for the purpose of photographing their collections. I'm always grateful for the support collectors have given me over the years. The wealth of illustrative material they have provided has enhanced my guidebooks immensely. In each of my guidebooks I list pre and post Prohibition beer brands. Right now my pre-pro list is very short. I would appreciate any help I can get with some brand names from letterheads, trays and ads. Also, if any collectors have newspaper stories about the old days in the coal region I'd be interested in seeing copies. I will do my best to do justice to the Prohibition era since the coal region had a reputation of being anything but dry!

Prohibition is not the only thing bootleggers have waged war with. Another thing is taxes, as the following article from The Western Brewer shows. It's not from Schuylkill County, but it makes me wonder if anything like this ever happened there. The Western Brewer December 1887. For several years beer and ale has been sold in various places in the coal regions of Butler Co., Pa., which revenue officers were satisfied was being brewed without warrant from the government. All efforts to discover the illicit brewery were in vain.

Recently Deputy Collector Thompson, of Westmoreland County, received an intimation that brought him to Butler. Representing himself as the agent of a company desiring to purchase coal lands, he formed the acquaintance of Superintendent File, who was in charge of some mines in the back districts. The Superintendent showed him over the property and then took him into one of the mines, where far under the ground and running by the light of many lamps, the pretended agent saw a complete steam brewery, fitted up with all the latest improvements.

The Superintendent informed his guest that the subterranean brewery had been in operation for five years, and that the Government officials had looked for it in vain. The next day the revenue officers confiscated the mine brewery and arrested the superintendent. The claim of the Government was satisfied by the payment of $3,000. The brewery was released and is now again in operation. But the beer will the taxed hereafter.