American Breweriana Journal May/June 2018

From the Coal Fields of Pennsylvania

By Rich Wagner

I’ve been active on Facebook for a while and it has proved to be quite valuable in connecting with people and getting news pertaining to brewery research, often instantaneously! Two recent examples put me in touch with breweries a hundred miles from home that I might otherwise not investigate.

The first, from the “southern coal fields” is located in Schuylkill County in the shadow of Pottsville where America’s Oldest Brewery outshines them all. Tamaqua is a small city with a history deeply entwined with coal mining, manufacturing, immigration, labor and of course, beer. Dave Doxie posted a news item on Facebook about the local historical society’s exhibit of “Coal Region Breweries.”

The second, from the “northern coal fields,” came via email from Rob Galdieri in Scranton with news that what was left of the Standard brewery was about to be razed. He was kind enough to be my “eyes and ears” and provided me with images of the demolition.

Coal Region Breweries” Exhibit

PHOTO 01: Larry Handy and Tamaqua Historical Society president Dale Freudenberger at the exhibit.

Historical Society president Dale Freudenberger was more than happy to open up the exhibit for Larry Handy and myself since we were unable to attend their scheduled open house. In addition to the fabulous breweriana on display, the most outstanding part of the exhibit is that none of its contributors, about a dozen local collectors, are members of any breweriana clubs! One wonders if the number of such “closet collectors” might be more prevalent than anyone could suspect, like the dark matter that astronomers are finding to be so common in the universe. Dale added that the collectors did not even loan their best items for the exhibit! Who knows what’s squirreled away in those hills?

The Breweries of Tamaqua, PA

The first brewery was established in 1850, by George Goeldner, who put up buildings for that purpose on Broad street, immediately back of the present National House. Five years later he sold out to Joseph Adam, the second brewer, and an early settler. Joseph Haefner, Joseph Adam and Lawrence Koenig now have breweries and enjoy a local trade.” (History of Schuylkill County, PA 1881)

Adam produced 135 barrels in 1878 and only 86 barrels the following year. A Mr. Redig (Rettig?) purchased it around 1891 but it is uncertain if, or how long he ran the brewery. Perhaps one of the local bottle collectors can shed some light on these breweries we know so little about.

PHOTO 2: This view of Broad Street shows “J. Adams” with a building that could have been a small brewery. Note that H.M. Kalb has a property in the next block to the left. (1854 Goodwin Atlas)

The next brewery was started around 1868 on Rowe Street near Swatara. Conrad Ifland sold it to Henry Kalb in 1870. Seven years later the Bavarian Brewery was purchased by Joseph Haefner who produced just over 700 barrels his first year. He purchased Gottlieb Schmid’s brewery in Philadelphia and ran it for from 1884-1886 before moving to Lancaster where he would ultimately become one of that city’s “titans” of the industry.

PHOTO 03: Kalb’s brewery building on the left side of the property. (1875 Beers Atlas)

PHOTO 04: No. 22 shows Kalb’s brewery as a cluster of buildings. (1873 Atlas)

PHOTO 05: The Keystone House was built on the right side of the property, possibly the Bavarian brewery’s hotel.

While Lawrence Koenig is cited in 1881, no address was listed and he was out of business the following year. It is likely that George Sinzer took over the brewery and ran it until 1886.

Tamaqua’s best known brewery was a late comer to the scene during a period when advances in technology made small, sleek, efficient modern breweries possible. John F. McGinty was in the wholesale liquor trade in Schuylkill County and in 1896 he and other local “liquor men” identified as The Tamaqua Liquor League formed a stock company and built themselves a 15,000 barrel per year brewery for $50,000. By the turn of the century additions had been made to increase capacity to 40,000 barrels.

PHOTO 06: Liquor jugs from Tamaqua dealers, probably associated with the Tamaqua Liquor League. The Kaier family who had a brewery of Mahanoy City were also in the liquor business.

In 1904 the company added a two-story bottling house, a 130-horse stable and new boiler house. The bottling house was outfitted with the most modern equipment and in 1908 a 75-ton ice-making machine was added.

PHOTO 07: Truck loaded with barrels. (Raub Collection)

In 1910 the brewery was incorporated as Liberty Brewing Co. with $100,000 in capital. Sales in 1911 were just under 19,000 barrels. In 1913 capital stock was increased to $135,000. They were shut down in 1925 for making “high-powered beer” and subsequently could not get a permit so the property went up for sheriff sale in March 1928.

At the time of repeal, the company was listed as the Lehigh Valley Brewing Co., Inc. In April 1934 Liberty Brewing announced they had spent $30,000 in improvements and were prepared to operate the plant themselves, lease or sell to a number of prospective buyers. A year later, the brewery was incorporated as the Rahn Brewing Co. with $200,000 in capital stock but went out of business the same year.

PHOTO 08, 09, 10: Liberty trays, tip tray. Tamaqua Historical Society exhibit.

PHOTO 11: 1899 Letterhead showing additions that nearly tripled the capacity of the plant. (Ball)

PHOTO 12: Liberty Brewery c. 1904. This photograph verifies that the letterhead shows additions that were never made. (Tamaqua Historical Society)

PHOTO 13: 1923 Sanborn Map.

*PHOTO 14: Today there’s a beer distributor in the bottling house and McGinty’s brewery has been converted to housing. Did not appear in printed article.

*PHOTO 15: Yuengling (Pottsville) as well as Barbey and Lauer (Reading), and Columbia (Shenandoah) had depots in Tamaqua. (Tamaqua Historical Society) Did not appear in printed article.

PHOTO 16-20 items on display in the exhibit.

PHOTO 17: “Nickel glass.” (Freudenberger Collection)

PHOTO 18: Liberty bottle with paper label.

PHOTO 19 Embossed bottle and PHOTO 20 ceramic top. Dale’s family had a bottling concern associated with their White Swan Hotel in Tamaqua.

After a long hiatus, brewing is expected to return to Tamaqua with two brewpubs that are on their way to opening: Revere Brewing Co. and Stokers Brewing Co.

These local breweries provided beer for the exhibit: Revere Brewing, Tamaqua, Conyngham Brewing Co., Conyngham, Pilger Ruh of Pine Grove and Schuylkill Mountain Brewing Co. Schuylkill Haven.

Photographs of Coal Region Breweries exhibit.

Another One Bites the Dust in Scranton

A dozen years ago I created a list of known standing brewery buildings on my website. I’ve updated it regularly, and in the past few years have added links to stories and video of newly unearthed brewing cellars, or efforts to save abandoned brewery buildings. So when I received an email from Rob Galdieri saying they were tearing down what was left of the Standard brewery building in Scranton, I sadly removed it from the list.

PHOTO 21: February 6, 2018 (Galdieri)

PHOTO 22: February 8, 2018 (Galdieri)

PHOTO 23: February 11, 2018 (Galdieri)

On the bright side, Rob acted as my eyes and ears and supplied me with day by day photo updates of the demolition. Standard was one of the highlights of our Luzerne/Lackawanna Brewery Tour. There were two stories left of the remaining building which had been part of a larger complex. After years as an auto parts warehouse the building was being replaced by a parking lot. I still marvel at the way I got to see what was going on without leaving my keyboard. A big thanks to Rob for braving the elements to chronicle this sad chapter of brewery history.

The Standard Brewing Co. of Scranton

PHOTO 24: This undated view is from the same angle as Rob’s February 6 photo. (Galdieri)

PHOTO 25: 1920 Sanborn Map.

PHOTO 26: “Uncle Ernie” Oest, circa 1940s.

Standard was one of the many modern early twentieth century breweries formed as a stock corporation, rather than evolving from a single Bavarian immigrant who carved out his brewing empire delivering his beer in a wheel barrow. Modern plants had the advantages of new building methods and materials, improved machine efficiencies, electrical power and new tank designs.

The company was organized in 1904 with $100,000 in capital and plans to build a 40,000 barrel brewery. Bollinger Brothers of Pittsburgh was awarded the contract which included a 150-barrel brew house, 6,000 bbl. stock house with two 30-ton refrigerating machines and a 10-ton ice plant. Their beer was placed on the market July 1, 1905. By the end of the year Bollinger had completed additions doubling the capacity of the plant.

*PHOTO: 27: P.J. Cusick. (American Brewer December 1940) Did not appear in printed article.

In November 1909 Otto J. Robinson became president and biggest rival of his brother Charles Robinson, who owned the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Co. (ABJ Jan./Feb. 2012), based at the E. Robinson’s Sons brewery in Scranton. At the same time P.F. Cusick became secretary and treasurer.

Bollinger Bros. was awarded another contract in 1912 to increase capacity from 140,000 barrels to 250,000 barrels, including a 400-barrel brew house. It was at this time that a former apprentice at Standard, and now Siebel Institute graduate with years of experience at breweries in Chicago, Fred Fuchs, returned as brewmaster.

Two years later, claiming the company had spent $250,000 to produce a beer aged for nine months, Standard rolled out “Tru-Age” which earned a medal at the International Expo of Progress in Food and Hygiene in Paris. By 1916 the company commanded nearly a third of Lackawanna County’s beer market with sales approaching 150,000 barrels.

When the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association reorganized after repeal, P.J. Cusick was among the directors. He would go on to serve as president for twenty years. The association represented 80% of the brewers in a state that had more breweries and beer production than just about any other.

The April 5, 1933 Philadelphia Evening Bulletin contained details of Standard’s offering of 100 shares of stock on the New York Curb Exchange, bringing total shares to 400,000, of which Robinson and Cusick would own half. There was an appraisal of the property and an assessment by Schwartz Laboratories which stated that $50,000 in improvements would bring the plant’s capacity to 200,000 barrels a year with potential profit of $2.00 to $3.50 per barrel. And in the aftermath of prohibition, Standard rose to the occasion while the old Pennsylvania Central Brewing Company was cast into the ash bin of history.

Philadelphia brewery architect Clarence E. Wunder did the start-up projects for Standard after repeal. A postwar building program instituted in 1945 devoted $300,000 to boilers, tanks, equipment with an expansion to the bottling department. Around this time Robert M. Sherritt of the Sarjem Corp. of Chicago purchased Otto J. Robinson’s interest in the company.

Scranton seems to have been immune from the strikes that affected breweries in a number of cities in 1949. The announcement in May of an agreement between 150 brewery workers – 100 at Standard and 50 at Stegmaier’s Scranton branch – came as a month-long strike in Pittsburgh continued.

In 1950 a half million dollar plant improvement and expansion program was inaugurated including a new refrigeration system for the bottling department, modernizing the wash house, separating loading and unloading platforms, all newly outfitted with conveyors. All of which was to handle the increased business anticipated with sales of Tru-Age at record levels. But in January 1953 Cusick denied reports that Standard was going out of business saying he expected $2M to $6M increased profits as a result of the investment in modernization. A program financed by an influx of capital from New York interests according to one industry veteran. In June after half a century of stewardship to the company, from its very inception, Cusick declined re-nomination as chairman of the board of directors.

In January 1954 the company was reorganized with an emphasis on diversification and the name was changed to Standard Industries, Inc. Six months later the brewery was closed.

Here is a link to a Flickr Album with pics from the Tamaqua Historical Society's “Coal Region Breweries” exhibit.

*Standard’s Brands


Standard Tru-Age


Standard Export, Bock

Cardinal Beer

Old Stout

Atlas Porter

Crystal Hop Ale

Malt Vigor


Extra Special Elk Brew

Xmas Dark Beer



Cu-Ro Cereal Beverage




Post Prohibition

Standard Beer, Ale, Bock and Porter


Crystale, Easter Brew


Crystal Ale


Cardinal Beer


Casey’s Beer


Jackson Beer


Golden Brau Beer


*This table did not appear in the printed article

PHOTO 28: Trademark registration. (The Western Brewer October 1934)

PHOTO 29: Standard “Tru-Age” Chalk statue. (Watt Collection)

PHOTO 30: Cardinal Beer mug. (Cody Collection)

PHOTO 31: Standard Porter label. (Chylack Collection displayed at National Brewery Museum)

PHOTO 32: Tray. (Kogoy Collection)

* PHOTO 33: Tru-Age neon. (Kogoy Collection) Did not appear in printed article.

PHOTO 34: Tray. “Standard Scranton Beer.” (Hunsberger Collection)

PHOTO 35: Tray. “Cardinal Beer.” (Hunsberger Collection)