American Breweriana Journal May/June 2006
Brewing in the Iron City
By Rich Wagner
In the November/December 2004 issue of American Breweriana Journal I did a story entitled "Pennsylvania Brewery Preservation - Success Stories" in which I covered my fascination with and dogged determination to visit, photograph, document and research Pennsylvania breweries regardless of what shape they were in. With the ABA Convention being held in Pittsburgh this summer I'd like to elaborate on my quest, particularly as it applies to Western Pennsylvania.
To recap, let's just say that in the summer of 1980, Rich Dochter and I spent a week touring the Keystone State with our girlfriends in a 1950 Buick in search of hospitality! Between brewery tours and campsites, we took in the local color, talking with old-timers who were all saying the same thing: "just about every town around here had a brewery...." They'd direct us to the nearest standing relic and we'd poke around and photograph what remained of Pennsylvania's brewing legacy.
After returning home, I started talking with people about all the Pennsylvania breweries we visited, and about how many more we discovered that were no longer in business. This led me to breweriana collectors. One of the first of which was Larry Handy who is probably the one that told me about Friedrich and Bull's The Register of United States Breweries 1876-1976. I sent away for it and was dumbfounded to see how many Pennsylvania towns not only had a brewery but had several, and that wasn't even counting Philadelphia and Pittsburgh! Using a Pennsylvania roadmap, I underlined every town listed in the book. As it turned out there of the 235 towns listed, about seventy weren't even listed on the map! Looking for breweries in all these places would be quite a challenge and little did I know that a life-long quest was brewing!
By October of 1981 my girlfriend had become my wife and we decided to go out to Pittsburgh for a BCCA/ECBA trade show and continue searching for old breweries. Using the road map, we stopped in Rockwood where the brewery building was a Kosher Chicken factory and Uniontown where the Fayette Brewing Co. building housed a tire warehouse. We found rubble in Masontown, nothing in Republic and we left Washington, Pennsylvania with more questions than answers.
The show was being held at the Ober Haus, the hospitality room at the Iron City brewery. There we met Bob Gottschalk who was working with Friedrich and Bull on a revision to their book. Bud Hundenski was the convention coordinator and he introduced me to Len Rosol another avid local collector who knew the area like the back of his hand. I started scribbling in my notebook as the two of them began telling me what they knew: "Aliquippa's, long gone, Braddock is still standing, Homestead's gone, Tube City in McKeesport is still standing, there's one in McKee's Rock, I think the one in Carnegie's still there, Schmelz's brewery is on Steuben St. in the West End, you can see the big clock on the side of the Duquesne brewery on the South Side, Keystone is long gone, the old E & 0 brewery still stands on the North Side, Baeuerlein is in Millvale, Fort Pitt is still standing in Sharpsburg, there's one in Mt.
Oliver, they tore down the old Victor Brewery in Jeannette years ago, the breweries in Butler and Finleyville may still be there, Rosco is long gone, Elco is gone . . . " the list went on and on. I felt like a miner who had just hit the mother lode!
After the show we drove in and around Pittsburgh and found many of the breweries Bud and Len had told us about. We continued searching on our way home, driving through Ruffs Dale, Tarr, Boswell, and Connellsville, finding a few more breweries to photograph. In the ensuing years, Rich Dochter and I would spend a week of summer vacation traveling around the state looking for more breweries, going to libraries, historical societies and talking to people. We amassed quite a bit of information as we visited literally hundreds of brewery sites throughout the state.
In 1985 we published an article in Zymurgy (American Homebrewers' Association) entitled "The Brewing History of Pittsburgh-A Microcosm of the U.S. Brewing Industry." Rich Dochter's idea was to tell the history of Pittsburgh's breweries through a virtual tour of those left standing. That concept led to our first actual bus tour in 1987 of the breweries in Philadelphia. In May of 1990 Pittsburgh's Landmarks Foundation sponsored our first Pittsburgh Brewery Tour. A year later the Eastern Coast Breweriana Association made the tour part of their convention and subsequently the Society of Industrial Archeologists and the National Association of Brewery Advertising each hosted our tour.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the many breweries in Western Pennsylvania was the fact that around the turn of the century they coalesced into two competing "combines." At about the same time there were a total of fifty eight breweries involved in mergers across Pennsylvania: the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Co. (12) based in Scranton; the Consumers Brewing Co. (6) in Philadelphia and consumers Brewing Co. (4) in Erie. But the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. (21) and the Independent Brewing Co. of Pittsburgh (15) were the largest.
In general. the Pittsburgh Brewing Company branches were located primarily within Pittsburgh, while those of the Independent Brewing Company of Pittsburgh, were in towns surrounding the city. These mergers mirrored nationwide trends, especially the subsequent closing of smaller and more inefficient branches. Prohibition altered the landscape of the industry considerably and only five branches of IBC and three of the PBC came back to life after repeal.
These two companies along with Fort Pitt in Sharpsburg, which prior to World War II, acquired the Victor Brewing Co. in Jeanette, emerged as the " big three" of the region.
In the March/April issue of American Breweriana Journal Bob Kay contributed an article on the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. He illustrated the article with photographs of nearly a dozen branches from "Uncle Ernie" Oest’s scrapbook taken in the 1950s along with labels from Bob's extensive collection.
Branches of the Pittsburgh Brewing Company
PA 670 Amber Brewery, F.L. Ober & Bro.
The Amber Brewery in Allegheny City, now Pittsburgh's North Side, started out making 500 barrels in a two-story frame brewery on Vinial Street which was replaced in 1870 with a four-story brick building. The brewery had vaults carved into the side of Troy Hill. They reported making over 6,000 barrels in 1879 the same year the brewery burned down. 1n 1881 the brewery was rebuilt and St. Louis brewery architect E. Jungenfeld was contracted to rebuild and enlarge the malt kilns. A bottling plant was added in 1889 and in 1894 the brewery was remodeled making it possible to produce 25,000 barrels per year.
Caption: F. L. Ober & Brother, Amber Brewery. (Western Brewer January, 1891)
PA 640 Baeuerlein's Star Brewery
Adam Baeuerlein came to America from Germany and worked in various breweries in Western Pennsylvania. In 1845 he started his own brewery on Penn Ave. between O'Hara and Walnut Sts. in Pittsburgh and brewed about two barrels a day which he delivered himself. The following year he made 500 barrels. He moved to 12th Street and Liberty Ave. for a short time before moving to Bennett's Station in Millvale, a suburb of Allegheny City where he founded the Star Brewery. In 1870 the brewery produced around 6,000 barrels of beer which was distributed primarily in Allegheny and Butler Counties.
Fred Klussman also came from Germany and got a job with Mr. Baeuerlein to learn the brewing trade. He went to Cincinnati and worked in the Moerlein (OH 76) and Lafayette (OH 47). Mr. Baeuerlein's two sons, Christian and Adam A. joined the firm in 1867 and the following year Mr. Baeuerlein retired and Mr. Klussman returned and became president of the newly formed Baeuerlein Brothers & Co. with Adam A. as vice president and Christian as treasurer.
By 1880 the brewery consisted of a large four-story frame building with a three-story
stone structure behind it and a five-story, 25,00-bushel malt house. There were vaults and two 1,200-ton ice houses on site with two more 1,500-ton ice houses nearby. Water was supplied by five artesian wells. The company did an extensive business in bottled beer and their rail connection was described as being "unsurpassed."
In 1892 Chicago brewery architects Wolf & Lehe provided plans for a new brew house with a 150-barrel kettle. Seven years later a bottling house was added to package their Wiener, Lager and Golden Crown beers. At the time of the merger with PBC Baeuerlein was producing 35,000 barrels per year.
Caption: Baeuerlein's Star Brewery. (Industries of Pittsburgh Statistical & Trade Review, 1879-80)
PA 110 Connellsville Brewing Co.
The Connellsville Brewing Co., was formed in 1892 and built with plans provided by Chicago brewery architect August Maritzen. In November a Western Brewer article featured the new 25,000-barrel plant which was equipped with a 100-barrel copper steam kettle and a malt bin in the tower which could hold three car loads of malt. The stock house was outfitted with steel tanks. The refrigerator building behind the brew house was designed for enlargement and the boiler house was equipped with two 50-horsepower boilers.
After it acquired the Connellsville plant the PBC contracted with Philadelphia brewery architect and engineer Otto C. Wolf to enlarge and overhaul the plant He added new ice machines, a boiler house and made changes to the wash house and racking room. In 1911 the brewery sold just over 17,000 barrels.
Caption: View of Connellsville B.C. (Western Brewer November 1892)
PA 649 Eberhardt & Ober, Eagle Brewery
1n 1852 Conrad Eberhardt opened the "Eagle" brewery at the comer of Vinial street and Troy Hill Rd. in Allegheny City where he made extra pale light beer and lager beer on a small scale. He was said to be the third person in the county to brew lager beer, and the first to introduce steam power into a brewery. 1n 1870 his son William C. Eberhardt, in partnership with John P. Ober created the Eberhardt & Ober Brewing Co. The Western Brewer reported in 1877 that the brewery had a saloon connected with it and had produced just under 13,000 barrels of beer. At that time the complex included a two-story frame structure with a four-story 20,000-bushel Malt house, a two story brick brewery powered by 20 and 15-horsepower engines and a boiler house powered by two large boilers. There were three large vaults dug into the side of the hill capable of holding 5,000 barrels and a new $20,000 iron, stone and brick ice house capable of holding 2,000 tons of ice with a 4,000-barrel cellar beneath it. E & 0 had ponds and a 7,000-ton ice house along Pine Creek in the country with a large steam elevator capable of lifting.800 tons of ice per day. The new ice house increased capacity to 40,000 barrels per year. The brewery employed fifteen hands with a $175 per week payroll.
In 1883 the firm purchased the John N. Straub & Co. for $250,000 and became known as the Eberhardt & Ober Brewing and Malting Co. Straub's brewery became their malting facility capable of processing 175,000 bushels per year. The company ordered a 275-barrel copper steam fired kettle and new mash tun. William Eberhardt sold his interest in the company and retired in 1890 and the company reorganized and elected John P. Ober, president; Theo. F. Straub, vice president and manager; John G. Walther, secretary; Edward H. Straub, treasurer and Frank Hahne, superintendent.
Philadelphia brewery architect and engineer Otto C. Wolf completed several extensive additions including a 25,000-bushel grain storage house bringing the malting capacity to 100,000 bushels. The brewery had a 320-barrel kettle with a 60-horsepower engine supplying power. Cooling was accomplished with one 100-ton De La Vergne and one 60-ton Pictet refrigerating machine.
After merging with Pittsburgh Brewing Co., the Eberhardt & Ober branch was one of the largest and continued to be upgraded and modernized. In 1908 a large pasteurizer and automatic crate soaker were added enabling them to bottle 200 barrels per day. Three years prior to prohibition the company built a threestory brick and steel stock house at a cost of
In May 1933 the Western Brewer reported that PBC President Fred C. Klussman announced that the plant would be put back in operation and have a capacity of 200,000 barrels a year. The brewery became famous for its Dutch Club brand.
PA 658 Hippely & Hopf, Enterprise Brewery
This is one of Pittsburgh's older breweries which was started by Philip Gast (or Gerst) in 1859 in a small frame building where he produced about 1,000 barrels of beer. In 1870 the brewery produced 2,700 barrels. John M. Mueller acquired the brewery and produced over 3,500 barrels there in 1877. In 1883 Hopf, Roth & Co. named it the Enterprise brewery and a year later after Hippely & Hopf became the owners and built a new brewery. In 1887 the brewery burned down and was replaced with one made of brick and stone.
In 1895 the brewery produced over 14,000 barrels. The Pittsburgh Leader extolled the business acumen of this small brewer employing state of the art technological innovations in order to compete with nineteen other, many larger Pittsburgh breweries. Describing the Pfaudler patented vacuum process which the paper said: "allows the brewer to have absolute control of fermentation because no impure air can reach the beer. The tanks are made of steel and enameled with glass, so the insides are made as clean as a glass bottle. We learn that Anton Schwarz of New York, Wahl & Heinus of Chicago, and Dr. Francis Wyatt, after careful study, are convinced that the vacuum process is a great and valuable study. It is stated that by the process an expert can age beer in about a month much better than in nine weeks by other processes. Massive cold storage structures necessary for the old process are dispensed with resulting in a reduction in costs."
Caption: Cut from Pittsburgh Dispatch April 5, 1893 showing the great fire of the E & O elevator which was part of John Straub’s plant on Canal street. (Ober Collection)
Caption: Hippeley & Son, Enterprise Brewery (Western Brewer January, 1891)
PA 659 Hauch's Brewery
As a young man in Germany, Ernst Hauch apprenticed as a cooper and brewer. At the age of twenty-eight he came to Pittsburgh and established a brewery on the South Side. In 1860 he produced around 1,000 barrels and by 1880 was making just under 1,500 barrels He retired and passed the business on to his sons,. George P. and Otto P. Hauch in 1889. By this time the brewer y was producing around 2,000 barrels of lager, ale and porter. His sons built a new brew house and made other additions and enlargements to the plant in 1890. Four years later they added bottling house and reached a new sales record of 8,900 barrels.
When the two sons took over the company, they hired Henry Grotefend, a third generation brewmaster who worked for with his father for two years, then a year and a half with Eberhardt & Ober Brewing Co. He went to the Brewers' Academy then accepted a job with the Winter Bros., then Iron City Brewing Co. where he worked before joining the Hauch brothers.
When PBC purchased the brewery for $100,000 in 1899, Henry Grotefend became superintendent of the Standard Brewing Co. in New Castle, PA., and was replaced by Simon Gaser. This was one of the first small breweries to be closed by PBC in 1904.
Caption: Older portions of the Hauch Brewery, additions and enlargements are inside the complex and not visible in this view. (Western Brewer January, 1891)
PA 654 Frauenheim & Vilsack, Iron City Brewing Co.
Edward Frauenheim left Germany and came to America in 1842 at the age of 22. He got into the grocery business with August Hoevler on Fifth Ave. In 1861 Frauenheim & Hoevler started a brewery on 17th St. and produced around 3,000 bbl. of beer. Five years later they moved to 34th & Liberty Ave. where they built a large four-story brewery and began producing lager beer on a large scale. A noted historian of the day described their new plant as a model brewery worth a quarter of a million dollars covering two acres of buildings and yards where "chemical knowledge, mechanical skill and business ability are necessarily concentrated (where) the employment of a great amount of capital, much delicate work, and the consumption of much time between the raw material and the foaming beer."
In 1869 the firm became known as Frauenheim, Miller & Co. until John Miller retired in 1874 when Mr. Leopold Vilsack who had learned the brewers trade as a youth at Bennett's (PA 692) brewery became a partner and applied his knowledge of brewing and malting in supervising the plant. Mr. Frauenheim's son
A. Frauenheim was also involved in the brewery. In 1877 Spencer & McKay's Phoenix Steam Brewery was Pittsburgh's largest brewery producing 20,000 barrels and Frauenheim & Vilsack weren't far behind with just under 15,000 barrels. But the following year, Phoenix was only ahead by a few hundred barrels and in 1879 Frauenheim & Vilsack outsold it's largest competitor by over 4,500 barrels They were said to have an average of 10,000 barrels of stock on hand valued with raw materials, etc., at $150,000.
stock house contained 500 casks ranging m size from 45 to 500 barrels and measuring up to 60 feet in circumference the largest being twenty feet high. In addition, the brewery had about 10,000 kegs in constant use. The company employed twenty-five to thirty hands with a monthly payroll of $1,300 and distributed its product through Western Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia.
In 1882 the Western Brewer featured an illustrated article on the brewery of Messrs. Frauenheim & Vilsack describing the plant's capacity as 75,000 barrels, with an average stock on hand of 30,000 barrels valued with raw materials, etc. at $350,000. There were fifty to sixty hands employed with a monthly payroll of $3,300. In 1885 the brewery purchased a 75-ton double acting Pictet refrigerating machine. The following year they installed a 400-barrel kettle.
In what appears to be the forerunner of the PBC, the Western Brewer reported that, "The Brewer's Co. of Pittsburgh was granted a charter September 23, 1890 with a capital stock of $10,000. The leading brewing firms of Pittsburgh and Allegheny have formed a combination. It is to be known as the Brewers' Co., and has been chartered composed of Eberhardt & Ober, Frauenheim & Vilsack, Keystone, Straub, and Baeuerlein. It was around this time that the F&V changed its name to Iron City in honor of the popularity of its brand and the brewery's capacity rated at 200,000 barrels."
Mr. Frauenheim died in June, 1891. In addition to being the head of Iron City Brewing Co., he was president of the Keystone Pump Works (Epping, Carpenter& Co.) which supplied virtually all the breweries in Allegheny County, president of Pittsburgh Commercial Co. and director of the German National Bank
The brewery added a 65-ton De La Vergne refrigerating machine the following year and in 1894 a bottling department was added with plans from Chicago brewery architect Charles Kaestner, capable of 100 barrels per day.
Iron City had become Allegheny County's largest brewer and in the last decade of the nineteenth century, Philadelphia brewery architect and engineer Otto C. Wolf completed no fewer than seven
projects there. These included: remodeling and construction of a 75,000 barrel stock house, a new 20,000 barrel stock house in 1890, a 30,000 stock house in 1895, extensive improvements to the elevator building, mill house and stock house in 1896, and addition to the refrigeration house, stock house and mill in 1897, and a complete power plant in 1899, smokestack in 1900 and a new 100,000 barrel stock house in 1901.
In 1899 Iron City was one of twelve local breweries which transferred their licenses to the " trust" Pittsburgh Brewing Co. (PBC). In February the Pittsburgh Dispatch reported, "Allegheny County brewers have finally completed their consolidation. Nearly all the big concerns are in it and it is possible that prices will advance some. From now on you drink a health to trusts every time you take a draught of beer..." Nine more "out-of-Pittsburgh" breweries were also a part of the "combine" making the PBC the largest brewery in Pennsylvania and the third largest in the nation with a value of $11,000,000 and a capacity to produce 1,000,000 barrels of beer per year.
Mr. Vilsack died at the age of 70 in December, 1907.
In February 1908 the Western Brewer did an extensive illustrated article on the Iron City Brewery's bottling facility which three years earlier had operated day and night to bottle 138 barrels of beer. The company purchased ground and built a $200,000 addition to the plant and with the installation in 1906 of improved machinery including a new pasteurizer, crate soaker, bottler, power crowner and labeling machines the t was packaging 320 barrels in half the time.
In 1907 the old equipment was taken out and more equipment was added bringing production up to 628 barrels per day. Later that year additional equipment was added enabling them to bottle 800 per day. Mr. Vilsack's sons E.J. was general superintendent and A.J. was bottling superintendent. Seeing the importance of this aspect of the business PBC continually upgraded and improved its bottling facilities at the Iron City branch.
The peak of production was reached in 1910 with just under 800,000 barrels This was followed by decreasing sales due to the economy. It was at this time that advertising was beginning to become more important and the Western Brewer did a complete series on the subject which included an article it published in 1915 devoted partly to an advertising campaign done by the Iron City Brewing Co. that included eighteen weekly installments in all the Pittsburgh dailies showing each step in the brewing process to advertise the brewery's Tech Beer brand. In 1917 PBC purchased several hundred glasslined steel Pfaudler tanks for its various branches
Caption: Frauenheim & Vil ack, (Western Brewer, November, 1882)
PA 226 National Brewery, Jeannette, PA
Very little is known about this brewery compared to Jeannette's more famous Victor Brewing Co. Carl Huber represented the National Brewery at the Brewmaster's convention in 1900. In 1907 PBC spent $75,000 on improvements to increase capacity from 18,000 to 42,000 barrels per year including a brewery, storage house with forty-eight new 150-barrel storage tanks and ice plant.
Caption: National Brewery, Jeannette , PA. (Mark Young Collection)
PA 667 Keystone Brewing Co.
William G. Ruske came to Cincinnati from Germany in 1868 at the age of twenty-five and moved to Pittsburgh the following year. He was one of the first officials of the German Savings and Deposit Bank and later became secretary of the Birmingham Fire Insurance Co. In 1885 he was involved in the organization of the Keystone Brewing Co. on Pittsburgh's South Side and became its first president and later plant superintendent.
In July, 1886 the Westem Brewer reported on the new Keystone referring to it as a Model Lager Beer Brewery. It was designed by Chicago brewery architect Wilhelm Griesser as an 85,000-barrel brewery which could be expanded into a 200,000-barrel facility. The brew house had a 250-barrel kettle and the plant was refrigerated with two 25-ton Linde machines. Three natural gas-fired 75-horsepower boilers provided steam.
However, the November issue reported that the front of the building collapsed and $20,000 of beer in the process of curing was lost which postponed Keystone's entry into the market. The brewery produced 38,000 barrels the first year and added a bottling plant two years later. By 1895 production was 60,000 barrels.
A newspaper proclaimed Mr. Ruske a financial wizard and reported: "It is such men as he that have helped make Pittsburgh a great brewing center" (with a plant containing) "every invention known to man." In 1899 Keystone became part of PBC and Mr. Ruske became the secretary of that company, and was president for three years until his death at age 72 in 1915. PBC closed the Keystone plant in September, 1918.
Caption: Eberhardt & Ober, Eagle Brewery, PA, office, brew house, refrigerating machine and boiler houses on the left of the driveway leading under the tower. Racking rooms, storage, stock house, cellars, etc., on the right. (Western Brewer January, 1891)
PA 267 Latrobe Brewing Co.
The Latrobe Brewing Co. was organized in 1893 by Adam Stemmler, Joseph Baumgartner and Martin Cesare. It was outfitted with five 85-barrel Pfaudler vacuum tanks and was refrigerated with a 20-ton ice machine. Two years later, Mr. Stemmler sold his interest in the company to Joseph Baumgartner. In 1898 Chicago brewery architect Wilhelm Griesser provided plans for additions and alterations including a new office building, brew house, racking room and wash house, stock house, new machine house, and boiler house with brick smoke stack at a cost of $75,000 including the construction by a local firm. The following year, the brewery, as sold to the PBC and the principal owners invested in the Sioux City Brewing Co. (IA 216).
In Janua1y 1933 the Western Brewer reported that Scottdale businessman Robert Zaffey purchased the brewery and was getting it ready to go into production. Valentine Foltz was hired as his brewmaster. This brewery became famous for its Rolling Rock brand and is presently owned by InBev USA.
Caption: Latrobe B.C. (Western Brewer June 1898)
PA 669 Philip Lauer Brewery
According to some accounts, Lauer started brewing on Pittsburgh's South Side as early as 1848 and did not move to 18th Street until his sons took over. What is certain is that Philip Lauer is given credit for producing "swankey" beer, which was similar in every respect to old German 'common' beer. It is sometimes described as a temperance drink (2.75%) flavored with anise. He also produced lager and ale. Starting with a production of 100 barrels he was selling 3,500 barrels by 1888. After his death in 1886 his three sons, Philip, George and Fred took over. They completely remodeled the plant, moved the operation to 18th Street, and earned the brewery a reputation for cleanliness and modernity. The Lauer's celebrated their jubilee in 1898, one year before selling to PBC
PA 305 McKeesport Brewing Co.
McKeesport Brewing Co. was organized with capital of $150,000 in 1895. The company remodeled the Altemyer opera house building for their brewery. In June, 1897 the Western Brewer featured a view of the plans provided by Chicago brewery architect Wilhelm Griesser for the 50,000-barrel plant which was put up at an expense of $120,000. The brewery was powered with two 50-horsepower boilers and cooled with a 50-ton ice machine. The brewery held grand opening to the public on February 15, 1898. It was sold to the PBC the following year.
Unfortunately, in 1901 the brewery was destroyed by an explosion in the cooker which killed two men and injured two more. Joseph Gauggel represented the brewery at the Brewmaster's Convention in 1909. In 1911 production was in excess of 45,000 barrels The PBC made improvements ran the plant until prohibition.
Caption: McKeesport Brewing Co. On the right brew house adjoining which is the stock house, next to this is the boiler house, behind which is the wash house and racking room. On the right comer is the ice plant; stable, office and bottling department are located in the rear. (Western Brewer June 1897)
PA 336 Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co.
In 1893 the Mount Pleasant Brewing Co. was organized with a capital stock of $180,000 raised by local capitalists. After being sold to the PBC, annual production was around 10,000 barrels of lager beer. Frank J. Koehle was brewmaster. In 1911 tl1e brewery remodeled its refrigeration plant.
PA 674 John Nusser's National Brewery
John Nusser started out as a cooper before opening a saloon on Denman St. (later 12th St.), on Pittsburgh’s South Side. He had trouble getting enough beer so in February 1852, he built a onestory shed, installed a two-barrel kettle and started brewing lager beer. Being a cooper by trade he was able to make most of his own equipment. Nusser's beer became popular and the brewery became known as the National Brewery. Nusser had his barley malted at Hogel's Malt House over on 18th Street. John Nusser was president of the Pittsburgh Brewmaster's Association.
In his early teens his son, John Henry went to the Western University of Pennsylvania (now University of Pittsburgh) and then the Iron City Business School. At sixteen he went to work as a bookkeeper in the Birmingham bottling house on S. 23rd St. for nine years. His father wanted him to become a brewmaster and sent young John off to Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Cleveland to receive a thorough apprenticeship in the brewing trade. He returned at age 25 and worked in the brewery. The Nusser home was built on a hill near the brewery and they had an ice pond over Twenty-second Street with an adjoining ice house where the young Nusser could be found as early as 2 A.M. cutting ice for the brewery.
Of course, the brewery had vaults dug into the side of the hill, one for the summer's lager beer the other for shorter term storage of "schenk bier," a lighter variety that did not require as much aging.
John Sr. retired in 1883, turning the brewery over to his son and opened up a beer garden at the head of 12th St. next to the incline where he sold beer for a nickel a glass. John Henry erected a modern brewery in 1891 and installed two 20-ton ice machines to provide refrigeration. The new plant could turn out around 80 barrels of beer per day. In 1895 the National Brewery produced 10,000 barrels. Nearly all of Nusser's extra pale and light and dark lager beer was distributed on the South Side and sold for $8.00 per barrel. A cooper next door produced and maintained the brewery's kegs and a nearby glass factory manufactured bottles.
John Henry Nusser was quoted in the October 26, 1895 Pittsburgh Record as saying "I consider lager beer the hope of the world . . . there must be, by reason of the great popularity of beer, a systematic diminution and the ultimate abolition of taxes upon wholesale beverages." He was a director of the Allegheny County Brewers' Association. He sold to the PBC in 1899 and the following year the Pennsylvania Railroad Company purchased the property and razed the buildings to make room for more tracks.
Caption: John Nusser’s National Brewery. (Western Brewer January 1891)
PA 692 Phoenix Brewing Co.
In 1843 Adam Wood started a small ale and porter brewery on Second Ave. and Brewery Street called “Wood's Steam Brewery" and produced around 3,000 barrels per year. In 1845 the brewery burnt down and he moved to 17th and Liberty Sts. and operated under the same name with a production of around 6,000 barrels. In 1857 he moved to 24th and Smallman Sts. and started producing 8,000 barrels per year.
The firm became Spencer & Garrard in 1859 then Spencer & McKay in 1862. In June of 1865 the brewery burned down but was immediately rebuilt and the company was back in business by October. The plant covered two and a half acres of ground. A large boiler provided steam and machinery was powered by three engines which provided over 60-horsepower. They did eight brewings per week totaling 1,400 barrels. In the fermenting cellar eight 375-barrel fermenting tub were attemperated with well water. From there beer was racked into casks and stored in the Fresh Ale Vault which had a capacity to hold 6,000 barrels. Thirty feet below ground Stock Ale Vault Number One had a capacity of 5,000 barrels. Below this was Stock Ale Vault Number Two which could store 2,150 barrels. The value of their stock, on average was 200,000.
Seventy men were employed at the brewery with a weekly payroll of $842. There were twelve coopers producing three dozen barrels each day. The stave yard contained half a million white oak staves worth $20,000 that seasoned for two years before being turned into casks.
The brewery had thirty-six draft horses and four “mammoth mules." It was reported in the spring of 1871, that in a single day, from 7 A.M. to 9 P.M. the firm shipped 1,400 barrels of ale from their brewery to the foot of Wood street, a distance of over two miles.
In 1877 the "Phoenix Steam Brewery" was the city’s largest with just under 20,000 barrels in sales and one of its partners, Robert Liddell, was mayor-elect. That December the Western Brewer described something the brewery had recently installed: (the) “apparatus is exceedingly simple and
manageable, . . . not unlike that of a grain elevator, the arms for receiving the barrels being attached to an endless belt, which can be carried to any part of the brewery. Barrels can also be lowered in the same manner. The expense of the machine is moderate, and it will pay for itself in a short time by reducing the cost of labor. Wagons can be loaded with barrels brought direct from the cellars without the aid of more than one man to place them.” In May of 1879, after making extensive alterations to the plant, they placed “Phoenix” lager beer on the market.
William Tann, a well-known bottler in Pittsburgh purchased the brewery in 1890 incorporating with a capital stock of $300,000. He hired Chicago brewery architect Wilhelm Griesser to construct a six-story 100,000-barrel plant outfitted with the Pfaudler vacuum fermentation system and refrigerated with a 50-ton ice machine. By 1896 the brewery was producing 80,000 barrels. A newspaper of the day reported that, "A more daring and resolute enterprise than this was never established in the U.S. There is no plant for which success is more desired. Its capital has been risked at a period which must have brought certain ruin, had not every operation of the company been governed by common sense. The competition at the same time has been tremendous." Their Distribution region included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio. In 1899 the brewery became a branch of the PBC.
Caption: Phoenix Steam Brewery. (Western Brewer January 1891)
PA 752 Scottdale Brewing Co.
This is another obscure and short-lived branch of the PBC about which little is known. In 1897 the Scottdale Brewing Co. spent $30,000 on improvements. Two years later after being acquired by the PBC an ammonia tank used for making ice exploded and destroyed a five-story structure valued at $100,000. PBC shut down the brewery and moved its operation to Connellsville where they built a new brew house.
PA 684 John N. Straub & Co., Allegheny City: PA 685 Straub Brewing Co., Pittsburgh
John N. Straub was born in Germany. He apprenticed as a cooper and brewer as a young man and came to the United States at the age of twenty. He settled in Pittsburgh and in 1831 he set up a small one-barrel brewery (PA 684) on Third Street. The following year he outfitted himself with a ten-barrel system. Most of his sales were from a bar right in the brew house but he also delivered kegs of beer using a wheel barrow. However, at times his beer would spoil for lack of customers and he made more money selling yeast than beer.
In 1840 he moved to Allegheny City on the North Side and built a 20-barrel brewery. He is credited with brewing the region's first lager beer in the winter of 1849 after having yeast shipped by canal boat. The following year, he was able to store about 300 barrels. In 1854 he sold around 1,800 barrels.
Two miles from the brewery he blasted caves or felsenkellers into the hills where the beer he brewed during the winter could be stored until summer. His beer developed a reputation as far away as Detroit and Cleveland but the brewery burned down in 1858. It was uninsured and Mr. Straub was out of business for an entire year while he rebuilt. Five years later he sold the brewery. In 1867 went back into business with his son Theodore F. and ran a malt house and ale brewery under the name Gilmore, Straub & Co.
Three years later Mr. Gilmore sold his interests and Mr. Straub and his son began brewing lager beer.
In 1883 the Straubs merged Eberhardt & Ober to form the Eberhardt & Ober Brewing and Malting Company, capitalized with $250,000. Mr. Straub became vice president. A new modem brewery was built at the E & 0 location and the Straub site was operated as a malt house. In 1887 a meeting of brewers from Pennsylvania met in Harrisburg to form an organization to protect their interests and Theodore Straub was acting chairman and was elected their first president.
The Straubs purchased Gangwisch's Union Brewery (PA 685) at Main and Liberty in Pittsburgh and Theodore F. Straub conducted the business. Two years later his brother, Herman took over. There were a few changes in partnerships but in 1885 Herman went into business with Mr. Joseph Geyer, who became vice president and manager of Herman Straub & Co. Mr. Geyer had worked in breweries in New York and Cincinnati for nine years then came to Pittsburgh where he was foreman at the Phoenix brewery for five years.
In 1890 the company was incorporated as the Straub Brewing Co. and Philadelphia brewery architect and engineer Otto C. Wolf was contracted to build a complete and modern 100,000-barrel brewery designed for the production of lager beer, ale and porter.
Refrigeration was provided by a 50-ton De La Vergne plant. The company became part of the PBC in 1899 and Mr. Straub became a director and general superintendent of all of the PBC branches until his death in 1918. The elder Straub had two other sons, John H. who was involved with the family's business and retired in 1899 and August W. Straub who moved to St. Louis in 1873 and became a member of the Julius Winkelmeyer & Co. (MO 179) brewery. During prohibition the Straub brewery became PBC's Tech Food Products division where they manufactured ice cream.
PA 819 Uniontown Brewing Co.
In 1897 Chicago architect Charles Kaestner was commissioned to build a new 25,000-barrel brewery in Uniontown. The brewery was made of brick and stone. Designed for 75-barrel brewings, it was completely fireproof and outfitted with the most modern appliances. The boiler house was powered with two 85-horsepower tubular boilers and refrigeration was produced with two double acting 20-ton ice machines. The four-story stock house held fifteen settling tanks on the top floor with a corresponding number of attemperated fermenting tubs on the floor below with stock tubs and chip casks on the floors below. F.A. Kuepper, who had been with P. Schoenhofen B.C. (IL 99) in Chicago for seven years became brewmaster.
The company became part of the PBC in 1899 and in 1901 Philadelphia brewery architect and engineer Otto C. Wolf was hired for additions including a new ice plant, equipped with a 75-ton Vilter refrigerating machine and new boiler and stock houses. Production in 1912 exceeded 27,000 barrels Uniontown was one of three PBC breweries to reopen after prohibition
Caption: Uniontown Brewing Co. (Western Brewer December 1897)
PA 686 Wainwright Brewing Co.
The first large scale brewery in Pittsburgh was built in 1818 by Joseph Wainwright. He was a manufacturer from Yorkshire who had already established the woolen, grist and oil mills known as Winterton Mills. He began brewing English table beer and, shortly after, good English ale producing around 100 barrels the first year.
In 1852 he retired from the brewing branch of his interests and his sons, Jarvis and Zachariah took over. Jarvis soon left and became associated with a brewery in Zanesville, Ohio and Zachariah continued the business along with his three nephews S.J., J.Z. and H.E. Wainwright.
In 1866 the company purchased over an acre of land for a malting operation at 361h & Charlotta Sts. and in 1873 moved the brewery there. In 1878 Zachariah retired and placed his three nephews in charge. The following year lager beer was added.
In 1881 a 125,000-bushel malt house was constructed. A new brew house with a 300-barrel kettle and powered by an 85-horsepower engine was added in 1885. A bottling department was added in 1888. The Wainwright brands included Standard, Cabinet, Export as well as ale and porter. They distributed within a fifty-mile radius of Pittsburgh. In 1890 a refrigerated stock house was built at a cost of $175,000. The engine room was reported to be the most modern in the country.
By the early 1900s fourth and fifth generations were active in the management of this brewery which had a capacity to produce around 100,000 barrels per year. The final name, Wainwright Brewing Co.. was taken on August 13, 1891 when the family incorporated with a capital of about $600,000. Prior to becoming a branch of the PBC, production stood around 70,000 barrels. The PBC added a new brew house in 1907.
Caption: Wainwright Brewing Co. (Western Brewer, January 1891)
PA 690 WilheJm’s Washington Brewery
Herny L. Wilhelm left Prussia and came to California in 1851 where he Stayed for five years before coming to Pittsburgh 10 follow his trade as a cooper. In 1865 he started a small brewery and saloon at the head of Twenty-sixth street in Birmingham on the south side. In 1872 John Seiferth came to Pittsburgh from Germany and went to work for Wilhelm. Wilhelm's beer became so popular that he had to expand the brewery in order to supply the demand. When Mr. Wilhelm died the brewery was conducted by his widow, Mrs. Caroline Wilhelm with her son-in-law Peter W. Laschied as superintendent.
In 1888 John Seiferth, in partnership with George Edel, established the Union Brewing Co., in Canton Ohio (OH 32). They returned to Pittsburgh the following year and leased Wilhelm’s brewery forming the Washington Brewing Co. They made many additions to the plant and in their best year, produced 12,000 barrels before selling to PBC which closed the brewery the same year.
Caption: Washington Brewery (Western Brewer January 1891)
PA 676 Winter Bros. Brewery
In 1873 Michael, Wolfgang and Alois Winter came to America from Bavaria and worked in Pittsburgh breweries for three years before moving to Chicago. Michael worked in Conrad Seipp's (IL 45) brewery there. In 1883 the brothers returned to Pittsburgh, purchased the old brewery of John Reichenbach on the South Side and started out producing around 3,000 barrels.
In 1887 Chicago brewery architect Wilhelm Griesser was commissioned to built a 15,000 barrel brewery. It had a 100-barrel kettle, a 25-ton Wilson-Snyder refrigerating machine and two 40- horsepower steam boilers. The plant was designed for additions to tl1e boiler house and cellars, to easily increase capacity to 60,000 barrels.
In 1889 they had ordered a 35-ton De La Verne and two years later added a 65-ton machine which brought production to 45,000 barrels. In 1895 Chicago architects Beyer & Rautert added a four-story stock house to the brewery.
Their slogan was "At mealtime, and at any time, Drink Winter." The Winter Bros. Brewing Co. was the third largest in Allegheny County. According to family records they sold the brewery to PBC for $4.5 M. Alois Winter continued as plant manager and member of PBC's board of directors.
Prior to selling to PBC the Winter Brotl1ers toyed with the idea of starting brewery in Dubois, Pennsylvania and in Des Moines, Iowa. Their plans materialized in 1901 when Michael and Wolfgang awarded contracts for a new 40,000-barrel brewery in Orange, New Jersey, with Chicago brewery architect Oscar Beyer. The Orange Brewing Co. (NJ 119) would be re-organized as Trommer's after repeal and go on to become a branch of Brooklyn's Liebmann breweries, brewers of Rheingold Beer.
John Beisinger became brewmaster after the merger and in 1905 the PBC contracted with Philadelphia brewery architect and engineer Otto C. Wolf for a new brew house complete with two 300-horsepower boilers. The following year they added a 75-barrel pasteurizer and in 1914 put up a two-story addition to the plant. In 1916 a new soaker was added to tl1e bottling department and the following year another 75-bbl. pasteurizer was installed.
Caption: New plant of Messrs. Winter Bros. Adjoining the brew house on the left is the storage house. The lower floor of the storage house is used as a wash bouse and racking room. An arched passage way extends through this portion of the building from the street for the entrance of teams, which divides the racking and wash rooms from the brew house. The office on the lower floor of brew house opens off of tins passageway. The cellars are located in the house shown to the right and adjoining the brew house on the rear. Still farther to the right is seen the boiler house. (Western Brewer August, 1887)
NOTE: This article has been edited from the way it originally appeared. All captions contained images which are not included.
Breweries have been tagged with numbers that identify them in American Breweries II (Van Wieren 1995) which has since been re-issued as American Breweries III, Mid-Atlantic Edition (Van Wieren 2016). This provides a quick reference to each company's “headstone information” including dates in business, changes in name and address.
Be sure to check out a much more recent article on the Unaffiliated Breweries of Western Pennsylvania to get a perspective on both PBC as well as IBCP and the unaffiliated breweries. There was also an article on “PBC After Repeal” in the May/June issue of ABJ.
Addendum July 24, 2020
Since the article was published the Iron City branch of the Pittsburgh B.C. has been sold and the property is slated for development. There is a possibility that the Ober Haus, or hospitality room will be adapted as a brewpub.
Wagner, Rich. “Pittsburgh Brewing Company – After Repeal.” American Breweriana Journal. May/June 2006.
Wagner, Rich. “Pittsburgh, Iron City Brand Go Their Separate Ways. Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. Aug./Sept. 2009.
Bauder, Bob. Demolition Cuts Into History. Pittsburgh Trib. November 26, 2010.
Wagner, Rich. “Unaffiliated Breweries of Western Pennsylvania.” American Breweriana Journal. No. 225. May/June 2020.