E.C.B.A. the KEG Winter 2017

Breweries of the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna River

By Rich Wagner

At our convention in Williamsport in 2015 I gave a presentation to showcase the breweries of the area drained by the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Twenty years earlier, lifelong local resident Rich Dochter wrote a paper on the breweries of the region. Using that paper, I assembled images and information for my presentation. That Fall I showed the presentation to Eric Rosengrant while attending the breweriana show at Otto’s in State College. Eric does quite a bit of work in “the northern tier” of Pennsylvania and has uncovered many obscure breweries (including foundations or vaults) up in the hills. Here are photographs of bottles representing the brewers of the region from our collections.

Breweries made frequent changes in the embossments on their bottles, reflecting name or corporate changes and by using American Breweries III Mid-Atlantic Edition (Van Wieren 2016) making it easy to date a bottle. But there are always new twists and turns and new information to discover.

Photos: 01, 02, 03

What’s left of Binder’s brewery (1869-1938) outside of Renovo is the spring that supplied water to make and cool the beer. Several years ago I wrote about the history of all the breweries represented in the banners at Otto’s Brewery and Restaurant which can be found in the Archives link of my website: “Otto's Brewery and Restaurant Display Banners.”

I was surprised to discover that Binder’s son ended up brewing in the town of Madera in Clearfield County (1911-16). American Breweries III shows the Vesser family being the previous owners. But the broken bottle Eric found downstream from the brewery location says “Veeser.” As it turns out, a descendant had previously contacted Sam Komlenic trying to get information on the brewery and that was their name. The brewery was in business from 1886-1920.

Photo: 04

Nice “Lady Leg” bottle from the Clearfield Brewing Co. (1875-1920).

Photo: 05

Using Sanborn Map “footprints” and online satellite views, Eric discovered that the Philipsburg brewery’s bottling house is still standing.

Photos: 06, 07, 08, 09

Both of these breweries can be listed as being in Lock Haven, but Lucas (1863-1929) was across Bald Eagle Creek in the town of Castanea and Widmann (1860-1942) was across the Susquehanna in Lockport. Rich Dochter set up an interview with Ferd Lucas on a sunny day in August 1983. He had some breweriana and stories and we enjoyed a tour of his family’s then still intact “pre-industrial” brewery. Eric has taken more recent photographs of the ruins. There are remains of the Widmann brewery on Brewery Hollow Rd. in Lockport.

Photos: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Two Williamsport breweries came back after repeal: Flock (1854-1961) and Koch (1850-1943). Velott started up Binder’s Renovo brewery (1935-38) before purchasing Koch’s plant in South Williamsport.

Photos: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

The Moeschlin family had the Cold Spring brewery in Sunbury (1865-1937) for the majority of its lifespan, including a start-up after repeal. Rockefeller is not listed in American Breweries III Mid-Atlantic Edition.

Photos: 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

There were two Schwarzenbach breweries in Germania: Joseph (1867-1902) and Michael (1860-64). Michael also had one in Wellsboro (1865-68). When Joseph’s became Schwarzenbach Brewing Co. (1902-1937) production moved to Galeton. One has to wonder the reasoning behind the incremental volume variations on these bottles.

Note: I created a Flickr album with pics that appeared in this article.

Related Article

Dochter, Rich. "The F.C. Lucas Brewery: Castanea, PA." Home Fermenter's Digest. May, 1984.

Wagner, Rich. Otto's Brewery and Restaurant Display. July 01, 2010. Captions to Banners on Display in the Restaurant.