E.C.B.A. the KEG Summer 2005

Brewing in the Northern Anthracite Region

By Rich Wagner


The brewing industry is naturally related to many other industries, from agriculture to equipment and machinery, but the product, beer, has traditionally been linked to industries such as coal mining and steel making which produce an enormous collective thirst among their workers.


Of course, the history of the brewing industry in Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties is inextricably linked to "King Coal" which dominated the economy of the region for many years. Back then, Scranton was the third largest city in Pennsylvania. Today, as the region attempts to redefine itself by attracting new industries and promoting tourism, it is interesting that one of Pennsylvania's last regional breweries not only survives, but is celebrating its centennial year, a living testimony to the state's brewing legacy.


The earliest production figures for the nation that I can find date to 1878-79. At that time Lackawanna County was home to three breweries which together produced under 10,000 barrels of beer. The largest was Elizabeth Robinson's brewery which accounted for roughly 80% of the county's production. Luzerne County had five breweries which together produced around 18,000 barrels—one in Hazleton, and two each in Pittston and Wilkes-Barre. Total production in the two counties was just over 25,000 barrels, or 2.5% of Pennsylvania's 1,000,000 total.


In 1897 a dozen breweries combined to form the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Company with branches in Dickson City, Carbondale, Hazleton, Honesdale (Wayne County), Pittston, Scranton, and Wilkes-Barre. The main branch was the E. Robinson's Sons brewery in Scranton, a 150,000 barrel-a-year plant. Through consolidation, the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Company was able to rival Stegmaier's production of 250,000 barrels per year.


In the decade leading up to prohibition, there were eight breweries in Lackawanna and eleven in Luzerne County, producing about 1.2 million barrels of beer annually and accounting for roughly 14% of Pennsylvania's output. In Lackawanna County, E. Robinson and Standard each produced roughly 150,000 barrels or about 60% of the county's production. Stegmaier was the leader in Luzerne County producing about one third of that county's 700,000 barrel total.


When prohibition arrived four of the region's breweries would close, never to reopen, while several more would start up and close within a few years of repeal. By 1941 the region's ten breweries produced over 875,000 barrels, or about 15% of the 6,000,000 barrels manufactured in the state. At this point, however, Luzerne county dominated the scene and accounted for over 80% of production. The Standard Brewing Company in Scranton was Lackawanna County's largest brewery producing under 100,000 barrels. In Luzerne County, Stegmaier remained the largest brewer with a production of just under 500,000 barrels. The Lion was the second largest brewer of the region producing about 150,000 barrels.


For the breweries that survived prohibition, there were more troubles ahead and regional breweries found it increasingly difficult to survive. The breweries of the northern anthracite region closed one by one, victims of a variety of cultural and economic forces that affected brewers throughout the country. But somehow, one lone brewery, the Lion, survived and looks ahead to its second century in business.


It should be added that there have been two brewpubs in the area, although they have met the same fate as their predecessors. Scranton was briefly home to W.T. Hacketts back in 1999 and Wilkes-Barre had the Black Rock Brewing Co. for a couple of years shortly thereafter.


To learn more about the history of brewing in the region as well as the Luzerne Lackawanna Brewery Tour, visit my website at http://pabreweryhistorians.tripod.com.


Northern Anthracite Post Prohibition Breweries

Date of Closure

PA 783

Krantz (1920)


PA 764

Robinson, E. (1920)


PA 338

Susquehanna  (1920)


PA 848

Reichard & Son (1920)


PA 206

Arnold (PCBC 1931)


PA 755

Casey & Kelly (1934)


PA 756



PA 760

Keystone (Union 1939)


PA 702

Howell & King (1939)


PA 178

Freeland (Kehoe-Tilinski 1942)


PA 759

Lackawanna (1943)


PA 697

Hughes (Champ 1948)


PA 782

Fell (1951)


PA 766

Standard (1954)


PA 208

Pilsener (1954)


PA 847

Franklin (1956)


PA 843

Bartels (1968)


PA 842

Stegmaier (1974)