Rich Wagner PA Brewery Historian 07-17-2022
Many newspapers escape being scanned and available online. Tap and Tavern and Observer are two such publications. I scoured microfilm versions of both papers at the Newspaper Room of the Free Library over several years. This is one I xeroxed and subsequently transcribed.
I posted this to make it available to people taking the Oliver Evans Chapter Society For Industrial Archeogy Tour of the Scheidt brewery and Von C brewery in Norristown. Here is a link to a Flickr Collection of Albums with pics of the Scheidt brewery.
Collection: Tour of Adam Scheidt Brewery and Von C Brewery Norristown, PA (flickr.com)
June 9, 1952 Observer (trade paper devoted Pennsylvania's liquor industry)
Trip Through the Scheidt Plant is a Revelation to This Reporter.
By Ed (Scoop) Lieberman.
NORRISTOWN – A decade of reportorial assignments has left this reporter with the usual blasé feelings towards the guided tour of the “great industrial plant,” but I must admit that I shed my bored attitude quickly as I went through the amazingly modern efficient and beautiful plant of the Adam Scheidt Brewing Co. here last week.
Adam Scheidt is a landmark in this county which abounds in hjistorical landmarks, and my initial impression of the plant, as I viewed it from a distance, was that the beauty and splendor if its towered buildings have a fairy tale quality which blends well into the rolling Montgomery County countryside.
The home of Valley Forge beer and Rams Head ale is comprised of more than a dozen buildings with 325,000 square feet of floor space, on the original site of the old brewery founded by Charles Scheidt - uncle of Karl - now president of the firm in 1865. Today, the Adam Scheidt plant is one of the largest and most modernly equipped breweries in America.
Entering the spacious reception room, I was greeted by Alma Flood, receptionist and telephone operator who has been with the firm 22 years. “Floodie” and assistant Frances Wright made me feel at home, explaining the historical significance of several oil paintings, including a portrait of Adam Scheidt, brother of the founder, and a huge panorama of George Washington reviewing his troops at Valley Forge.
I was joined by Tom Morton, sales manager; Walt Huntzinger, former big league ball player and New Jersey supervisor; and Doug Bradley, assistant to president Scheidt, and the tour was about to begin.
First on the itinerary was a visit to the brewmaster’s laboratory, nerve center of any brewery, where samples of all raw materials and partially or fully completed brewhouse products are analyzed under the general supervision of Master Brewer Edward Oertel. Mr. Oertel, who has been with Scheidt for ten years, was out-of-town and I was turned over to his assistant, Werner Brederlow, who guided me through the entire plant and patiently explained the myriad phases which made up the art of brewing.
Brederlow took me into a spotless room where Miss Florence Berg, a Temple University chemistry major was analyzing samples of each brew at various stages of the process. Miss Berg also checks all raw materials, and purity and clarity of the water, which come from artesian wells drilled some 600 feet deep through rock strata under the property at Norristown. The laboratory is maintained at a constant 60°F.
Next we visited the malt unloading area where railroad cars back up to a complex automatic unloading system which can empty a full car in four hours.
We entered the new million-dollar brewhouse, where the early stages of the beer and ale processes are performed in a spotlessly clean, bright and well-lighted chamber. We spotted three large Fairbanks scales that weighs each shipment of malt and two mills that grind the malt in preparation for the malt and cereal hoppers.
The hop storage room, well chilled to protect the delicate flavor of one of the most important ingredients, was packed three-deep with 200-lb. bags of choice hops.
We noticed that the walls were dotted with signs urging employees to be safety conscious. Telephones placed at frequent intervals served to point out the overall efficiency of the Scheidt operation.
On the mezzanine floor of the beautiful brown and cream tiled room, cereal was being cooked in copper kettles with capacities of 600 and 300 barrels. The kettles are manned in 24-hour shifts and controlled by a huge electrical temperature control panel under the direction of Marty Englert. The floor of the mezzanine was immaculate – one would have no qualms eating off it.
About this time, we noted men taking time off for a sandwich and beer. Brederlow pointed out that employees enjoy three rest periods in each eight-hour shift. Smoking is not allowed during the brewing operation.
Down on the main floor are the immense glistening copper brew kettlesfrom which, after the wort is “hopped,” it flows through strainers and onward to hot wort tanks and cooler. In the wort cooling room, the new-brewed golden liquid is cooled down, filtered and then piped to the monster tanks in the storage cellars to undergo final controlled fermentation for periods of up to three months.
A faithful replica of the Declaration of Independence was framed on the wall of the cooling room.
A look-see at the tanks in the fermenting department proved quite interesting. The huge tanks have capacities ranging from 100-1,400 barrels. Next step in the brewing operation is the carbonating and filter room, commonly known as the finishing cellar.
Adjacent to the finishing cellar is the wash house where all the empty, returned kegs are cleaned inside and out, and light-inspected before refilling. The stainless steel barrels are coded by different color bungs – red for Prior dark; green for Prior light; white for Valley Forge; and black for Rams Head ale.
The bottling house is a smartly tiled, light, airy and spotlessly clean building built at a cost of over $2M. Windows here are of amber glass to filter out harmful rays of daylight. I was amazed at the number of machines and the size of the equipment necessary to meet the vastly increased demand for Valley Forge Beer and the Brewery’s other products.
Brederlow then took me to his office, housed in a building known as “the tower,” site of the original brewmaster and laboratory office, and briefed me on the history of the firm.
The original brewery, called “The House of Scheidt” was founded by Charles Scheidt, who came from Germany and settled in Norristown, in 1865. He was joined by his brother, Adam, in 1878. Adam purchased his brother’s interest in 1887, and upon his death, in 1933, son Karl, current president took over.
Valley Forge Beer, the company’s prime product was introduced in 1912 as a premium bottled beer.
Management of the brewery business is today shared by the Scheidts: “Mr. Karl,” president and treasurer; “Mr. Paul,” secretary and assistant treasurer, and “Mr. Adam,” purchasing agent, assistant secretary and assistant treasurer.
Back in Tom Morton’s office, I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Gruver, assistant to sales manager Joe Rambo. While waiting for Morton and Rambo, I had a pleasant chat with Karl Scheidt, president of the company, who reminisced over the days when 40 dray horses, pulled wagon loads of Valley Forge through the streets.
The “sample room” was next on the agenda. A one story old English brick building, it houses a restaurant for brewery officials and visitors. Henry Senleef, who oversees the restaurant, has been with Scheidt for 16 years.
That wound up the tour of the brewery, but not the day’s activity. A baseball game between the Phillies and Giants was coming up. Valley Forge and Rams Head ale, of course, sponsor the home and away radio and television broadcasts of both Philadelphia major league teams.
The party for the game included Morton, Gruver and ted Gleysteen, Adam Scheidt account executive with the Ward Wheelock advertising agency.
During the game, Gleysteen showed me how the popular Valley Forge Beer commercials were produced over television. Saw Gene Kelly and George Walsh handling the radio play-by-play and Claude Haring doing the television broadcast. Doug Parker, energetic member of the Ward Wheelock agency, was tying the loose ends together.
To complete the interesting day, the Phillies came through with a 6-5 victory.