Note: I wrote this in 2010 for the website of Otto's Brewery and Restaurant in State College to give more information about the breweries and breweriana represented on the banners that grace the bar and dining room areas. I've made corrections, updates and added lots of links.
Otto’s Brewery and Restaurant: Display Banners
By Rich Wagner
Pennsylvania has been recognized as a brewing center from its very inception. William Penn had a bake and brew house built at his country estate, Pennsbury Manor, on the Delaware River in Bucks County in the 1680s. A number of the nation’s founding fathers saw the value of encouraging a thriving brewing industry for economic as well as cultural reasons. Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood was home to the nation’s first porter in 1775 as well as the first lager beer brewed in America in 1840. In 1878 Philadelphia’s Bergner & Engel was the third largest brewer in the nation. Pennsylvania is also home to Yuengling, “America’s Oldest Brewery,” which got its start in Pottsville in 1829.
Throughout history, the greatest production of beer in the United States has been in New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And while New York has traditionally been the leader, Pennsylvania invariably has had more breweries. When prohibition became the law of the land in 1920, Pennsylvania had 230 breweries. After repeal in 1933 about 100 firms returned to business with Duquesne of Pittsburgh being the largest in the state.
Pennsylvania experienced a steady decline in the number of breweries for a host of reasons including war rationing, high taxes, inflation and primarily the emergence of large national “shipping breweries.” These firms had money to expand and modernize and enjoyed an economy of scale. They also had more money to spend on advertising. Of course this was a trend that played out nationally as hundreds of small regional brewers who once enjoyed loyal local support went by the wayside throughout the country.
In 1980 there were just nine breweries operating in Pennsylvania, and that number dwindled to seven in 1987, which was the year Stoudt’s became the state’s first craft brewery, reversing the trend and we began to see new breweries starting up. Today there are around fifty breweries in Pennsylvania, and some of the craft breweries have become large regional brewers in their own right. This is an exciting time for beer lovers as the craft brewing renaissance has brought long-lost beer styles back to life and introduced entirely new ones.
Who knows what makes people collect things, much less what makes certain things the objects we are drawn to. I find it fascinating that beer can collecting actually created value from discarded “one use” objects. The beer can was introduced in 1935 and some rare cans of that vintage are worth thousands of dollars today. Will Anderson coined the term breweriana to describe advertising items and other objects from breweries that people collect. A study of breweriana would essentially be an examination of the history and evolution of advertising and would certainly merit a course in cultural phenomenon.
Items that were given out in pre-prohibition days that have survived are generally of high quality and much sought-after, making the trinkets we see today pale in comparison. There are a plethora of small items that were given out by brewers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, from cigar trimmers to match safes; tablets with metal covers embossed with company logos; corkscrews and bottle openers; fans and any number of gadgets that were designed to win favor from consumers. Larger items were usually given to saloons or distributors and include beautiful lithographs containing calendars, mirrors, tin signs and beer trays. Embossed bottles contain the names of breweries and in many cases a logo or image as well. These items also illustrate the evolution of the bottle closure up to the time in the late nineteenth century when the crown cap was invented.
Many post-Prohibition items are also of high quality and can be much sought after. After repeal taverns had to display which beer was being poured through the use of “tap markers.” The older ones are called “ball knobs” and in many cases are some of the only items to be found from small regional brewers. In the old days there were objects called “foam scrapers” with brewery names on them. Neon and lighted signs are also popular among collectors. Many breweries issued clocks, some with neon lighting. Before the advent of self-opening cans, customers got a bottle/can opener for free when buying a case of beer. Tin-over-cardboard signs are another popular advertising item among collectors. Calendars and posters continue to be popular. In fact, brewers don’t have to give away merchandise as they did in the old days as people flock to their brewery stores and websites to buy items emblazoned with their company’s logo. Hats and T-shirts dominate the market today but brewers still give out bottle openers, and there is a huge interest in collecting labels and coasters from today’s craft brewers. The new aluminum beer bottle has created a whole new niche in can collecting. Many of today’s brewers advertise with neon signs, an indication of just how big their business has gotten. Here is a link to a collection of albums showing some exhibits created by collectors.
There are a number of clubs devoted to the hobby and these include: Breweriana Collectors Club of America (BCCA), American Breweriana Association (ABA), National Association Breweriana Advertising (NABA) and the Eastern Coast Breweriana Association (ECBA) which recently became a chapter of the ABA whose mission statement is “Through breweriana collecting the history of the brewing industry will be preserved.”
Brewerytown Posters by Hank Frentzen
Bergner & Engel was the third largest brewer in the U.S.A. in 1878. They were one of the first breweries to install mechanical refrigeration shortly after the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. They doubled the size of their brew house in 1880 bringing their annual production capability to a quarter of a million barrels. This was a time when the brewing industry was experiencing incredible growth and despite doubling their capacity, Bergner & Engel dropped to being in the top twelve producers nationally.
Theodor Bergner was a brewery engineer who implemented a number of innovations of his own design in the completely modern brewery which included having the drive belts for machinery out of the way of workers for safety. The images on the poster show the exterior and interior of the brew house of Bergner & Engel’s brewery featuring their 400 barrel copper kettle with the “hop jack” directly below it as well as a view of one of their many cellars packed with open wooden tanks foaming away during the high krauesen stage of primary fermentation.
The F.A. Poth brewery was a leading Brewerytown competitor with Bergner & Engel ultimately becoming the second largest brewer of the neighborhood. They published a book similar to Bergner & Engel’s probably after their new brew house was constructed in 1882 according to designs by Chicago Brewery Architect and Engineer, F.W. Wolf . The new brew house had a 250 barrel kettle which brought their annual production capacity to just under 100,000 barrels. The poster also features an exterior view of a portion their plant complex including the boiler, brew and storage houses. Unfortunately neither book contains a date, but it is assumed that each was published soon after the expansion programs were completed. The illustrations in both books are by the same Philadelphia artist, A.M.J. Mueller.
Daryl Ziegler. The images of trays depicted on banners that decorate the restaurant are from Daryl Ziegler’s collection. Daryl is from the Lehigh Valley and has been collecting since 1972. He has a room devoted to brewery trays from Pennsylvania which he calls “The Tin Tunnel,” but his collection is not limited to Pennsylvania breweries. The walls and ceiling of his basement/recreation room are a veritable museum of U.S. brewery history. In addition to trays, Daryl has a number of beautiful pre-Prohibition lithographs, lots of tin signs and lots of small advertising items. Daryl is a member of ABA and ECBA.
Larry Handy. Larry Handy started collecting cans when he was in junior high school in 1970. He joined the BCCA, which at that time was called the Beer Can Collectors of America, three years later and established a local “Horlacher Chapter” (Lehigh Valley) and later a “Little Man Chapter” (Philadelphia and suburbs). He has been very active in the E.C.B.A. and has held just about every office in the club and currently devotes his time to publishing their magazine the KEG. Larry has a huge can collection and specializes in Horlacher as well as Philadelphia cans and other breweriana. He has two books in his collection which were published in the early 1880s by the Bergner & Engel Brewing Co. and the F.A. Poth Brewing Company that are beautifully illustrated with color lithographs. Hank Frentzen, who prints the KEG, has scanned some of the images from these books and turned them into “Brewerytown” posters, which are part of the display at Otto’s.
Rich Wagner resisted collecting anything but information for years.. Since 1980 he has been researching the history of the brewing industry in Pennsylvania and in that time has transcribed every Pennsylvania-related article in the The Western Brewer from 1876-1933. Most recently he was involved in facilitating the ABA's effort to scan all the issues of that magazine for their website.
He has conducted tours of breweries old and new in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Lehigh Valley and South Central Pennsylvania. In the midst of his research, he developed a passion for brewing and the craft brewing renaissance and retired from teaching, went to brewing school and worked in Philadelphia breweries from 1994-2002.
In the early 1990s he worked with a cooper to make reproductions of colonial-era brewing implements and has demonstrated the brewing process of antiquity from “coast to coast.” He has a collection of embossed Pennsylvania brewery bottles and has created exhibits at the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, WI. You can learn more by visiting his website.
Breweries and Breweriana Depicted in the Banners
Kaier's Brewing Co. Mahanoy City
Civil War veteran Charles D. Kaier moved to Mahanoy City and started a retail liquor business, later becoming an agent for Philadelphia's leading brewery, Bergner & Engel. In 1880 he established his own brewery, which survived Prohibition and lasted until 1968, the last two years as a branch of Philadelphia's Ortlieb Brewing Co. In his lifetime Mr. Kaier was a bank president, operated a grand opera house, hotel, and restaurant, owned forty taverns in Mahanoy City, and was in charge of the Anthracite Light, Heat and Power Company. Today the impressive Kaier's Mansion is a Bed and Breakfast.
Widman Brewing Co. Bethlehem
The Widman brewery, Bethlehem, PA, started in 1880 and became famous for Extra Bohemian Lager. After repeal they made Ferraro's and Old Fashioned brands of beer, ale and porter. They were victims of an antiquated plant and equipment and could not compete with the changing beer market. They were the first of three Prohibition survivors in Bethlehem to go out of business in 1938.
Poth Brewing Co. Philadelphia's Brewerytown
This is an 1880s view of the Poth brewery complex in Philadelphia’s Brewerytown section. Poth was the second largest of about a dozen firms that inhabited a seven-block neighborhood that accounted for about half of the beer brewed in the city. By the early twentieth century the brewery was producing just under a quarter of a million barrels of beer annually and had a second brewery located in Camden, NJ. Poth survived to see repeal and purchased the Class & Nachod brewery across town where it remained from 1936-1941. Their Camden branch survived under different ownership as the Camden County Beverage Co. until 1963.
Early View of Schmidt's of Philadelphia
Christian Schmidt's Kensington Brewery (Philadelphia) got its start in 1860 as an ale brewery. The brewery began producing lager in 1881 and both the brewery and its business grew steadily. Schmidt’s survived Prohibition and underwent an extensive building and modernization program during the 1930s. The company was a pioneer in marketing beer in cans when they were introduced in 1935. In 1960 Modern Brewery Age ran an extensive article about the firm to commemorate their centennial year. The company operated breweries in Philadelphia, Norristown and Cleveland. Schmidt’s was an industry leader in technical innovation and were the first brewery in the country to use a computer. In 1979 they were the nation's ninth-largest brewer, producing 3.86 million barrels. They were the last of Philadelphia's Prohibition survivors to close in 1987, which marked the first time in over 300 years the city was without a brewery.
Perkiomen Valley Brewing Co. Workers Green Lane
Workers at Samuel Jerzy's Perkiomen Valley Brewery in Green Lane, PA, circa 1905. This brewery was in business from 1892 until 1920, and over that 28-year period had five different owners. Ken Nace, a breweriana collector from the area, has discovered no fewer than 23 different embossed bottle designs from this Montgomery County brewery. The workers harvested ice on the Perkiomen Creek, bottled beer and soft drinks, and made deliveries in stake-bodied wagons with double-horse teams up and down the gravel turnpike that is now Route 29. The 4,000-barrel-a-year plant shipped beer on the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad as far as Allentown and Reading and utilized a spur line that criss-crossed the creek called the Perkiomen Valley Railroad.
Early View of the Stegmaier Brewery in Wilkes-Barre
George C. Baer and Charles Stegmaier established a brewery on South Canal Street in Wilkes-Barre in 1857. Six years later they moved to Market Street where they dug vaults in the side of a hill to “lager” or store their beer, which was refrigerated with ice. This early view of that brewery probably dates to around 1870. The plant was enlarged over the years and this is the same location where the magnificent Stegmaier brew house has been beautifully restored.
Colonial-Era City Tavern Philadelphia
Philadelphia's City Tavern was built in 1773 through subscription by fifty-six of the city’s most prominent businessmen. It became home to the Merchant's Coffee House and Exchange in 1789, a place where subscribers could go to check on market prices, ship movements and conduct business. It was also frequented by tradesmen and soldiers. Delegates to the Continental Congress supped there and continued their debates into the wee hours. Generals, and later, Presidents and diplomats, enjoyed lavish balls with music and dancing. The building was demolished in the mid-nineteenth century but a reproduction was erected by the National Park Service in 1975. Today it is a restaurant that beautifully re-creates the food and atmosphere of what John Adams described as “the most genteel tavern in America.”
Colonial-Era Penny Pot Inn Philadelphia
The Penny Pot Tavern was located just beyond the northern boundary of Philadelphia at the mouth of Pegg’s Run at Front and Vine Streets. The name is derived from the fact that patrons could enjoy a pot of ale for a penny. William Penn established the price as follows: "All Stong Beer and ale, made of Barley malt, Shall be sold for not above two pennies, Sterling, a full Winchester quart; and all Beer or Drink made of Molasses shall not exceed one penny a quart." Along with the Blue Anchor Tavern at the southern boundary of the city at Dock Creek, it was a terminal for the ferry to West Jersey and the site of Philadelphia’s earliest shipyard.
Colonial-Era View of Robert Smith's Brewery Philadelphia
The Potts Ale Brewery on Fifth Street, just south of Market dated back to 1774 and was purchased by Robert Smith in 1846. He capitalized on the age of the brewery in advertising his “Tiger Head Ale.” Smith built a modern brewery adjacent to the Philadelphia Zoological Gardens in 1888. The Smith brewery became a branch of Schmidt's in 1896 and lasted until 1920. Schmidt's also used the significance of a brewery dating back to colonial times in marketing the Tiger Head brand until they closed in 1987. A set of a dozen prints made from paintings by James Moore Preston (1874-1862) were issued in the early 1900s by the Robert Smith Ale Brewery to emphasize their connection with the past.
Colonial-Era Spread Eagle Inn Strafford
The Spread Eagle was located where the town of Strafford is today on "The Main Line." It was the first relay station and stage house west of Philadelphia for one of many stage lines using the Lancaster Pike, the first turnpike in the United States, which averaged over one tavern per mile all the way. One two mile stretch held eleven taverns. These were sharply distinguished into three classes: stage houses, wagon houses and drover houses. The stage houses were the nicest since they accommodated passengers, while wagon houses were for teamsters hauling freight. Drover houses were those who “drove” animals to market and needed space for the flocks and herds to graze, forage and sleep.
Ortlieb’s Brewing Co. Philadelphia
Started in 1869 by Civil War veteran Trupert Ortlieb, this brewery was relatively small until after repeal when an extensive building program expanded the complex, enabling the brewery to produce over a half million barrels of beer per year. Ortlieb’s used outdoor advertising extensively and was well-represented on bus and trolley cars. The brewery did an extensive print campaign in the Saturday Evening Post and sponsored sporting events broadcast by local radio and television stations. The family had an interest in the Old Dutch brewery in Catasauqua and purchased the Kaier’s, F & S and Sunshine breweries. Ortlieb’s was the second to last of Philadelphia’s Prohibition survivors to go out of business in 1981, when its brands were sold to Schmidt’s.
Graupner's Jolly Scot Beer Harrisburg
Koenig & Brother started their Centennial Brewery in Harrisburg in 1875. Two years later they sold it to Christian Dressler, who operated the plant for eighteen years. In 1893 it was sold to Robert H. Graupner, who formed a stock company two years later and built a large modern brewery which operated as the Harrisburg Consumers Brewing and Bottling Company. Mr. Graupner had learned the brewing trade in Saxony before coming to America in 1883, and by working in breweries in Philadelphia and Lancaster for the next ten years. The brewery became known as Graupners in 1903. It survived Prohibition and remained in business until 1951, becoming known for brands including Jolly Scot Ale, Silver Stock Lager, Graupner’s Old Style Beer and Old Graupner Beer, Ale and Porter.
Stock Image: Old Guy Oval
Companies that produced trays, calendars and other advertising for brewers had stock images for their customers to choose from. The Ziegler collection includes many trays issued by different Pennsylvania brewers that used the same stock images to advertise their products. The man looking into his stein has been used to advertise innumerable breweries throughout the country, and now, a century later, he’s lending his image to promote Otto’s Beer.
Fink's Keystone Brewery Harrisburg
The Barnitz brewery was started on Forster Street in Harrisburg in 1854, becoming the Fink & Boyer brewery eight years later. The brewery was producing about 4,000 barrels of ale and porter per year. In 1875 Henry Fink became sole proprietor and in 1881 he built a large modern plant with a capacity of 20,000 barrels of lager beer, ale and porter annually which he called Fink’s Keystone Brewery. The brewery survived Prohibition and introduced Purple Ribbon Pilsner, Wurzburger Lager, and Derby Ale, but went out of business the following year.
Old German Beer DuBois Brewing Co.
The Dubois Brewing Company was one of the many modern breweries that started up around the turn of the twentieth century, and so were able to take advantage of a half century of technological innovations and improvements. The Hahne's came up from Pittsburgh to start this brewery which survived Prohibition and lasted until 1973. The entire plant complex stood in ruins for decades before being torn down just a few years ago.
Oswald, Germania and Altoona Breweries
Famous for its Curve, and the Pennsylvania Railroad shops, Altoona was home to nine breweries over the years, two of which survived Prohibition: the Oswald Brewing Company which went out of business in 1936, and the Altoona Brewing Company which lasted until 1974. The last survivor was the oldest and started in 1852 as George Enzbrenner's Empire Brewery. It became John Kazmaier's Germania Brewery in 1896. After repeal it was known as the City Ice & Beverage Co. until 1936, when it became Altoona Brewing Co.
Dubois Budweiser Beer Lady
Beautiful women have been used in advertising to attract attention for years. Pre-Prohibition lithographs frequently pictured them in classical artistic poses that mimicked fine art. After repeal the style changed and was manifest in many forms, some of which employed the nation's most famous "pin-up girl" artists.
Graupner's Bock Beer Harrisburg
Today's craft brewers have revived Bock Beer as a style that was traditionally brought out in the spring. A common misconception is that the beer was made when brewers were "cleaning out their vats." Nothing could be further from the truth. The style originated in monasteries for the Lenten season when the monks were fasting. The beer provided nourishment for them to survive until Easter. Brewers have used the "buck" goat as the beer's symbol for centuries.
Dubois Budweiser Beer Sign
Today the name Budweiser is synonymous with Anheuser-Bush but it started out as a style of beer made in the Budweis region of Czechoslovakia. Countless companies made "Budweiser" beers just as today there are many brands that are made in the "Pilsener" style, named for another region. Dubois was famous for their Budweiser and probably was the last brewery to have a brand by that name. They were taken to court in the 1960s by A-B which claimed they owned the exclusive rights to the name. Dubois won their case, but went out of business a few years later.
Fink's Schnitzelbank Song Harrisburg
Harrisburg's Fink brewery was one of many brewers that capitalized on Pennsylvania's German or “Pennsylvania Dutch” heritage with this "Distlefink Song" that surely inspired many tavern-goers to break into song. Made like a sampler to teach youngsters the alphabet, it presented Pennsylvania German culture in a novel way. Many Pennsylvania brewers issued similar posters.
Kaier's Bock Beer Mahanoy City
Kaier's Old Time Bock, "It's Here!" proclaims this ad which is a sure sign of spring, rebirth and the rutting season. Some breweriana collectors specialize in bock beer posters and labels.
Fuhrmann & Schmidt Brewing Co. Shamokin
In 1893 Philip H. Fuhrmann took over the old Eagle Run Brewery (Shamokin) which dated back to 1854. Three years later it became Fuhrmann & Schmidt and in 1905 they built a new modern brewery on South Harrison Street. The company returned after repeal in the newer facility. The brewery was purchased by Ortlieb in 1966 and survived until 1975.
Schmidt's of Philadelphia Truck Repeal-Era
This scene could have been taken out of the newspaper on April 7, 1933, to illustrate the fact that "Beer is Back." That is the date when 3.2% beer became legal, fulfilling one of F.D.R.'s campaign pledges to bring beer back. Along with the rest of the city’s breweries, Schmidt's was ready to supply the city and had trucks lined up around the block ready to take off at the sound of the whistle. Ironically, at midnight, when the whistle blew to signal a new "wet" era, bystanders were deluged by a torrential downpour.
Atlas Beer, Chicago Repeal-Era
Then, as now, not all beer sold in Pennsylvania was made in the Keystone State. However, much of the legislation regarding beer sales that was passed after repeal was designed to eliminate the sins of the past. Some of those laws are today considered protectionist, designed to favor Pennsylvania brewers. Here we see the P.L.C.B. inspecting an air-mailed shipment of Atlas beer coming in from Chicago.
Northampton Brewing Co.
Northampton Brewing Company was established in 1898 and became famous for its Tru-Blu brand. The company came back after repeal and became one of the first Lehigh Valley brewers to introduce beer in cans. They produced just under 100,000 barrels in 1941 and lasted until 1950. After Prohibition, Pennsylvania passed a law requiring 51% of a brewery to be owned by a state resident. When the brewmaster died, ownership would have gone to a New York company so the brewery folded.
Stegmaier Brewing Co. Wilkes-Barre
After repeal, the Stegmaier brewery was the largest outside of the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets, producing around a half million barrels a year. Advertisements proclaimed that Stegmaier was "Brewed to the Taste of a Nation." The brand was a dominant presence throughout northeastern Pennsylvania and beyond but succumbed to erosion of their market by well-advertised national brands and closed in 1974. Due in large part to the efforts of breweriana collectors, federal funding was obtained and much of the brewery complex has been renovated, making it one of a half dozen gems of brewery preservation throughout the Commonwealth.
Jones Brewing Co. Smithton “Stoney's Beer”
Welsh immigrant, mine operator and hotel owner William "Stoney" Jones started the Eureka Brewing Co. in Smithton in 1907. Local immigrants still learning the English language had difficulty requesting "Eureka Gold Crown Beer" and simply said they wanted "Stoney's Beer." Actress Shirley Jones is the daughter of Stoney's son Paul Jones. Bill Jones III ran the company and was very active in the Small Brewers Association during the 1960s and 1970s. In the mid-1980s the brewery produced beer under contract for the Pennsylvania Brewing Company, one of the state’s earliest craft breweries. “The House of Jones” was sold to Gabe Padlucky in 1988 and remained in business until 2002.
Mutual Union Brewing Co. Aliquippa
The Mutual Union Brewing Company opened in 1907 as a stock corporation capitalized with $400,000 from several hundred liquor dealers in Allegheny County. The plant was built with plans by Chicago Brewery Architect and Engineer William Griesser and had a capacity to produce 250,000 barrels per year. Known brands are Aliquippa Beer and Pennsy Select Beer. Breweriana items are very rare and one of the steins given to those who attended the grand opening of this brewery would undoubtedly fetch a high price.
Union Brewing Tarr, PA
Aside from the fact that this very rare tray is from an obscure brewery in western Pennsylvania it should be noted that there were no fewer than fifteen companies with the word "Union" in the state throughout history. In 1905 it became known as the Crescent brewery and was a branch of a company by that name in Irwin. The name reverted back to Union Brewing Co. in 1913. Interestingly enough the Irwin brewery acquired another branch in Duquesne in 1915 which operated until 1920. Of the three, only the brewery in Tarr survived Prohibition, was renamed the Tarr Brewing Co. and lasted until 1939. The town is now known as Tarrs.
Fink Brewing Co. Harrisburg
Harrisburg has been home to about a dozen breweries throughout history. Henry Fink started working in the oldest, the Barnitz brewery which was established sometime around 1854. After eight years Mr. Fink leased the brewery and formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Christian Boyer. They brewed about fourteen barrels per day in the fall and winter months and production reached 4,000 barrels in 1865. Ten years later the partnership was dissolved and the firm became Henry Fink's Keystone Brewery. A modern plant was built in 1881 and production at the turn of the century was around 20,000 barrels. Upon his death in 1898, his sons took over the business as Henry Fink's Sons Keystone Brewery, which lasted until Prohibition. Efforts were made to start up after repeal but Fink Brewing went out of business in 1934.
Luzerne County Brewing Co. Wilkes-Barre
The Luzerne County Brewing Company was established in Wilkes-Barre in 1905. The Western Brewer reported that it was being built as a 75,000-barrel plant capitalized with $200,000 by local retailers. It was sold five years later and became the Lion Brewing Co. Known today as The Lion, Inc., it survived not only Prohibition but the "Beer Wars" of the fifties and sixties that took its toll on so many regional brewers. Ironically, the Lion took over Stegmaier's brands when the much larger brewery folded in 1974 and has survived using just about every trick in the book. In the 1980s the Lion began doing a number of "contract beers" for other companies and as a result has come out with their own line of craft-inspired products. Until recently, the vast majority of their production has been soft drinks, but beer production is on the rise. They recently celebrated their first 100 years and they continue to upgrade and make improvements to remain competitive.
Weisbrod & Hess Brewing Co. Philadelphia
Before Prohibition, the Weisbrod & Hess brewery in Philadelphia's Kensington section became famous for its Rheingold Lager Beer, Pilsner, Bohemian Export, Franciskaner, Wiener Export and Shakespeare Ale, producing up to about 75,000 barrels of beer per year. The brewery survived Prohibition, despite having several run-ins with the law over the production and distribution of "high powered beer." After repeal they spent $200,000 on modern equipment, particularly for bottling, and managed to stay in business until 1939. After a long hiatus, the old brewery was reincarnated as a new brewery in 2002 when it became home to Yards Brewing Company. Six years later Yards Brewing moved on and Philadelphia Brewing Co. was established on the premises. The new brewery has become famous for their Kenzinger Beer.
Graupner Brewing Co. Harrisburg
This brewery was originally Koenig's Centennial brewery and dates back to the days of the nation's 100th birthday. Robert H. Graupner became involved in 1893. Two years later he incorporated, forming the Harrisburg Consumers Brewing and Bottling Company and contracted with Chicago Brewery Architect and Engineer Wilhelm Griesser who designed the beautiful modern brewery featured on this tray. Graupner's was Harrisburg's longest lived brewery, it survived Prohibition and continued until 1951.
Goenner Brewing Co. Johnstown
Johnstown has been home to sixteen breweries over the years, seventeen if you count one brewpub that was in business from 2003 until 2008. Five were in business when Prohibition arrived in 1920, of which two came back after repeal in 1933. Johnstown's longest running brewery was started around 1850 by Zach Entress as a lager beer plant. Jacob Goenner purchased the brewery in 1874. He died a little over a month after rebuilding his brewery following the famous Johnstown Flood that occurred on May 31, 1889. His widow and son-in-law, John Stibich reflagged the business as Goenner & Co. which survived until 1954. Today, portions of the plant have been preserved as the Bottle Works Art Gallery in Johnstown. Parts of the Germania Brewery in Johnstown have been repurposed as the Heritage Discovery Center.
Elk Run Brewing, Punxsutawney
The three or four breweries from Punxsutawney were all relatively short-lived. Elk Run Brewing Co. was in business from 1902 to 1916 and the Punxsutawney Brewing Co. ran from 1893 to 1920. It is interesting to note that a trademark application filed by the Elk Run firm in April 1909 depicts a groundhog wearing a tie with an umbrella in one hand and a pennant that reads "Old Home Week" in the other and identified as GroundHog Brand. In keeping with tradition, Modern Brewery Age reported in 2000 that Straub Brewing had a five year contract to make Groundhog Brew Light Beer and offered a portion of the purchase price to the local Groundhog club as a fundraiser.
Chartiers Valley Brewing Co. Charleroi
Chartiers Valley Brewing Co. in Carnegie was established in 1901. Three years later it joined with fourteen other breweries to become part of the Independent Brewing Co. of Pittsburgh. This combine was formed to compete with the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, formed in 1899 and consisting of twenty-one branches. After repeal only five IBC branches returned including the General Braddock Brewing Corp. in Braddock (1937), Chartiers Valley (1952), Homestead Brewery (1953), First National Brewing in McKees Rocks (1951) and the Duquesne Brewery on Pittsburgh's South Side (1972). In the 1940s there was ongoing friction between the AFL Teamsters and the CIO for control of brewery workers. In 1952 long steel and coal strikes were followed by a four-month strike by brewery workers all of which may have been responsible for the demise of Chartiers Valley, Homestead and First National branches.
Anderton Brewing Co. Beaver Falls
James Anderton began working in coal mines at the age of eight in England, continuing in that line of work after coming to the United States until the age of 38 when he moved to Beaver Falls and got into the hotel business before starting a brewery the following year in 1869. In November he placed his first product on the market which consisted of nine barrels of ale and porter. Ten years later the brewery was producing just under 800 barrels per year. Over the years he expanded and in 1895 had a modern 25,000 barrel brewery built on the design of Brewery Architects and Engineers Beyer & Rautert of Chicago. Anderton Brewing became a branch of the Independent Brewing Company of Pittsburgh and was closed in 1920.
Widman Brewing Co. Bethlehem
What became the Widman brewery was originally operated by Sebastian Goundie in the second decade of the nineteenth century. It was converted to a distillery and operated for some years before Benz & Eckert remodeled "the old Monocacy brewery" in the early 1880s and began by producing about 4,000 barrels of beer annually. The brewery was destroyed by fire in 1885 and replaced with a larger more modern plant. Jacob Widman became proprietor three years later, becoming famous for his Extra Bohemian Lager Beer and producing around 25,000 barrels in 1920. The brewery survived Prohibition but was the first casualty of Bethlehem's three survivors, folding in 1938. Beth-Uhl went out of business four years later and South Beth Brewing closed in 1954.
Lykens Brewing Co.
Very little is known about this Dauphin County brewery located between Pottsville and Harrisburg in Pennsylvania's "Southern Coal Fields." It was started in 1860 by Hiram Bueck, who was producing about 3,000 barrels a year in 1880 when the U.S. Industrial Census reported that he had $20,000 capital investment and that he employed five men for two months of full time employment. In 1895 his widow sold the brewery to Louis Wentzler, of Lowell, Mass., and Chas. W. Blumer, of Pittsburg, who created the Lykens Brewing Co. The brewery was famous for its "Cream Top” brands that included Lager, Dublin Style Stout and also produced Wentzler's Beer, Ale, Porter, and Bock beers. The brewery survived Prohibition and lasted until 1940.
Susquehanna Brewing Co. Nanticoke
The Susquehanna Brewing Company was started by George W. Flach, who was one of the sons in Henry Flach & Sons Eagle Brewery in Brewerytown, Philadelphia. He built the brewery in 1895 to produce lager beer, ale and porter. Two years later the company was purchased by the Stegmaier Brewing Co. which operated it as their ale and porter brewery. In 1910 they added a three story bottling house and were producing just under 40,000 barrels per year.
Reichard & Weaver Brewing Co. Wilkes-Barre
John Reichard came to America from Germany and sought work in Bergdoll's brewery in Philadelphia. Around 1850 he met Charles Stegmaier and encouraged him to become his partner in a brewery in Wilkes-Barre. Reichard & Stegmaier lasted until 1857. The firm went through various incarnations until 1897 when it became one of twelve branches of the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Company, which was based in Scranton, PA. Reichard & Weaver produced just under 45,000 barrels per year and closed in 1920.
Iron City Brewing Co. Lebanon, PA
While Pittsburgh may be most famous for its Iron City brewery, there was a thriving iron industry in the eastern part of Pennsylvania that gave rise to the Iron City Brewing Co. in Lebanon. Pittsburgh's brewery dates back to pre-Civil War days and went through various incarnations before becoming Iron City in 1888. The following year, a completely unrelated company by the same name was established in Lebanon by Jacob Grove, Will Lineaweaver and August Eigenauer who advertised that: "Our Facilities For Manufacturing the Best of Lager Beer are Unsurpassed in the State." George Ehrhorn purchased the brewery in 1894 and became famous for his Rheingold Beer, producing just under 10,000 barrels per year. The brewery stayed in the family until 1915 when new owners introduced New Iron City Lager and Canada Ale and Porter. During Prohibition William L. "Hunk" Donmoyer kept the beer flowing through underground pipes from the brewery to remote locations enabling locals to quench their thirst. The brewery returned after repeal making Iron City Beer, but went bankrupt within the first year.
The Stroudsburg Brewing Co. was formed in 1899 and capitalized with $100,000 by dealers and hotel owners, primarily from Scranton and Stroudsburg, who would become its customers. Church organizations put up a fight against the company and began praying for its demise. In May 1900 as the brewery was nearing completion it was struck by lightning and slightly damaged, much to the jubilation of the faithful who believed their prayers had been answered through Divine intervention. In September lightning struck the brewery again which gave Methodist Minister E.E. Dixon national celebrity. He asked to be invited to the brewery's opening reception, and while attending launched into a virulent tirade against drinking and the manufacturing of alcoholic beverages. Those in attendance listened respectfully and silently. The company produced just under 10,000 barrels of Old Stock and Cool Temperature lager beer annually but fell on hard times just prior to Prohibition. It came back after repeal as the Neustadtl Brewing Corp., whose flagship was their Gesundheit brand, and lasted until 1937.
Binder Brewing Co. Renovo
Luke Binder came to America from Inman, Germany, with his parents at the age of seven. He went to work in the rolling mills at Johnstown, and later learned the business of brewing lager beer in Altoona. When he had enough money, he moved to Renovo and purchased George Burgers brewery, which he greatly enlarged and modernized and built into a thriving business. After his death his son Edward L. Binder continued running the brewery until 1910 when he moved to Madera in Centre County and purchased a brewery which he ran until 1916. Today there is a spring on Route 120 at Brewery Run Rd. where people can fill containers with the spring water once used to brew Binder's Beer.
Augustiner Brewing Co. Reading
In the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Reading has had around twenty breweries throughout its history, some of which date back to the days when Berks County was on the frontier. Stocker and Roehrich's brewery was a relative latecomer established in 1891. The company went through a variety of owners, becoming August Schneider's Fairview Brewery from 1906-1912. The company was reorganized as the Mt. Penn Brewing Co. and made Penn Dutch Beer until 1920. Possibly anticipating the coming of Prohibition, the brewery was reported to have installed vinegar and compressed yeast making equipment in 1918. It was one of five Reading breweries to come back after repeal, and though not continuously in production, lasted until 1943.
Fuhrmann & Schmidt
The Eagle Run Brewery in Shamokin got its start in the 1850s and went through various owners until Philip Fuhrmann purchased it in 1893. It became Fuhrmann & Schmidt's Eagle Run Brewery three years later. In 1905 a group of investors created the Shamokin Brewing Co. for the manufacture of ale, porter, lager and weiss beer. That company lasted for six years before going bankrupt and being acquired by Fuhrmann & Schmidt. F & S ran both plants until Prohibition and came back after repeal in the newer facility. Philadelphia's Ortlieb Brewing Co. bought F & S in 1966 and operated the brewery until 1975.
Hanover Brewing Danville
Danville's Hanover Brewing Co. dates back to the 1870s when John Gerstner started out producing less than 500 barrels of beer per year. In 1895 the Polish-Lithuanian Brewing Co. purchased the brewery. It was a stock company comprised primarily of men from Wilkes-Barre and capitalized with $100,000. They advertised that they were upgrading the plant from a 25-barrel-per-day to a 135-barrel-per-day operation. Chicago brewery architect and engineer Theo. Lewandowski made plans for the brew house and Anthony Golembruski, one of the principals, was brewmaster. In 1905 Emil Malinowski sold the company and formed the Franklin Brewing Co. in Hanover Township just outside Wilkes-Barre. The Hanover Brewing Co. continued for ten years and was rated as a 30,000-barrel-per-year plant; twice as big as Danville's other brewery, the Germania Brewing Co. Hanover Brewing distributed beer using its 16 teams and wagons as well as by rail throughout Montour, Columbia, Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.
Seitz Brewing Co. Easton
Frederick Seitz and his cousin John Sebastian Goundie started their brewery on the banks of the Lehigh River in the middle of a wheat field in 1821, sixty-six years before Easton became a city. Goundie had been running the Monocacy brewery for the Moravian colony in Bethlehem for seventeen years. The Seitz family ran a bottling business and had malt houses in Easton and Buffalo, NY. In 1900 John Schmid became brewmaster and was famous for his Seitz Bohemian Export. Perhaps the most notable distinction of the Seitz brewery is that during Prohibition it was part of "Reading Beer Baron" Max Hassel's chain of breweries that extended from New Jersey throughout eastern Pennsylvania. Despite this fact, the brewery managed to get a license after repeal and remained in business until 1938.
Here's a link to an article about the displays:
Wagner, Rich. Otto's Pub and Brewery, a Breweriana Collector's Paradise. American Breweriana Journal. May/June 2011.
Other articles relevant to the breweries described above from my Archives:
Wagner, Rich. “Unaffiliated Breweries of Western Pennsylvania.” American Breweriana Journal. No. 225. May/June 2020.
Wagner, Rich. “A History of Harrisburg Brewing.” E.C.B.A. the KEG. Summer 2011.
Wagner, Rich. “From the Coal Fields of Pennsylvania.” American Breweriana Journal May/June 2018.
Wagner, Rich. "The Rise and Fall of Schmidt's of Philadelphia." American Breweriana Journal. No. 138, Nov./Dec. 2005.
Wagner, Rich. “The Beers, Breweries and Breweriana of Bethlehem, PA.” American Breweriana Journal May/June 2010
Wagner, Rich. “The Beers, Breweries and Breweriana of Easton, PA.” American Breweriana Journal. July/August 2014.
Wagner, Rich. “Breweries on the Schuylkill.” American Breweriana Journal. Nov./Dec. 2018.
Wagner, Rich. Breweries of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. E.C.B.A. the KEG. Winter 2018.
Wagner, Rich. “Brewing in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.” American Breweriana Journal v. 222 November/December 2019.
Wagner, Rich. “Brewing in Lebanon, Pennsylvania's Other Iron City.” American Breweriana Journal. July/August 2017.
Wagner, Rich. “Brewing in Northampton.” American Breweriana Journal. July/August 2016.
Wagner, Rich. "A Brewery in Green Lane." The Keg, Quarterly Newsletter of the E.C.B.A. Summer, 2005.
Wagner, Rich. "The Breweries of Brewerytown and Vicinity." The Breweriana Collector (NABA). Summer, 2004.
Wagner, Rich. “Post Prohibition Brewing in Reading.” American Breweriana Journal. May/June 2019.
Wagner, Rich. “Brewing in Shamokin, PA.” American Breweriana Journal. July/August 2015.
Wagner, Rich. “Brewery Vaults I Have Known and Loved... and Some I've Only Heard About.” American Breweriana Journal March/April 2020.
Wagner, Rich. "How We Saved the Stegmaier." The Keg, Quarterly Newsletter of the E.C.B.A. Summer, 2005.