Philadelphia – Brewerytown Tour Thursday June 7, 2007

Industrial Philadelphia

36th Annual Conference

Society for Industrial Archeology

Sponsored by the Oliver Evans Chapter

Oliver Evans Chapter member Rich Wagner conducted his second Philadelphia tour for the SIA on Thursday June 7, 2007. The first was for the SIA Convention in Philadelphia in 1990. In all, there have been a total of fourteen Philadelphia Brewery Tours sponsored by various organizations.

Many changes occurred since the first tour, notably the proliferation of craft breweries in Philadelphia. Three of these were actually located in old brewery buildings that were on the first tour: Ortlieb, Poth and Weisbrod & Hess. Henry Ortlieb converted his old bottling house into a combination production brewery and brewpub which operated from 1997-2000. In Brewerytown the old Poth complex was home to Red Bell Brewing Co. from 1996 to 2002. Currently Yards Brewing Co. is the only production brewery in the city. The company has been in business since 1995 and moved into their third location, the bottling house of the old Weisbrod & Hess brewery in the spring of 2002.

Using Rich Dochter's map of Brewerytown participants can see floorplans and exterior views of all the breweries that inhabited this neighborhood. The Hexamer General Surveys on which the map is based are now accessible online.

Philadelphia has two excellent examples of brewery preservation. The first, the Bergdoll brewery complex was converted to condominiums in the late 1980s and was the showcase site when the SIA toured Philadelphia breweries in 1990. Today, the old Class & Nachod brewery building which was home to Poth for several years after the repeal of prohibition is another success story in preservation, having recently been converted to office and dormitory space for Temple University.

There are some “diamonds in the rough” as well. On the way to Yards, Rich had the bus drive by the old Gretz brewery on Germantown Ave. and pointed out that there is a Temple professor who has his architecture students coming up with ideas on how to develop that property.

They were brewing and bottling when the bus pulled up at Yards which provided a process tour as well as some samples of the fine products they brew.

What's left of the Ortlieb brewery complex appears to be getting torn down little by little but across Poplar Street, SIA tour participants got to see the state marker commemorating "America's First Lager" in Philadelphia back in 1840 when Bavarian brewmaster John Wagner emigrated to America and set up a home brewery where he brewed with lager beer yeast he brought with him from his homeland.

Stop #5 The Class & Nachod brewer was home to Poth for several years after the repeal of prohibition. The main building has become a Temple University dormitory.

Stop #5 Philadelphia brewery architect Charles H. Caspar designed the complex in 1911. This was one of Philadelphia's “modern breweries.” Note the signs for both “Stable” and “Garage.”

Stop #10 In the shadow of the old Ortlieb's brewery complex particpants examine the state marker commemorating America's First Lager Beer.

Photos by James A. Knox, Tour Volunteer