Historic Beer Birthday: John Emmerling

empire-brewery
Today is the birthday of John Emmerling (February 21, 1851-May 24, 1912). He was born in Philadelphia, but moved to Johnston in Western Pennsylvania, where he founded the Empire Brewery in 1878. It was concurrently also known as the Emmerling Brewing Co. the entire time it was in business, until it was closed by Prohibition in 1920.

emmerling-portrait

Here’s a biography of Emmerling, written in 1896 from the Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Cambria County:

JOHN EMMERLING, proprietor of the Empire Brewery, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was born in Philadelphia, this State, February 22, 1851. His education was acquired in the public schools of his native city, upon the completion of which he learned the business of brewing. Subsequently, he traveled extensively, visiting many of the more important cities of the West, and finally, located in Pittsburg, where he married. In 1878 he came to Johnstown, and immediately embarked in the brewing business on his own account. Starting in the humble building now known as the Eintracht Hall, the brewery of John Emmerling prospered so well that in one year it was moved to the larger building now occupied by the bottling house of William Thomas. Six years more saw the business grow until it became necessary to build and remove to the large and commodious brick structure which occupies nearly half a square, fronting on Horner street. The plant is two hundred by one hundred and eighty feet, three stories high, and has an annual output of eight thousand barrels, and contains all the latest improved machinery known to the brewer’s art, including engines, two ten-ton refrigerators, seven pumps for various purposes, and bottling apparatus. A visit to the vault in which the beer is stored, gives to the uninitiated a genuine surprise. Following the guide, one wanders in and out among the huge hogsheads, some of which contain forty, and others as high as eighty barrels of the amber fluid, surrounded on all sides by pipes covered to the depth of several times their own thickness with white frost, produced by the intense cold of the ammonia and brine which they contain, one can but express astonishment at the wonderful advance made since the time when nature alone supplied the cooling substance. So large is the local demand for the beer brewed at this establishment, that very little is shipped out of the city. Two wagons are kept going constantly, and two others are used when the demand requires. The present force consists of fourteen men, to which several others are added when increased business makes demand. On September 26, 1872, Mr. Emmerling married Miss Phil. Houch, a daughter of Earnest Houch, a prominent citizen of Pittsburg, and to them have been born ten children. Mr. Emmerling was one of the organizers of the board of trade, in which he takes an active interest.

john-emmerling-picture

And this is his obituary from the Western Brewer, June 1912

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emmerling-obit-2-

emmerling-drives
John Emmerling at the wheel of a 1908 Maxwell that he drove round-trip between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in a race with a $20,000 prize at stake (around $532,258 today’s money). Emmerling (who owned Emmerling Brewery) came out on top.

This is John Emmerling’s brewery, also known as the Empire Brewery in Johnston, Pennsylvania, which also served as the family’s residence.
emmerling-brewery

Emmerlings-export

Comments

  1. Steve Emmerling says

    Thanks so much for posting this about John Emmerling and the Empire/Emmerling brewery. I’ve uncovered much of the info about this man and brewery and collected many of the different bottles and other things from the brewery. Every time I search for info on him I seem to learn more about this great man and his successful business.. The photos are great and much appreciated. Thanks again for taking the time to post this information.

    Steve Emmerling ( Aire to the Empire Brewery : -) …I coulda been somebody…damn prohibition ).

  2. Steve Emmerling says

    PS…

    My paternal Grandfather’s middle name was ‘Horner’ ( Raymond Horner Emmerling ). No one ever knew why, as there was no one in the family known to have this name. Then it hit me, one day, when I read that the brewery was located on Horner street in Johnstown. Unfortunately my pap is long gone…as is everyone who may have been able to confirm my theory.

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