Historic Beer Birthday: Christian Benjamin Feigenspan

Today is the birthday of Christian Benjamin Feigenspan (August 15, 1844-April 10, 1899). He was born in Thuringia, Germany but moved his family to New Jersey and founded the C. Feigenspan Brewing Company of Newark in 1875, though at least one source says 1868. When he died in 1899, his son Christian William Feigenspan took over management of the brewery, which remained in business through prohibition, but was bought by Ballantine in 1943.


There’s surprisingly little biographical information about Christian Benjamin Feigenspan, but here’s some history of his brewery:

In 1875 the Christian Feigenspan Brewing Company was founded at 49 Charlton St., at the former Laible brewery where he had previously been a superintendent. He would also marry Rachel Laible.

In 1878, he reportedly built a brewery on Belmont Street, and as late as 1886 a facility at 54 Belmont would be listed as the “Feigenspan Bottling Establishment”.

In 1880, Christian Feiganspan took over the Charles Kolb lager beer brewery (founded 1866) on Freeman Street. (Altho’, an 1873 map of Newark shows the property owned by a “Lenz Geyer Company”. There was a “Geyer” who was another Newark brewer who owned an “Enterprise Brewery” on Orange St.)

An 1884 fire would, reportedly, burn the brewery to the ground for a loss of $300,000.

By 1909, the firm would be advertising that “…Feigenspan Breweries are the largest producers of Ale in the United States!” (click on barrel above for text of ad) in an apparent dig at their much larger next door neighbor, P. Ballantine & Sons. Ballantine’s Lager Beer sales having by then accounted for 3/4 of their total production.

Possibly because of WWI era restrictions on the allowable alcohol level of beer (set at a mere 2.75%), Feigenspan entered into Prohibition with 4,000 barrels of aging ale in its cellar. In 1927, the ale would make the news as they tried to sell it. One story in July had it going to Heinz in Pittsburgh to be made into malt vinegar, but follow up articles say that in early November the ale was simply dumped into the sewer “…and thence into the Passaic River”.

Sadly, it would not be the first beer dumped by Feigenspan, which had one of the first four licenses to brew “medicinal beer” at the start of Prohibition. “Medicinal beer” was soon outlawed by the “Anti-Beer” law, and the brewery had to dump 600 cases of “real beer” (4.5% alcohol) in March of 1922.






Beer Birthday: Gretchen Schmidhausler

Today is the birthday of Gretchen Schmidhausler. She recently opened her own small brewery, Little Dog Brewing in Neptune City, New Jersey. I first met Gretchen, I believe, when she was brewing at Basil T’s Brewery & Italian Grill, where she brewed for over a dozen years, although she’s been in the industry longer than that. Coincidently, Basil T’s will close for good tomorrow. Gretchen also is a beer writer, and wrote the book Making Craft Beer at Home, which was published in 2014. Join me wishing Gretchen a very happy birthday.

Gretchen with her little at her Little Dog Brewery.

Gretchen with George “Norm” Wendt.

[Note: photos purloined from Facebook and her brewery website.]

Beer Birthday: Tony Forder

Today is the 62nd birthday of Tony Forder, publisher of Ale Street News. Tony’s been putting out Ale Street News for over 20 years now, and was kind enough to give me a column when I first came back to freelancing when my son Porter was doing well enough so that I could return to work. I still run into Tony at a variety of beer events throughout the year, and he’s a great person to share a pint with or take a press junket with. Join me in wishing Tony a very happy birthday.

After judging the finals for the 2009 Longshot Homebrew Competition in Boston. From left: Jason Alström, Tony, Bob Townsend, Jim Koch (founder of the Boston Beer Co.), yours truly, Julie Johnson (from All About Beer magazine), and Jason’s brother Todd Alström.

Tony leading a toast at the end of the evening at Schlenkerla in Bamberg, thanking our host, Matthias Trum, and our guide, Horst Dornbusch, for a wonderful second day in Bavaria.

Tony, Bob Townsend (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and me at Longshot judging in 2009.

During a trip to Bavaria in 2007, the gang of twelve plus three at the Faust Brauerei in Miltenberg, Germany. From left: Cornelius Faust, me, Lisa Morrison, Johannes Faust, Julie Bradford, Andy Crouch, Peter Reid, Horst Dornbusch, Jeannine Marois, Harry Schumacher, Tony Forder, Candice Alström, Don Russell, Jason and Todd Alström.

Historic Beer Birthday: John Hinchliffe

Today is the birthday of John Hinchliffe (May 19, 1850-March 18, 1915). His father, also named John Hinchliffe, was born in Yorkshire, England but moved to New Jersey and founded the Hinchliffe Brewing & Malting Company in 1863. The brewery eventually employed his three sons, including John Hinchliffe Jr., who was later president. In 1890, it joined a consolidation of five local breweries in Paterson which became known as the Paterson Brewing & Malting Co. The brewery was closed by prohibition and never reopened.


This obituary comes from the American Brewers Review in 1915:



This brewery history is from the Paterson Historic Preservation Society:

The Hinchliffe Brewing & Malting Company was one of at least a dozen of breweries to operate out of Paterson in the pre-Prohibition Era. Owned and operated by John Hinchliffe & sons, who had previously founded the Eagle Brewery in Paterson in 1861 (on the Eve of the Civil War), Hinchliffe Brewing built the impressive brick structure that still stands on Governor Street in 1899. Designed by Charles Stoll & Son, notable “brewer’s architects” from Brooklyn, New York, building lasted eight months and once completed she was the largest in the city. Advertising broadsides from the era feature products such as their “East India Ale,” Porters, and Brown Stouts. The Brewery had a three-story ice factory located behind it, and at full capacity could produce 75,000 barrels per year. In 1917, the Brewery was converted to cold storage for supplies headed to the battlefields of World War I.

Glassware and advertising from Hinchliffe Brewery are considered collectibles due to their pre-Prohibition origins. Unfortunately, the Brewery would not survive the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, as the Hinchliffe family closed operations to conform with the law of the land.


And this history is by Peter Blum:



And this is from the City of Paterson, New Jersey’s website:

The Hinchliffe Brewing and Malting Company was formed in 1890 by the well-known Hinchliffe brothers, the three sons of the English founder of the Eagle Brewery in 1861. The Eagle was likely the earliest medium-scale brewery in Paterson. John Hinchliffe began under the name Hinchliffe & Co., and was later changed to Shaw, Hinchliffe & Penrose in 1867 following association with those gentlemen. While business did well, in 1878 Penrose withdrew from the firm to which then the name changed to Shaw & Hinchliffe. Soon afterward in 1881, Shaw went abroad due to illness and died there, leaving the firm under its founder, John Hinchliffe, who again was alone in the endeavor until his death in 1886. His sons John, William and James inherited the property and the business, to which they put their minds and in 1890 set out together. They hired the well-known firm of Charles Stoll & Son of Brooklyn to draw up plans for the city’s largest and most modern brewing facility. The brew house stood five stories tall, built of brick and iron and trimmed with granite, and behind was a modern ice making facility three stories tall. A four-story cold storage facility was also constructed at the time fronting Governor Street.

The 1890s was the high time for the brewing industry in Paterson. The four main breweries in Paterson consolidated as the Paterson Consolidated Brewing Co. and in 1899 the Hinchliffe brothers also joined and became board leaders of the organization. John Hinchliffe died in 1915, the same year that more than 30 of Paterson’s saloons were closed due to the lack business. The brewing industry in Paterson was soon thereafter crippled and dissolved by the Temperance movement and prohibition era of the 1920-30s.


On January 15, 1904, a fire broke out at the Hinchcliffe Brewery Malt House. One firefighter died when he fell from a ladder during efforts to put out the blaze, and at least three others were injured. The website Paterson Fire History has photographs and newspaper clippings from the fire.





Historic Beer Birthday: William Peter Sr.

Today is the birthday of William Peter Sr. (March 16, 1832-June 10, 1918) who was born Wilhelm Jacob Peter in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, but anglicized his first name after coming to America in 1850. He worked at other breweries in both New York and Cincinnati before opening his own brewery in 1859, in what was then Union Hill, New Jersey, but today is Union City.


Here’s his obituary from the Western Brewer from January 1918:



And here’s another obituary from Find-a-Grave:

William Peter, founder of the great beer brewing plant of The William Peter Brewing Company Incorporated, of Union Hill now Union City, New Jersey, fled from Achern, Baden, Germany, where he was born, March 16, 1832, to escape the persecution he would have been subjected to as the son of one of the leaders of the Revolution of 1848-1849, against Prussian domination. He fled from Germany while serving his apprenticeship in the brewing trade. He then set sail to America with his mother Maria Antonia (Hof)Peter, four sisters and brother-in-law Max Frech, on the sailing vessel Gallia and arrived in New York on September 14, 1850. He then started a brewery in 1859 in West New York, New Jersey then moved to Union Hill, New Jersey. He developed his business rapidly and became the “best by test” beer in the country. He also had talent for painting, hundreds of landscapes and pictures in still life adorned his studio and the picture gallery of his home. The artist Max Eglau was his master, he had seen sketches and urged Mr. Peter to take up the brush in place of the pencil. William Peter died in 1918 and at that time had the largest funeral in New Jersey history, every famous brewer attended. William Peter married three times, his third wife having been Mrs. Sophia (Vogel) Bertram. Her daughter by her first husband married August Peter his son, his second wife was Mrs. Caroline (Appeli) Ohlenschlager and his first wife was Magdalena (Jaeger).

The brewery workers with William Peter in the center of the first row, with possible his son to the right (his left).


And here are some labels from the brewery.

Outside the library in Weehawken, New Jersey there’s a historical marker for William Peter that was put up in 2010.



This is presumably Peter with his son, William Peter Jr., though I don’t which of his three wives this might be. It was taken in 1910.

And this clipping is from a book on New Jersey from around the turn of the last century.


And lastly, William Peter was also apparently a prolific fine artist who painted numerous oil paintings. This one he did in 1898 of his brewery.


Beer Birthday: Jeff Cioletti

Today is the 45th birthday of Jeff Cioletti, president of Drinkable Media and Editor-at-Large for Beverage World magazine. He’s been covering the business of beer for quite a long while. I run into Jeff at numerous industry events, and we’ve taken a press trip to Belgium. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.

Three J’s at CBC in San Diego: Jeff, John Holl and me. (Photo by Win Bassett.)

Jeff (on the left just above Lew Bryson) at our table inside the barrel room at Samuel Adams in Boston during an anniversary dinner there last year, when we opened every vintage of Utopias, plus Triple Bock and Millennium Ale.

Ace reporter: “we just want the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

Jeff, in the center with a camera around his neck, during a visit to Brouwerij Huyghe during a press trip to Belgium in 2013.

A night on bald mountain, or at least a table.

Beer Birthday: John Holl

Today is the 37th birthday of John Holl, who’s a journalist that came over to the dark side full time; dark beer, that is. Originally on the staff of the Gray Lady — the New York Times — he’s now writing exclusively about beer from his home in northern New Jersey, and more recently he’s become the editor of All About Beer magazine. Online, he’s at Beer Briefing and his latest book is the American Craft Beer Cookbook. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know John during some travel over the last few years, from Denver to Boston, and even in Chile. He’s a great addition to the fraternity of beer writers. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

After the first Beer Bloggers Conference, having lunch at Euclid Hall in Denver, before flying home.

A few years ago in Chile, judging at the Copa Cervezas de America 2011 (John’s on the right in the back row).

Visiting Maltexco, also in Chile (this time, John’s on the left).

At a lunch at Euclid Hall in Denver; John, me, Greg Koch and Jacob McKean, Stone Brewing’s former blogger.

With Stephen Beaumont and Stan Hieronymous, taking a pizza from Sandlot Brewing to Great Divide during GABF last year.

In Boston last year at Harpoon Brewery after John missed his flight, after forgetting his keys, which ultimately made for a great afternoon.

A portrait of the beer writer as a young man.

Historic Beer Birthday: William Peter Jr.

Today is the birthday of William Peter Jr. (December 11, 1860-January 7, 1937). His father, William Peter Sr., founded the William Peter Brewing Company of Union City, New Jersey. When the brewery was incorporated in 1890, Junior was thirty. He became a shareholder and was also vice-president at that time. Presumably, when his father died in 1918, William Peter Jr. became president and soldiered on until his own death in 1937. After that, the brewery remained in business until 1949, when it was sold to George Ehret and renamed the George Ehret Brewery, but only remained open for one more year, closing for good in 1950. Unfortunately, I can’t find very much information about William Peter Jr. directly, not even a portrait.

William Peter Jr. with his father and one of his three wives, taken in 1910.

Here’s a biography of William Peter Jr. from “Schlegel’s American Families of German Ancestry,” by Carl Schlegel:


The brewery workers with William Peter in the center of the first row, with (I think) his son to the right (his left).


Historic Beer Birthday: Christian William Feigenspan

Today is the birthday of Christian William Feigenspan (December 7, 1876-February 7, 1939). His father, Christian Benjamin Feigenspan, was born in Thuringia, Germany but moved his family to New Jersey and founded the C. Feigenspan Brewing Company of Newark in 1875, though at least one source says 1868. When his father died in 1899, Christian William took over management of the brewery, which remained in business through prohibition, but was bought by Ballantine in 1943. He was also “president of Feigenspan Brewing Company, president of Federal Trust Company, and president of the United States Brewers’ Association.”


Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:

Businessman. He took over Newark, New Jersey’s Feigenspan Brewery Company, founded by his father in 1868, when his father died in 1899. He then transformed the company into one of the best known breweries up until and after prohibition. Today it’s labels are the among the most sought after by collectors.


Here’s another biography from “Legendary Locals of Rumson,” written by Roberta H. Van Anda:





And here’s his obituary from his local newspaper:






Historic Beer Birthday: Peter Ballantine

Today is the birthday of Peter Ballantine (November 16, 1791–January 23, 1883). He “was the founder of Patterson & Ballantine Brewing Company in 1840 in Newark, New Jersey,” which is better known by its later name, the P. Ballantine and Sons Brewing Company.

He was born on November 16, 1791 in Dundee, Scotland. He emigrated to Albany, New York in 1820 and learned brewing. By 1830 he had established his own brewery there. In 1840 he moved to Newark, New Jersey and partnered with Erastus Patterson and leased the old High Street Brewery that had been built in 1805 by John R. Cumming. In 1845 Ballantine pulled out of the partnership. In 1850 Ballantine built his own brewery on the Passaic River and in 1857 took on his sons as partners.


Here’s a short bio of Ballantine from Find-a-Grave:

Businessman. He founded the Ballantine Brewing Company in 1840 in Newark, New Jersey. Born in Scotland, he emigrated to the United States in 1820, and learned the beer brewing craft in New York City, New York. He acquired a brewery with a partner and moved its operations to New Jersey. He became the sole proprietor in 1847, and the P. Ballantine and Sons Brewery would produce beer under that name until 1972. At the height of its operations it would be the 3rd largest brewer in the United States. Today the Ballantine Beer brand is owned and produced by the Pabst Brewing Company.



This is from “America’s Successful Men of Affairs: The United States at Large,” published in 1896




And here’s a history of the Ballantine brewery from “A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860,” by John Leander Bishop, Edwin Troxell Freedley, Edward Young, published in 1868: