Beer Birthday: Nick Matt

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Today is the 71st birthday of Nick Matt, chairman and CEO of F.X. Matt Brewing in Utica, by the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The brewery was originally founded in 1888, and their main brand today is Saranac. Nick is an active member of the beer industry, and especially through the Brewers Association, and a big supporter of the community as a whole. Join me in wishing Nick a very happy birthday.

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Nick and Fred Matt at the Rare Beer Tasting at Wynkoop during GABF.

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A promo shot at the brewery, Nick with his nephew, and company president, Fred Matt.

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Nick leading a toast at the American Legacy Brewers Hospitality Night a couple of weeks ago in Philadelphia during the Craft Brewers Conference.

Historic Beer Birthday: John Moffat

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Today is the birthday of John Moffat (May 11, 1766-July 13, 1845). Moffat was born near the town of Moffat, Scotland, in 1766, coming to America in his late twenties, in 1793. He founded one of the earliest breweries in Buffalo, New York, along with his son James, in 1833. I was unable to find a portrait of John Moffat, or much about him personally.

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According to John & Dave’s Buffalo Brewing History, John Moffat, along with his son James, acquired what was Buffalo’s second brewery and named it the Moffat Brewery.

Kane, Peacock and Relay brewery was short lived however and a 1909 article in the Buffalo Evening Times indicates John Moffat and his son James purchased the brewing operation around 1833. Also, the 1836 Buffalo City Directory lists Moffat as a brewer at that location. The 1839 Directory lists James Moffat & Co. as a “Brewery, Soap and Candle Factory”. The Moffat Brewery continued in operation until son James died and it was sold to Arthur Fox and became the Fox and Williams Brewery. In 1876 it was sold back to the Moffat family and continued in operation at the same location until the advent of Prohibition forced their closure in 1920. After Prohibition the Phoenix Brewery continued brewing “Moffats Pale Ale” through an agreement with the Moffat family.

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And here’s an account from “Buffalo Beer: The History of Brewing in the Nickel City,” by Michael F. Rizzo and Ethan Cox.

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And “History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County, Volume 2,” published in 1884, has this to say about Buffalo’s earliest brewers, including Moffat:

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Historic Beer Birthday: Philip Jacob Ebling Jr.

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Today is the birthday of Philip Jacob Ebling Jr. (April 29, 1861-September 26, 1896). He was the son of Philip Ebling, who along with his brother William Ebling founded the Ebling Brewing Co., which was known by several different names during its life from 1868 to 1950, including the Philip Ebling & Bro. Wm., Aurora Park Brewery, Ph. & Wm. Ebling Brewing Co. and Ebling Brewing Co., which was its name almost the entirety of the 20th century, both before and after prohibition.

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Here’s a short biography from Find a Grave:

Philip Jacob Ebling, son of Philip and Catherine (Baum)Ebling, was president of the Ebling Brewery when his father Philip Ebling died in 1895. He Then directed all of its affairs until death called him in 1896. Philip Jr. was a member of Wieland Lodge No. 714, Free and Accepted Masons; he was also a member of the Schnorer Club and the K.O.S. Bowling Club. Philip Jacob Ebling married at Union Hill, New Jersey, April 12, 1894, Amanda Anna Peter, born March 01, 1872, daughter of William and Caroline (Aeppli) (Ohlenschlager) Peter. He had one child her name was Priscilla Katherine Philipine Ebling.

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The brewery apparently aged some of their beer in Bronx caves, and for some of their beers, like Special Brew, whose label boasts that the beer was “aged in natural rock caves.” Which sounds crazy, but in 2009, road construction crews in the Melrose section of the Bronx found the old caves, which was detailed by Edible Geography in Bronx Beer Caves.

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An Ebling beer truck on 61st Street in New York in 1938.

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A 1908 calendar from the brewery.

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Beer Birthday: Jeremy Cowan

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Today is Jeremy Cowan’s 47th birthday. Jeremy owns Shmaltz Brewing, makers of He’Brew. Jeremy is a good friend and we’ve known one another since he first pitched He’Brew to me at BevMo many years ago (which is detailed in Jeremy’s memoir Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah). Though Jeremy splits his time between San Francisco and New York, I still manage to see him at beer events pretty frequently, but less so now that he’s built a brick and mortar brewery in upstate New York. Join me in wishing Jeremy a very happy birthday.

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Jeremy, with City Beer Store owner Craig Wathen.

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A few years ago at the Toronado for a He’Brew release party. From left: Alec Moss, recently retired from Half Moon Bay Brewing, Pete Slosberg, Jeremy, and Rodger Davis, when he was still with Drake’s Brewing.

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Jeremy with Rich Norgrove, with Bear Republic, at GABF in 2006.

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Me and Jeremy at the Bistro Double IPA Fest in 2009.

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Jeremy shortly after he launched the Shmaltz beers, before all the grey hairs set in. (Thanks to the anonymous source that sent me this photo.)

Historic Beer Birthday: Anton Schwartz

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Today is the birthday of Anton Schwartz (April 23, 1853-November 6, 1910). He was a German-American brewer who after college began working for breweries when he was only 17 and built a reputation as a great brewmaster. In 1903, he bought a brewery with two partners, brothers Simon E. and Max E. Bernheimer, and they opened the Bernheimer & Schwartz Pilsener Brewing Company.

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Here’s his obituary from Find a Grave:

German brewer, president of Bernheimer & Schwartz Pilsener Brewing Company located at Amsterdam Avenue and West 128th Street in Manhattan, New York County, New York during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the heyday of German-American breweries in New York City.

Schwartz graduated from New York City College and soon therafter, in 1870, he was engaged by August Schmid and his Lion Brewery in Manhattan and by 1975 became its Superintendent. By 1903, after gaining a national reputation as a brewmaster, he purchased the John F. Betz Manhattan Brewery with brothers, Simon E. and Max E. Bernheimer. After their deaths, he became sole owner of the brewery.

Anton married Emma Kleiner, daughter of a Cincinnati brewer and sister of Princess Josephine del Drago (formerly Josephine Kleiner Schmid, widow of August Schmid), owner of the Lion Brewery of Manhattan.

Anton Schwartz died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 7 a.m. that morning in the family’s third floor apartment located No. 2 West 86th Street in Manhattan (the Central Park View Apartments) over the death of his only son, Adolf, aged 24, who died of spinal meningitis six weeks earlier while he and his wife and daughter were on holiday in Germany. All three learned of his sudden illness and immediately set sail back to New York City, only to arrive less than 24 hours after his death. Adolph was the only son and was being groomed to take over the family brewing business. The death of Adolph threw Schwartz into a melancholia that manifested in his failure to attend to the brewery’s business and, near the end, reclusiveness.

The family is not without similar tragedy as ten years earlier, in 1900, Anton’s mother-in-law, Mary (Mrs. Meinrad) Kleiner, committed suicide by inhaling gas from her bedroom heater by removing the tubing and placing it in her mouth.

Schwartz’s paternal grandfather was Gen. Anton Carl Schwartz, lieutenant in the German Army, who was born in Carlsruhe, Baden. He came to America in 1848 and lived in Springfield, Illinois and was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. He traveled with Fremont on his expeditions through California, Nicaragua and Central America, suveying the first Nicaraguan Canal. He served as colonel in the Civil War, organizaing Gumbart’s Battery, Second Illinois Light Artillery. Hw was wounded in Shiloh and died a few years later of complications therefrom.

Surviving Anton Schwartz was his wife, Emma Kleiner Schwartz, and his daughter, Emma Josephine Schwartz Ruppert (Mrs. George Ehret Ruppert).

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Curiously, the building where they built their brewery had originally been built by Yuengling Brewery in 1876. According to Wikipedia, “The Yuengling Brewery opened in this New York City location in 1876, when there was plenty of land to use in this part of Manhattan. The brewery included a stable with room for one hundred horses, a swimming pool, and large lofts for entertaining. David Yuengling’s Brewery enjoyed initial success, and an 1885 article in the New York Times gave the plant a rave review. It was not long, however, before Yuengling’s management decided to consolidate the company in Pennsylvania and sold the Manhattanville site to the Bernheimer & Schwartz Pilsener Brewing Company in 1903.” It fell into disuse during Prohibition, and by the 1940s the buildings used to store furs, and it became known as the Mink Building, the name it still goes by today.

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Here’s his obituary from the New York Times:

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Historic Beer Birthday: George Schmitt

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Today is the birthday of George Schmitt (April 14, 1869-July 31, 1898). There’s very little about him that I could find, though I suspect the fact that he died when he was only 29 might have something to do with that. He was trained as a brewer at his father’s brewery, worked at a malt house, and became the manager of Schmitt & Schwanenfluegel Brewery, which was in New York City, near Central Park at 1065 Avenue A, between 56th & 57th.

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This short obituary was printed in the American Brewers’ Review:

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The brewery was originally known as the Henry Elias Brewery, who founded it near 15th Street & Broadway in 1855. Elias, in 1865, partnered with George Schmitt, this George’s father, and became known as Henry Elias & George Schmitt Brewery, a.k.a. the Central Park Brewery (and was readdressed to 1065 Avenue A, between 56th & 57th). In 1868, Schmitt partnered with Christian Koehne to keep it going and it became the Schmitt & Christian Koehne Brewery. Then in 1885, Koehne left and Louis Von Schwanenfluegel came to the business and it became known as Schmitt & Schwanenfluegel Brewery, which it remained until it closed in 1906. During that time it was also known as Consumers Park Brewing Co. and also Central Park Brewery.

According to 100 Years of Brewing, the chronology is slightly different:

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Historic Beer Birthday: George Ehret

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Today is the birthday of George Ehret (April 6, 1835-January 21, 1927). He was born in Hofweier, Buden, Germany but followed his father to America, arriving in New York in 1857, age 31. Having been trained as a brewer, he worked for a few years and then founded his own brewery, the George Ehret Brewery, which was also known as the Hell Gate Brewery, in 1866. It stopped producing beer in 1920 due to prohibition and limped along until 1927, when it closed due to his death.

The entry at Find a Grave has just a couple of sentences. “Beer Brewer, he established The Hell Gate Brewery in 1866 in New York City. It became one of the nation’s largest breweries, producing 602,000 barrels in 1900. When he died, his estate was valued at $40,000,000.”

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100 Years of Brewing has a much fuller account of Ehret and the Hell Gate Brewery:

George Ehret’s Hell Gate Brewery, New York City.

The Hell Gate Brewery was established by George Ehret in the year 1866; hence, at a time when the annual production of malt liquors [in the U.S.] had increased to 5,115,140 barrels. He had then just attained the age of thirty-one years, the date of his birth being April 6, 1835. Nine years before the establishment of this brewery, Mr. Ehret came to America (1857) to join his father, who had emigrated from Germany in August, 1852.

Mr. Ehret, being a thoroughly practical brewer, strictly devoted to his calling, had not long to serve in the brewery of A. Hupfel before he rose to the foremanship and gained the full confidence and friendship of his employer. When he made known his intention to start a brewery for himself, Mr. Hupfel, a man of generous instincts and philanthropic disposition, at once promised and, at the proper time, gave his support and assistance to the new enterprise.

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The site selected by Mr. George Ehret for his brewery was at that time of a decidedly rural character. It was opposite a dangerous passage in the East river, which had been designated “Hell Gate.” From this fact Mr. Ehret decided to name his brewery “The Hell Gate Brewery.”

The building in which he began brewing was erected under his supervision on the lower part of the block, between Ninety-second and Ninety-third streets and Second and Third avenues, and its interior appointments were completed at the beginning of the year 1867. This building is no longer standing. It was succeeded by another in 1871, which formed the nucleus of the establishment that now covers the greater part of an entire block. It is at present almost hidden by the over-towering brewery buildings which have sprung up around it in the course of a quarter century, and a full view of it can only be gained from the quadrangular yard, of which it forms the interior side, the buildings flanking it being the offices and the storehouse, both fronting on Ninety-second street.

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Mr. George Ehret, from the very beginning, aimed at the brewing of a beer as nearly like the best quality of Munich lager as the difference between our water and that of the river Isar would admit. How well he succeeded in this may be inferred from the popularity which his beer attained in a few years. As has been said, he began brewing immediately after the completion of his plant. At the beginning of January, 1867, the first brew was stored in the cellars; in March of the same year his wagons, freighted not only with kegs, but also, metaphorically speaking, with all his expectations and anxieties, left his yards for the first time to serve his new customers. Five years after that date he sold 33,512 barrels; seven years later, 74,497 barrels, and in 1874 he produced and sold 101,050 barrels — a quantity which twenty-eight years ago was manufactured by but very few of the largest establishments. This growth was then all the more remarkable, because Mr. Ehret’s operations had suddenly been checked for a considerable time on account of a fire which, on the 19th of September, 1870, destroyed the greater part of his brewery, including books and papers. It is owing to this fact that we are unable to give the quantities of beer brewed during the four years preceding the fire.

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The year 1870 may be called the second starting point in the growth of Hell Gate Brewery. In a certain sense the fire was not an unmixed evil, especially in view of the fact that the demand for Ehret beer was fast outgrowing the capacity of the original plant, necessitating a considerable extension of the premises and buildings, and many additions to the machinery and other appointments.

As stated above, the amount of beer produced and sold by the Hell Gate Brewery in the year 1874 amounted to 101,050 barrels; in 1880, the production amounted to 220,096 barrels, an increase in six years of over one hundred per cent. Ten years after, in the year 1890, the production amounted to 412,851 barrels, making another increase of almost one hundred per cent for the decade. In the year 1900, the production was 601,000 barrels, showing an increase of about forty-six per cent. This is a record to be proud of, and one that has seldom been equaled in the history of brewing.

This immense production has been attained without any forced efforts to open new channels outside of the limits of the State of New York; although, naturally enough, whenever a demand was shown to exist in outside markets, Mr. George Ehret endeavored to supply it, and thus established a number of agencies. The home demand always proved so great that the idea of engaging in an extensive export trade beyond the sea could not be entertained, save in conjunction with plans for a further enlargement of the brewery premises and increase in equipment.

On approaching the brewery, one is impressed at the very first glance with the unusually large dimensions of the grounds upon which the buildings are erected. In a smaller city this would not be anything worthy of note, but in New York, and especially in that part of it to which we refer, where scantness of territory and an immense and ever-growing population render necessary the utmost economy in the utilization of space (much to the detriment of architectural beauty), such extended premises as those we speak of can not fail to make an impression. The grounds, extending from within a short distance of Third avenue to Second avenue, and from Ninety-first to Ninety-fourth streets, comprise, inclusive of stables and storage buildings on Second avenue between Ninety-first and Ninety-third streets, seventy-five city lots, or one hundred and eighty-seven thousand five hundred square feet.

The main building, an imposing structure, surmounted by a graceful clock tower, fronts on Ninety-third street, extending southward to a considerable depth; it is flanked on either side by lower wings, which, in point of architecture and symmetrical proportions, harmonize perfectly with the principal facade. Ornamental gables, rising from the cornices of every building, enhance the impression of uniformity which, next to utility, was manifestly one of the prime objects of the architect.

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100 Years of Brewing was published in 1903, so the rest of the story can be found in Will Anderson’s Breweries of Brooklyn:

George Ehret, once this nation’s largest brewer, passed away in January of 1927 (leaving an estate valued at $40,000,000!). It was beginning to look as if Prohibition would last forever and the executors of Ehret’s estate debated whether they should sell the mammoth brewery buildings on the upper east side of Manhattan. For years they held off but in April of 1935 Col. Jacob Ruppert, Ehret’s neighbor on Third Avenue and 92nd Street, made an offer that the Ehret family just couldn’t refuse. With the sale to Ruppert, the Ehrets had even more money to add to what they’d inherited earlier — but they had no brewery. This problem was solved very nicely by the cash purchase, in July of 1935, of the Interboro Beverage Co. facilities [in Brooklyn]. Although the location was new, the brewery was still very much under the control of the Ehret family. Louis J. Ehret, George’s son, headed the firm, and he was aided by two of George’s grandchildren, George Ehret Burghardt and William Ehret Ottmann. Richard Barthel, brewmaster at the old Ehret plant in Yorkville, also made the move to Brooklyn. Over $200,000 was spent to thoroughly recondition the plant throughout, and by the summer of 1936 Louis J. Ehret had the plant in full production.

Ehret’s Extra Beer and Ale were brewed in Brooklyn for the next 12 years, until 1948, when the company transferred its operations to Union City, New Jersey. Whether Ehret’s moved because of an irresistible offer from Schlitz [who bought the Brooklyn plant] or because the Union City plant seemed preferable is unknown. In any case, move to New Jersey they did, where they remained in operation but three more years.

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And finally, here;s George Ehret’s obituary.

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A ad from 1909.

Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick Hinckel Jr.

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Today is the birthday of Frederick Hinckel Jr. (April 3, 1859-February 25, 1917). He was the son of Frederick Hinckel Sr., who co-founded the Hinckel Brewery of Albany, New York. His father, Hinckel Sr., along with Johann Andreas Schinnerer, founded the F. Hinckel & A. Schinnerer brewery in 1852, which was also known as the Cataract Brewery. “Its premises occupied half a city block, bounded by Swan Street, Myrtle and Park Avenues. By 1864 Hinckel was the sole owner of the business.” When his father passed away in 1881, Frederick Jr., along with his brother Charles, took over the brewery. It closed in 1920 when prohibition went into effect, and did reopen after repeal. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any portraits of Frederick Jr.

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Here’s his obituary from “The Brewer’s Journal” for November 1916-October 1917:

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A Hinckel Brewery beer wagon.

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Although the brewery closed in 1920 because of prohibition, and never reopened afterwards, the build was preserved and today is an apartment complex.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Michael Piel

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Today is the birthday of Michael Piel (March 29, 1849-June 12, 1915) who along with his brothers Gottfried and Wilhelm Piel founded Piel Bros. Beer in New York, more commonly known as Piels Beer in 1883. Michael Piel was the brewer among his brothers, and the oldest, as well.

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Here’s a short biography from Find a Grave:

Michel Piel was born on the 29th of March, 1849 in Dussendorf, Germany. He immigrated to the United States in 1883 with his wife Marie and son William. They settled first in Brooklyn, then moved to Manhattan. They had 11 children: William, Henry, Otto, Michael Jr, Louisa Gertrude, Rudolph, Agnes, Oswald, Roland and Albert was died at 2yrs and Maria who also died at 2 yrs. Michael with his brothers Gottfried and Wilhelm founded Piels Beer in 1883 and located the brewery in Brooklyn, New York at 315 Liberty Avenue in the East New York section of Brooklyn. On September 20, 1973, Piels Brothers closed down after 90 years in operation. Piels brand of beer was [licensed, not sold as many sources report] to Pabst Brewing Company, which continues to market the Piels on a limited basis in New York and the New England States.

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And here’s a fuller biography from the Cyclopedia of American Biography:

PIEL, Michael, brewer, b. in Stoffeln, Düsseldorf am Rhein, Germany, 29 March, 1849; d. at Lake Parlin, Me., 12 June, 1915, son of Heinrich Hubert and Gertrud (Gispé) Piel. He was descended from an old Rhenish stock of farmers of singular attachment, whose members successively aimed to expand their patrimony of tillable lands. To the original and extensive Stoffeln Farm his father and uncles added the great Mörsenbroich-Düsseldorf tillages, which now border the residential section of the Lower Rhenish financial capitol. Michael was born in an environment of industry, thrift, and enterprise. His early youth was devoted to the farm at Mörsenbroich-Düsseldorf. At the age of eighteen, he began his military service in the Kaiser Alexander II Regiment of the Imperial Guards at Berlin. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 broke out just as he had completed this duty. As he was not, therefore, subject to the call of the Fatherland, his family sought to hold him back. He promptly volunteered, however, and served throughout the war, participating with his regiment in several engagements, the battle of Gravelotte and the siege of Paris. The impressions on the country boy of his years of service at Berlin, which had already begun to modernize its industries, lingered and served constantly to stimulate his natural gifts of invention. While for several years after the war, true to the family tradition, he worked at Mörsenbroich with his elder brother, he continually sought expression for his native talents. The arduous discipline of farm-labor from sun-up to sun-down, — valuable preparation though it was for the early trials of his later life career — could not check his inventive spirit. Gradually, making the most of his opportunities on the farm, his successes won him away from the family calling. In the creation of new rose-cultures and, particularly, in the perfection of a new and highly productive breed of bees, for both of which, after but two years of experimentation, he was voted the government’s highest awards, he found the encouragement he needed for the growing determination to carve out his own future. It was, however, his invention of a centrifuge for the extraction of honey, awarded special governmental recognition and immediately adopted into general use, that decided him. As the protégé of a machine manufacturer, he visited the industrial centers of the progressive Rhineland and soon chose the ancient German industry of brewing as the one offering the best opportunity for his talent of applying machinery to natural processes. He found a fertile field. The new science of modern refrigeration had just come into practice, and the suggestions which it offered in his chosen field fascinated him. He began his novitiate in the old-style subterranean cellars at the breweries of Dortmund, Westphalia. In 1883, his apprenticeship ended, he welcomed the call of a younger brother, Gottfried, then already established as an export merchant in New York, to found with him in East New York, at its present site, a typically German brewery, to be conceived on modern and scientific principles. The brothers, as a partnership, secured title to a small old-style brewing plant, then in disuse, and found the problem to convert it to newer ideas a fight against tremendous odds. At the outset, Michael was its brewer, superintendent, and engineer, his accumulated experience fitting him admirably for the multiplicity of his duties. In the early days of the converted plant, Michael found that his hours were from four o’clock in the morning till ten at night. At last, in 1888, the ability of his brother as the financial head of the firm and the excellence of his own products assured success and the long struggle was won. The country which had offered him his opportunity for success he gladly and promptly adopted as his own, being admitted to citizenship in 1888. The enterprise prospered and the partnership became a corporation in 1898, with an established business of national reputation. The popular demand for the products of the plant, — then a novelty in the American brewing industry: a typical German beer, — necessitated enlarged facilities. A new era began. The acquired plant was demolished and a new plant, offering Michael the long-sought opportunity for the application of his talents, was erected. Subterranean cellars made way for a building of cellars above surface, under modern refrigeration. The plant, completed, represented a new achievement in brewing construction; it continues to serve as a model of the German-type plant. New principles were easily adopted by him and many ideas of his own creation were applied. Continued success justified this enlargement of facilities, and twice more during his lifetime the plant was expanded in size and facilities. The brewery’s reputation spread abroad, and for years brought brewing academicians, experts, and scientists from Europe and South America to note his work. Many of his ideas were copied abroad. The plant enjoyed the distinction, as the result of Michael’s constant scientific advances in his field, of the continued exchange with European authorities of German brewing ideas, a unique achievement for an American manufacturer. He retired from active management as the technical head of the corporation in 1900, devoting his last years to the acquisition of German paintings of hunting scenes. He was an enthusiastic sportsman, and was particularly devoted to hunting, fishing, and yachting. In 1901 he acquired the Parlin Farm, situated in a basin of the Maine Boundary Mountains, on the Quebec-Portland Highway, on the line of Arnold’s Retreat. It is recognized as one of the most attractive residences of the State. He married 19 March, 1882, Maria Gertrud, daughter of Josef and Agnes (Holz) Herrmann, at Bochum, Westphalia. His widow and nine children survived him.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Maximilian Schaefer

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Today is the anniversary of the death of Maximilian Schaefer, whose exact birth date is not known (1819-March 23, 1904). He was born in Wetzlar, which is part of Hesse, in what today is Germany. He arrived in New York in 1839, a year after his brother Frederick came to America, and the two co-founded F&M Schaefer Brewing Co. in 1842. It was Max who brought with him a recipe for what would become their lager beer.

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This is his obituary from Find a Grave:

Beer Magnate. In 1839 he emigrated to the United States, carrying with him the recipe for lager, a popular brew in Germany that was then unknown in America. He joined his brother Frederick in the employ of a local brewer, and in 1842 the Schaefer brothers bought out the owner, establishing F & M Schaefer Brewing. Lager proved popular and the Schaefer company became one of the country’s largest beer producers, with Maximilian Schaefer remaining active in the company until failing health caused him to retire in the late 1890s. By the early 1900s, its customer base in the Northeastern United States made Schaefer the most popular beer in the country, a position it maintained until ceding it to Budweiser in the 1970s. The Schaefer brand continued to decline, and as of 1999 is owned by Pabst Brewing, a holding company that contracts for the brewing of formerly popular regional brands.

This is what the brewery looked like in 1842, when Maximilian and his brother opened the brewery.

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Below is part of a chapter on the history of F&M Schaefer Brewing Co., from Will Anderson’s hard-to-find Breweries in Brooklyn.

Longest operating brewery in New York City, last operating brewery in New York City [as of 1976], and America’s oldest lager beer brewing company — these honors, plus many others, all belong to The F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Co.

“F. & M.”, as most breweriana buffs know, stands for Frederick and Maximilian, the brothers who founded Schaefer. Frederick Schaefer, a native of Wetzlar, Prussia, Germany, emigrated to the U.S. in 1838. When he arrived in New York City on October 23rd he was 21 years old and had exactly $1.00 to his name. There is some doubt as to whether or not he had been a practicing brewer in Germany, but there is no doubt that he was soon a practicing brewer in his adopted city. Within two weeks of his landing, Frederick took a job with Sebastian Sommers, who operated a small brewhouse on Broadway, between 18th and 19th Streets. Frederick obviously enjoyed both his job and life in America, and the next year his younger brother, Maximilian, decided to make the arduous trip across the Atlantic also. He arrived in June of 1839 and brought with him a formula for lager, a type of beer popular in Germany but unheard of in the United States. The brothers dreamed, and planned, and saved – and in the late summer of 1842 they were able to buy the small brewery from Sommers. The official, and historic, starting date was September, 1842.

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The new brewery they built in 1849.

Sommers’ former facility was a start, but that’s all it was, as it was much too small. New York beer drinkers immediately took a liking to “the different beer” the brothers brewed, and in 1845 Frederick and Maximilian developed a new plant several blocks away, on 7th Avenue, between 16th and 17th Streets (7th Avenue and 17th Street is today, of course, well known as the home of Barney’s, the giant men’s clothing store). This, too, proved to be just a temporary move; the plant was almost immediately inadequate to meet demands and the brothers wisely decided to build yet another new plant, and to locate it in an area where they could expand as needed. Their search took them to what were then the “wilds” of uptown Manhattan. In 1849 the brewery, lock, stock and many barrels, was moved to Fourth Ave. (now Park Avenue) and 51st Street. Here, just north of Grand Central Station, the Schaefers brewed for the next 67 years, ever-expanding their plant. The only problem was that the brothers were not the only ones to locate “uptown.” The area in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s grew rapidly all during the last half of the 19th century, and especially after the opening of the original Grand Central Terminal in 1871. Frederick and Maximilian had wisely purchased numerous lots between 50th and 52nd Streets, and by the time they passed away (Frederick in 1897 and Maximilian in 1904) the brewery was, literally, sitting atop a small fortune. Maximilian’s son, Rudolph J. Schaefer, fully realized this when he assumed the Presidency of the brewery in 1912. In that same year Rudolph purchased the 50% of the company owned by his uncle Frederick’s heirs. He thus had complete control of the brewery, and one of the first matters he turned to was the suitable location for a new, and presumably everlasting, plant. In 1914, in anticipation of its move, Schaefer sold part of the Park Ave. site to St. Bartholomew’s Church. This sale, for a reputed $1,500,000, forced Rudolph to intensify his search for a new location. Finally, in June of 1915, it was announced that the brewery had decided on a large tract in Brooklyn, directly on the East River and bounded by Kent Avenue and South 9th and 10th Streets. Here, starting in 1915, Rudolph constructed the very best in pre-Prohibition breweries. The move across the river to their ultra-new and modern plant was made in 1916, just four years before the Volstead Act crimped the sails (and sales!) of all United States breweries, new or old alike.

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The Schaefers around 1895, with Maximilian Schaefer sitting down, his son Rudolph Schaefer standing behind him, Maximilian holding F.M. Emile Schaefer, his grandson and Rudolph’s son on his lap.

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Three generations of Schaefers.