Historic Beer Birthday: William Ogden

Today is the birthday of William B. Ogden (June 15, 1805-August 3, 1877). Ogden’s biggest claim to fame is being the first mayor of the city of Chicago, elected in 1837. But he was also a businessman, and one of the businesses he was involved in was one of Chicago’s first breweries, Lill & Diversey.

A portrait of William B. Ogden, painted by G.P.A. Healy in 1855.

Some sources say it was the very first brewery in Chicago, but either way, it was certainly one of the earliest. It was founded by William Lill, who was later joined by partner Michael Diversey


Here’s the brewery’s story from One Hundred Years of Brewing, published in 1901:

The immense brewing interests of Chicago had their origin in the persons of William Lill and William Haas. In September, 1839, William B. Ogden, who, two years previously, had been elected mayor of the city, established Mr. Lill in business at the corner of Pine street and Chicago avenue, Mr. Haas being the latter’s assistant. The “plant” was installed in a small tenement building and the first year’s brew was about 450 barrels.

After a few years Michael Diversey formed a partnership with Mr. Lill, when Mr. Ogden withdrew his silent interest in the business. Under the management of Lill & Diversey the so-called Chicago Brewery developed into one of the most extensive establishments of the kind in the west, occupying a portion of the original site, but then covering an entire block. For many years “Lill‘s Cream Ale” was one of the most famous brands in the country. Besides being known as good business men, Lill and Diversey were noted for their benevolence and generosity, the latter being a large benefactor to the German Catholic churches of Chicago.

In 1841, Michael Diversey and William Lill bought the first commercial brewery in Chicago (Haas & Sulzer Brewery) and changed the name to the Lill & Diversey Brewery, also known as the Chicago Brewery. The two men saw huge success and by 1861 were producing 45,000 barrels of beer a year and employing over 75 men. Famous for “Lill’s Cream Ale,” by 1866 the brewery had sprawled to over two acres and four stories high. The Water Tower Pumping Station, which still stands today, was put in directly across the street.

Serving two terms as a Chicago Alderman (1844-45; 1856-1868), Michael Diversey also donated a small plot of land where a Catholic church for fellow German immigrants was built. St. Michael’s was the tallest building in Chicago until 1885 when The Old Chicago Board of Trade building was completed. Known as a great city leader and keeping company with the likes of Joseph Sheffield and William Ogden, Michael Diversey was integral in bringing great growth to Chicago.

However, Diversey died in 1869, and Lill continued to run the brewery. Till the Great Fire of 1871 wiped it out and Lill lost everything. The brewery never re-opened and Lill passed away in 1875.


Most of Ogden’s biographies don’t even mention his affiliation with the brewery at all. See, for example his Wikipedia page, the WBEZ Chicago blog and the Encyclopedia of Chicago. His business with the brewery was apparently a pretty minor investment for him, and he was much more heavily involved in many other projects and businesses. Most accounts state that Ogden was a silent partner in the brewer. But in Gregg Smith’s “Beer In America: The Early Years—1587-1840,” he claims “that the mayor was very much involved in the business, and not just a silent partner: he wanted to ensure that the brewery’s hops came from New York’s Finger Lakes region.” Which makes some sense; Ogden was born in upstate New York.

A photo of Ogden later in life.

Historic Beer Birthday: Frank Leonard Eppig

Today is the birthday of Frank Leonard Eppig (June 4, 1864-February 11, 1923). He was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was the son of Leonard or Leonhard Eppig, who owned the Leonard Eppig Brewing Co., but traded under the name Germania Brewery. When his father died, his sons, including Frank as president, continued running the brewery until it was closed down by prohibition in 1920. Frank died in 1923, but the rest of the remaining family reopened the brewery after repeal, but in 1935 sold it to George Ehret Brewery.

Zimmerman’s Saloon, located at the corner of Graham Ave and Moore Street, in Williamsburg, New York, in 1877, advertising that they carried Leonard Eppig beer.

I’ve been unablt to find any photos of Frank, or much information, but this is Eppig’s obituary from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, for February 13, 1923:



Recently, a descendant of the Eppig family opened a craft brewery in San Diego, which they named Eppig Brewing, and included this infographic in their website:


Beer Birthday: Nick Matt

Today is the 72nd 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.

33. Nick & Fred Matt, Saranac Brewing Co
Nick and Fred Matt at the Rare Beer Tasting at Wynkoop during GABF.

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

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

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.


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.


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



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:


Historic Beer Birthday: Philip Jacob Ebling Jr.

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.


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.


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.

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

A 1908 calendar from the brewery.



Beer Birthday: Jeremy Cowan

Today is Jeremy Cowan’s 48th 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). Jeremy used to split his time between San Francisco and New York, and so I would often see him at beer events somewhat 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.

Jeremy, with City Beer Store owner Craig Wathen.

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.

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

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

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

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.


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).


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.


Here’s his obituary from the New York Times:



Historic Beer Birthday: George Schmitt

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.



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



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:



Historic Beer Birthday: George Ehret

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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


A ad from 1909.

The Nickel (Beer) In New York

This is an interesting article I stumbled upon, from a Time magazine article about Sam’s Bar & Grill in St. Mark’s Place in the East Village of New York City. It was from April 4, 1949


The Nickel In St. Mark’s Place

Monday, April 4, 1949

Pale and shaken, 51-year-old Sam Atkins backed away from himself with a feeling somewhere between disbelief and awe. By a single, splendid cerebration he had been lifted out of the ruck into the status of a television curiosity. In his humble Manhattan saloon, Sam had decided to cut the price of beer (the 7-oz. glass) from a dime to a nickel.

Up to that moment Sam was just a pensioned pumper driver from the Bayonne (N.J.) fire department, and Sam’s bar & grill was like any neighborhood joint around St. Mark’s Place on the Lower East Side. Its only distinctive touch was Sam’s cousin, “Bottle Sam” Hock, who amused the trade by whacking tunes out of whisky bottles with a suds-scraper. But the customers got a joyful jolt when Sam opened up one morning last week.

All around the walls, even over the bar mirror, tasteful, powder-blue signs proclaimed in red letters: “Spring is here and so is the 5¢ beer.” The early birds drank and took their change in mild disbelief. The nickel wasn’t obsolescent after all. The word spread. Sam’s bar & grill started to bulge like Madison Square Garden on fight night. People drank, shook hands with strangers and sang.


Then something went sour. The two breweries that supplied Sam cut him off, and an electrician came around and took the neon beer sign out of the flyspecked windows. Somehow, it seemed, Sam had betrayed free enterprise. An organization of restaurant owners muttered that Sam might not be cutting his beer, but he was cutting his throat. The Bartenders Union threw a picket line in front of the place because it was nonunion.

But Sam hung on. He signed up with the union, managed to get his beer through a couple of distributors and a Brooklyn brewery, announced that he was going to have the windows washed, and keep at it. Said he solemnly: “The people want it.” By this week Sam’s idea had spread to other saloons in Washington, D.C. and New Jersey, and Sam was getting more trade in a day than he had drawn before in a week. The nickel beer was here to stay, Sam announced.