Today is the 46th birthday of Jennie Hatton, who did P.R. for Philly Beer Week and several craft breweries in the tri-state area for a number of years. She cut her teeth working for Tom Peters at Monk’s Cafe. Jennie and her business partner Claire Pelino are responsible for many, many beer books being published as literary agents to a number of beer writers, including yours truly. Also, Jennie is one of my favorite people in the industry and she’s so much fun to be around that people refer to her as “The Wonderful Jennie Hatton.” Also, few people love tater tots like I do, and she’s one of them. That’s enough for me. More recently, she’s been doing Brand Development for Dogfish Head. Join me in wishing Jennie a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of John Stocker (August 5, 1850-July 19, 1903). He was born in Baden, Germany, but moved to Pennsylvania, working for Frederick Lauer in Reading for 17 years before opening his own small brewery with John Roehrich in 1891, initially known as the John C. Stocker & John Roehrich Brewery. By 1897, Stocker was the sole owner and renamed it the John C. Stocker Brewery. There seems to be some confusion about his middle initial. Some sources say it was a “C” while others report it was a “G.” The brewery continued after he died, briefly as the Estate of John C. Stocker Brewery for two years, and then it became known as the Fairview Brewery, until 1912. From 1912 until closed by prohibition it was called the Mt. Penn Brewing Co. It reopened after prohibition as the Fisher Brewing Co., at least until 1934. Thereafter it was known briefly as the Woerner Brewery and then the Adam C. Jaeger Brewing Co. until it closed for good in 1943. I was unable ti find any photos of Stocker.
This biography of Stocker is from the “Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania,” edited by Morton Luther Montgomery:
And this obituary is from the Reading Historical Society”
John Stocker, a worthy and honored citizen and prominent business man of Reading, died at Carlsbad, Bohemia, July 19, 1903. Mr. Stocker was born in Baden, Germany, Aug. 5, 1850, son of John and Catherine (Werren) Stocker, both of whom were natives of the same section of the German Empire.
The will of John Stocker was made only a short time before Mr. Stocker sailed for Germany for his health, and left his entire estate to his widow. His son John Stocker was named as the executor.
The estate was a large one, with up to $200,000 in real estate, with about $15,000 personal property. The real estate included the Stocker brewery, near the fair ground, his late residence located at 1700 North 11th Street, and a number of hotel stands in the city and county.
The brewer’s license of John Stocker for the brewery at 2100 North 11th; was granted by Judge Endlich to John Stocker, his son.
John Stocker was reared to manhood in his native land, and was afforded the advantages of the excellent schools there. In 1869, at the age of nineteen years, he emigrated to America and took up his residence in Reading, Pa., where he secured employment in the brewery of Peter Barbey. Later he identified himself with the operation of the brewery of Frederick Lauer, and after continuing in the employment of others for seventeen years he removed to Tremont, Schuylkill County, where he and his brother-in-law, John Roerich, rented a brewery, which they operated for the ensuing six years. Mr. Stocker then disposed of his interest in the enterprise and returned to Reading, where he built up a large and profitable business in the ownership and operation of what was known as the Stocker Brewery. He was thoroughly familiar with all details of the business, gave to his plant careful personal supervision and gained for the output a high standard of excellence. Mr. Stocker continued the executive head of the brewery until his death.
Mr. Stocker was survived by his wife, whose maiden name was Catherine Roerich, and by five (children: Henry, J. George, Catherine (wife of Charles Deale), Adam (who was killed by the explosion of a beer vat, Oct. 20, 1905, at the age of twenty-six years, two months, eighteen days), and Caroline.
John Stocker, his son, who was made executor of the estate by the terms of his father’s will, and who was identified with the operation of the brewery from his youthful days was born in Reading, March 19, 1875. After completing the curriculum of the public schools he rounded out his discipline by a course in the Inter-State Business College, at Reading, where he graduated. He then became associated with the work of his father’s brewery in Tremont, and later with the Stocker Brewery in Reading. In January, 1903, he was graduated in the American Brewery Academy in Chicago, Ill. In 1893 he was made brewmaster in his father’s brewery, and in 1897 became general manager of the business.
On Sept. 1, 1904, Mr. Stocker married Miss Anna P. Watkins, who was born and reared in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
On April 8, 1907 John Stocker disposed of the Stocker Brewery. The Stocker brewery, located at 2100 North Eleventh Street, and the Stocker residence, located at 1700 North Eleventh Street, were sold to Augustus Snyder, a brewer, of Pittsburg. The price was never made public.
After the sale of the brewery Mr. Stocker attended to the affairs of the estate and for a short time conducted the Stocker Cafe, at 13 North Eighth Street.
John Stocker died suddenly in St. Joseph’s Hospital at 6:45 o’clock April 13, 1933. He was admitted to the institution from his home, 805 Centre Avenue, at 12:45 o’clock in the morning. He was in ill health for three months prior, but not seriously. He was 58 years old.
Today is the birthday of Emanuel Bernheimer (August 3, 1817-March 26, 1890). He was born in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, and apprenticed as a brewer in Germany, coming to New York City when he was 27, in 1844. With a partner, August Schmid, in 1850, he founded the Constanz Brewery on East 4th Street near Avenue B, and a couple of years later, with a different partner, James Speyers, he started the Lion Brewery on Columbus Ave, between 107th and 108th Streets in Manhattan, next door to the beer garden at the Lion Park, and indeed it is sometimes referred to as the Lion Park Brewery. The business was reorganized in 1868, and his old business partner August Schmid also became a partner in the Lion Brewery, and by 1890 its official name was the Bernheimer & Schmid Brewery, though they continued to trade under the Lion Brewery name. In 1895, it was the sixth-largest brewery in the U.S. After 1903, it was called the Lion Brewery of New York, presumably to avoid confusion with the many other breweries with Lion in their name. Lion survived prohibition but closed for good in 1942.
Here’s a biography of Bernheimer from Find-a-Grave, originally from the New York Times, for March 29, 1890:
Emanuel Bernheimer, one of the owners of the Lion Brewery and one of the oldest brewers in this part of the country, died at his home, 351 West Fifty-fifth street, on Thursday, from complaints incident to his advanced age. He had not been in good health for several years, and for some months was unable, save rarely, to leave his house. The funeral will be held at his home to-morrow at 9:30 A.M., the Rev. Dr. Gottheil officiating. The burial will be in the Salem Field Cemetery, the Rev. Dr. Silverman leading the services at the grave. Mr. Bernheimer was born in Germany in 1817, and served an apprenticeship of some years in a brewery in his native country before he came to this city in 1844. When he arrived here it was with some capital, and he engaged in the general importing business in Beaver-street. In 1850 he formed a partnership with August Schmid, and, recognizing the possibilities of brewing in this city, established the Constanz Brewery in East Fourth-street. This was one of the first breweries started here, and it was successful beyond the hopes of the partners. Hundred and Eighth-street, which, with its additions of a big garden and a park for picnics, soon became quite famous, parties being made up in all parts of the city to take the then long trip to Lion Park for an evening’s enjoyment. Mr. Bernheimer began the extensive and elaborate system of advertising which is now a characteristic of the trade, and was the first to establish beer saloons of his own in various parts of the city, gradually disposing of them to their lessees, much the same as is done at present. Under the firm name of Speyer & Bernheimer he continued the business for several years. About 1868 the firm was reorganized by the admission of August Schmid, and a year or so later it was changed into Schmid & Bernheimer by the admission of Joseph Schmid. In 1878 Mr. Bernheimer retired from active participation in the brewery business, his son, S. E. Bernheimer, succeeding him. The business was carried on under the name of Schmid & Bernheimer until Mr. August Schmid died in July, 1889. Then the firm was composed of Mr. Bernheimer’s three sons, S. E., Max E., and Henry Bernheimer. During the civil war Mr. Bernheimer was a liberal contributor to the various funds which were then established. He was a Democrat throughout his life, following his party in national affairs. In local politics he was disposed to be independent. He was one of the oldest members of the Temple Emanu-El, was an active participant in the work of the German Widows and Orphans’ Society, a patron of the Mount Sinai Hospital, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, the German Hospital, and the Montefiore Home for Chronic Invalids. Besides his sons, he leaves one daughter. His wife died four years ago to-day.
And this account of Bernheimer is from the West Side Rag:
Emanuel Bernheimer was born in Germany in 1817 and served an apprenticeship there before coming to New York in 1844. He arrived “with some capital” and set up an importing business on Beaver Street. In 1850, he became a partner of August Schmid in the Constanz Brewery which is described as “successful beyond the hopes of the partners.” In all, at its height, the firm of Bernheimer and Schmid owned and operated five breweries, including the Lion, on Staten Island and in Manhattan.
Bernheimer’s genius seems to have been advertising. He began an elaborate system of marketing which was quickly adopted by his fellow brewers and he established “beer saloons of his own in various parts of the city, gradually disposing of them to their lessees,” not unlike the franchise system of today. The advertisement shown [here] is a perfect example of business savvy combined with some of the higher ideals of the day: “Kings and Emperors will gladly lay down their arms of warfare and drink to the health and happiness of all their peoples. The sun of that golden morn will soon rise and all nationalities will be found drinking our Pilsener and Wuerzberger – the beer of Surpassing quality and lasting flavor.” An image of 19th century paradise accompanied by a glass of Lion Brewery beer. Perfect.
This is about the brewery from Wikipedia:
Shortly after immigrating to the United States, Swiss-German August Schmid and Emanuel Bernheimer founded the Costanz Brewery at East 4th Street near Avenue B in 1850. The brewery produced a lagered beer, a favorite among German immigrants. By 1852, they built a second Costanz Brewery at Four Corners in Staten Island, home to a large German community. Five years later, Bernheimer became the partner of another German immigrant, James Speyers and founded the Lion Brewery in 1857 in Manhattan Valley.
A group of Catholic Bavarians helped build the Lion Brewery. When it was built, they held masses in the Brewery on Sunday mornings.
At its peak, the Lion Brewery occupied about six square city blocks, from Central Park West to Amsterdam Avenue and from 107th to 109th Street. At the time Manhattan’s Upper West Side was an open area with inexpensive land housing, many public institutions and an insane asylum. There were about five to ten thousand living in shanties after being displaced by the creation of Central Park in 1859. Consequently, with the brewery and surrounding areas, the Upper West Side failed to increase its real estate value until the early twentieth century.
In 1862, a $1 tax on each barrel of beer hurt small brewers but not Lion. The anti-saloon movement in the late 19th and early 20th century encouraged Lion to clean up its own saloons. Lion Brewery got caught up in a wave of mergers and closings among some of the smaller New York Brewers in the early 1940s which continued until 1941, when the business closed. The brewery (including the canning facilities) was auctioned off on August 26, 1943. The plant was demolished in 1944 and more than 3,000 tons of steel were taken from the original brewery structure and recycled for the war effort.
After the Brewery was knocked down the lot was paved over with cinders. On Sundays, after the war, returning World War II Veterans formed a Softball League and played almost every Sunday afternoon. Home plate was located near 107th street and Columbus Avenue. Today, apartment houses occupy the Lion brewery’s former location.
Around 1860, the brewery published a pamphlet titled “Observations on Brewing and Beer: With an Analysis and Scientific Testimony Relative to the Lager Beer of the Speyers’ Lion Brewery.” The pamphlet had a short history of the different kinds of beer, and an analysis showing that their lager beer was pure. The pamphlet also included some great line drawings of the brewery complex.
And here’s another story from Rusty Cans:
In 1850 recent Swiss German immigrants August Schmid and Emanuel Bernheimer founded the Costanz Brewery at East 4th Street near Avenue B. The brewery specialized in lagered beer, a favorites among their fellow immigrants. By 1852, their success encouraged them to build a second Costanz Brewery at Four Corners in Staten Island, then home to a large German immigrant community. Eight years later, Bernheimer became the partner of another German immigrant, James Speyers, in his Lion Brewery, established in 1857.
The Lion Brewery, depicted here, occupied a site bounded by what are now Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue and extending from 107th to 109th Streets. The background view includes Central Park, with a glimpse of the Blockhouse, a relic from the War of 1812. (The Church of the Ascension is there now, built with the brewery’s help in the 1890s). During this period Manhattan’s Upper West Side was a relatively open area offering inexpensive land and it accommodated numerous public institutions including an insane asylum. Also clustered in the neighborhood were the shanty homes of between 5-10,000 thousand people displaced by the formal opening of Central Park in 1859. The combination of shanties, public institutions, and such foul-smelling industries as breweries explains why the Upper West Side failed to develop the real estate value of other areas bordering Central Park until the early twentieth century.
Late in the life of the Lion Brewery, it became involved in a number of mergers and acquisitions, eventually becoming The Greater New York Brewery, Inc.:
Lion brewing got caught up in a wave of mergers and closing among some of the smaller New York Brewers in the early 1940s. In late 1940, the Fidelio Brewing Co., located at 1st Ave. between 29th and 30th Streets., closed. However, on November 15, 1940, it reopened business as the Greater New York Brewery, Inc. In December 1940, the Greater New York Brewery merged with the Horton Pilsener Brewing Co., which was located at Amsterdam Ave. and 128th Street. Horton Brewing President Alex White became a director of Greater New York Brewery and they continued producing previous Horton products. In January 1941, the Greater New York Brewery merged with City Brewing Corporation of Queens. In February of 1941, Horton, as part of Greater New York Brewery, closed its doors. On April 9, 1941, City Brewing Corporation, as part of Greater New York Brewery, temporarily had its license canceled because of illegal merchandising in the form of gifts to retailers. (It apparently reopened at a later date.)
In May of 1941, Greater New York Brewery, Inc. acquired the Lion Brewery. It was the only brewery of the four that merged that had facilities to package beer in flat top cans. But by February of 1942, the Lion Brewery was closed and put up for sale. There being no buyers, the brewery (including the canning facilities) was auctioned off on August 26, 1943. In 1944 over 3,000 tons of steel were taken from the original brewery structure and recycled for the war effort. In April, 1946, the Greater New York Brewery, Inc. became known as the Greater New York Industries. This entity remained in operation until 1950.
For its short lifetime the former Lion Brewery continued to produce beer in cans labeled as products of the Greater New York Brewery. The two flat tops produced are scarce, but not truly rare. However, during its short life span, the Greater New York Brewery also produced a very rare crowntainer and two rare quarts containing Lion beer and ale. There are only 3 of the Beer quarts known today and the Ale is not much more common. Another rare Lion can, a Lion Pilsner, was produced by Pilsner Brewing in New York in the 1940s, but I do not yet know this company’s relationship to the original Lion Brewing. Today, apartment houses occupy the Lion brewery’s former location.
Today is the birthday of Henry Hess (August 1, 1859-July 25, 1909). Hess was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and in 1901 bought the Germania Brewing Co. in Philadelphia, which has originally been founded in 1875 by Philip J. Laubner, and it was known then as the Philip J. Laubner Brewery. Hess renamed the Henry Hess Brewing Co. and remained opened until it closed in 1911, presumably due to his death two years before. He appears to have been involved in another location that was also called the Henry Hess Brewing Co. from 1909-1912. Before 1909, itwas known as the Consumer’s Brewing Co. and afterwards was known as the Premier Brewing Co., which closed in 1920 due to prohibition. In 1933, it re-opened as Trainer Brewing and in 1937 became known as the Otto Erlanger Brewing Co. until 1951, when it closed for good.
Here is an obituary of Hess from the “Brewers Journal, Volume 34 for the Year 1909:”
And this is about his brewery from the book “1100 Years of Brewing:”
My good friend Tom Peters, one of the owners of Monk’s Cafe and Belgian Beer Emporium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, turns 63 today. His enthusiasm for and promotion of Belgian beer has few equals. A couple of years ago, I was privileged to travel through France and Belgium with Tom, which was amazing. And he throws perhaps the best late night parties of anyone I’ve ever known. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.
Tom Peters, with Rob Tod from Allagash in Portland, Maine, at GABF.
Today is the birthday of Frederick J. Stegmaier (July 27, 1861-April 23, 1915). He was the son of Charles Stegmaier, who founded the Baer & Stegmaier Brewery with his father-in-law in 1857. It eventually became known as the Stegmaier Brewing Co., and ran it with his sons, Christian, Fred and George. Fred became president when his father passed away in 1906.
Here’s his obituary, published on Find a Grave:
The Stegmaier brewery in 1870.
And here’s another obituary, from the Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography Illustrated, Volume 7:
Frederick J., son of Charles and Kathleen (Baer) Stegmaier, was born in Wilkes-Barre, July 27, 1861, and died at his home on South Franklin street, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, April 22, 1915. He was educated in the public schools, St. Nicholas Parochial School, and Wyoming Seminary, being a graduate of the last named institution. He then became actively associated with his father in business, and at the death of Charles Stegmaier, the father, Frederick J. Stegmaier succeeded him as president of the Stegmaier Brewing Company. It was through the foresighted planning and energy of the sons of Charles Stegmaier that the business founded by the father was developed until it became one of the largest and best equipped plants of its kind in the country. In addition to his responsibilities as head of the company, Frederick J. Stegmaier had other large and important interests. He was for many years president of the South Side Bank, a position ill health caused him to relinquish. He was a director of the First National Bank, director of the Fenwick Lumber Company, director of the Stegmaier Realty Company, and largely interested with his brothers and Abram Nesbitt in the Wales Adding Machine Company. When the last company was threatened with absorption by rivals, these men fought for a number of years to retain the company as a separate plant manufacturing an independent machine, and finally succeeded. Mr. Stegmaier was interested in many other projects, but failing health during his latter years compelled him to withdraw from active participation in many. For four years he lived under the constant care of his physician and knew that his days were numbered, but he neither lost courage nor became despondent. He passed the last winter of his life in the south, but after his return spent nearly every day in his office, literally “dying in the harness.”
He was kind and considerate, very generous, charitable organizations having in him a liberal friend, and when his will was read it was found that Wilkes-Barre City Hospital, Mercy Hospital, United Charities, Nanticoke Hospital, Wilkes-Barre Home for Friendless Children, the Florence Crittenden Shelter and Day Nursery, and the Ladies’ Aid Society had been generously remembered, as had the Home of the Good Shepherd, St. Patrick’s Orphanage, and St. Patrick’s Foundling Home, of Scranton. During his life he served as a director of the City Hospital, knew its needs, and did his full share there as elsewhere in relieving suffering. He was a member of St. Nicholas Church (Roman Catholic) and was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, who after a solemn high mass of requiem in the church conducted final services at the Stegmaier mausoleum in Hollenback Cemetery. He was also a member of the Franklin Club and the Concordia Singing Society.
Stegmaier Brewery workers c. 1894.
And here’s one more from American Brewers’ Review from 1915:
Today is the 54th birthday of Fergus Carey, better known simply as Fergie. Fergie owns Fergie’s Pub in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is co-owner of Monk’s Cafe with Tom Peters and is also a partner in Nodding Head Brewery. Fergie’s always a fun person to have around and he’s as kind as soul as ever I’ve met in the beer world. Join me in wishing Fergie a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Peter Adolph Schemm (July 20, 1852-June 6, 1909). He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Peter Schemm, who founded the Peter Schemm Brewery. When Peter A. began working at his father’s brewery, it was renamed the Peter Schemm & Son Brewery, or the Peter Schemm & Son Lager Brewery.
Here’s his very short biography from Find-a-Grave:
Was a ‘Gentleman’ and had taken over the brewery of his father- Peter Schemm Brewery in Philadelphia. He was also an extensive collector of paintings and was a lover of books.
In a biography about his father, Peter Schemm, from the Peter Schemm and Fredericka Rosina Schill Family Group, Peter A. is mentioned toward the end:
In 1885, Peter A. Schemm, Peter’s only son, joined the business, and the elder Peter gradually relinquished active management. His eyesight was beginning to fail, but even so, he maintained his daily practice of visiting the brewery two or three times every day, stroll up to Massholder’s saloon, a few doors above the brewery and sit with three or four old friends, and every day took his own carriage and driver (rather than using the carriage of his family) to meet with an old friend and stop by the brewery to be sure the beer was not too cold and had been properly drawn. In 1895, the contracting firm of Philip Halbach was engaged to add a large stock house to the Peter Schemm & Son brewery at a cost of $30,000.
Today is Carol Stoudt’s birthday. She and her husband Ed started the first microbrewery in Pennsylvania, Stoudt’s Brewing, not far from where I grew up. After my grandfather retired, he worked part time there helping out with maintenance. He was married to Ed’s aunt so I’m distantly related to the Stoudts’ by marriage. I grew up going to their restaurant, Stoudt’s Black Angus, but had already moved to California by the time they opened the brewery. But it’s been great seeing them at the various craft beer industry functions from year to year. Plus they make terrific beer and have created an amazing destination in Adamstown. If you haven’t been to Stoudtberg, you should definitely plan a visit. Join me in wishing Carol a very happy birthday.
Ed and Carol Stoudt, with Brian Dunn of Great Divide Brewing Co. in Denver, Colorado.
Dave Alexander, former owner of the Brickskeller in D.C., with Carol at GABF.
Today is the birthday of Anthony Straub (July 17, 1882-June 13, 1962). He was the son of Peter Straub, who founded the Straub Brewery in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania in 1872. Anthony took over running the family brewery after his father died in 1913. The brewery is still owned and operated today by the Straub family.
He’s mentioned in the biography from his father’s Wikipedia page:
The Straub family had been brewing a local beer for generations. As expected Peter learned a trade important to the brewing art. He became a Cooper, a craftsman who makes wooden barrels. Peter aspired to be a brewer and at the age of 19 in 1869 immigrated to the United States for a better and more prosperous life. Upon his arrival in the United States he found employment at the Eberhardt and Ober Brewing Company in Pennsylvania. Peter admired his employers’ pledge to forfeit $1,000 if any adulteration was found in their beer, and as he honed his brewing skills to a sharp edge, he adhered faithfully to this promise. Eventually he tired of city life and moved north to Brookville, where he perfected his brewing process while working in the Christ and Algeir Brewery.
Peter later moved to Benzinger (St. Marys), where he met and married Sabina Sorg of Benzinger. The couple settled in Benzinger and had ten children: Francis X., Joseph A., Anthony A., Anna M., Jacob M., Peter M. (who died at two years of age), Peter P., Gerald B., Mary C., and Alphons J.
Peter’s employment in Benzinger was with the Joseph Windfelder Brewery and he worked there until he purchased the Benzinger Spring Brewery (founded by Captain Charles C. Volk in 1855) from his father-in-law, Francis Xavier Sorg. It was then that Straub Beer and the Straub Brewery was born.
Early on, Peter introduced his sons to the world of brewing. Straub used wooden kegs for his beer. He always placed a red band around his barrels to ensure that people would know they were drinking his beer and so that he would get them back. As a lasting trademark tribute to Peter, the brewery continues to place a bright red band around each of its barrels. Red has become a trademark color for the brewery.
Following Peter’s death on December 17, 1913, his sons assumed control of the brewery, renaming it the Peter Straub Sons Brewery. During this time, the brewery produced Straub Beer as well as other beer, such as the pilsner-style Straub Fine Beer and Straub Bock Beer. In 1920, the Straub Brothers Brewery purchased one half of the St. Marys Beverage Company, also called the St. Marys Brewery, where St. Marys Beer was produced. During Prohibition, which lasted from January 29, 1920, until December 5, 1933, the brewery produced nonalcoholic near-beer. On July 19, 1940 they purchased the remaining common stock and outstanding bonds of the St. Marys Beverage Company.
And this account is by Erin L. Gavlock, from 2009, at the Pennsylvania Center for the Book at Penn State:
Straub owned and operated the Benzinger Spring Brewery until he died in 1912 and left the company to his son, Anthony. Anthony Straub changed the name of the brewery to “Peter Straub Sons’ Brewery,” the only alteration he would make to his father’s business. From there, Peter Straub’s beer would become a Pennsylvania legend.
The Bavarian Man, a long-time image of the Straub Brewery that recalls its German roots.
Fast-forward over a hundred years from Straub’s humble beginnings to today and one will find the Straub Brewing pledge remains unchanged. The company still serves only unadulterated beer to its customers, proclaiming to be “The Natural Choice.” “Our all grain beer is brewed from Pennsylvania Mountain Spring water and we don’t add any sugar, salt, or preservatives to our recipes,” brew master Tom Straub told St. Marys’ Daily Press. “You can say our beer is a fresher, healthier choice than many of the selections in the marketplace.” Although time and technology have forced a transformation in brewing techniques and standards, the taste, ingredients, and the location of Straub have remained constant. Still located in St. Marys, the brewery depends upon the same mountain water from the Laurel Run Reservoir to blend with all-natural ingredients of cornflakes (used to produce fermentable sugars), barley and hops. “Our brewing process is virtually unchanged since our great, great, grandfather, Peter Straub, perfected it in 1872,” Straub’s promises. The reason behind sticking to the fresh taste of the original recipe is simple: people like it. Through the century, Straub has grown a dedicated patronage in western Pennsylvania with its traditional flavor. “Our style of brewing has pretty much stayed the same over the years, but what is interesting is that our popularity has grown and the reputation of our hand-crafted beer has increased,” Straub CEO Bill Brock said. “It is nice to know that we are becoming increasingly popular not for something we’ve changed, but rather for something we’ve always done well.”
The choice to protect and maintain the brewing customs has kept Straub a small, family owned brewery. “We’ve always thought small. We’re more about quality than quantity,” Dan Straub, former CEO, told Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Free-Lance Star. Until June 2009, Straub Beer was only distributed in glass bottles throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio. Now Straub is being brewed and distributed in aluminum cans in Rochester, New York at the High Falls Brewery. The recipe and method have not changed in the new setting and are under the careful watch of brew master Tom Straub. Despite the recent company growth, Straub still only produces about 45,000 barrels of beer per year. “We are unique; we are much larger than a micro brewery yet far, far smaller than some of the leading national brands,” said Bill Brock. In the middle ground, the brewery has managed to survive beer tycoons, economic depression, and cultural trends—a tough maneuver for a company exporting from Pennsylvania’s least populated region. “I believe the brewery has survived because of the fact that it is family owned; it is steeped in tradition and we have an absolute passion for making beer and our products,” said Brock. “From my perspective, the company and our traditions are a huge legacy and there is a clear obligation to continue these traditions.” Keeping to the family legacy has allowed Straub to persevere through the years to become the second oldest brewery in Pennsylvania after Yuengling.
Staying small and faithful to the company’s founding principles has enabled Straub to keep traditions that other larger breweries have been forced to abandon. The returnable bottle, an eco-friendly service that allows customers to send glass bottles back to the brewery for recycling, is still offered at Straub. “We stayed with the returnable bottles first of all, and I think this is really important, because we have a really strong customer base and they like the returnables,” Bill Brock said during a 2009 radio broadcast. “Over the years we maintained it while other breweries slowly fazed them out.” For Straub, a successful regional brewery, shipping bottles back to the factory is feasible, where it would create more pollution for national brands to do the same. In the future, Straub hopes to go greener and offer more returnables to customers. “We’d love for it to grow,” Brock said. “We think it is the right thing to do and if we can blend the right thing to do with making our customers happy that’s almost a perfect world.”
Another Peter Straub tradition kept to make customers happy is the Eternal Tap, an oasis for Elk County beer drinkers. The Eternal Tap, established long before any of the brewery’s current chief operators were born, is a “thank you” gesture for patrons, daily providing two mugs of complimentary, fresh cold beer to anyone of legal drinking age. “The roots of it go as far back as the brewery itself and I am sure that my great, great, grandfather, his workers and their friends would spend time at the end of the week enjoying a few pints of freshly brewed beer,” Brock said. According to Bloomington, Illinois’ Pantagraph, the Eternal Tap sprang up shortly after Peter Straub received the Benzinger Spring Brewery from his father-in-law as a way to draw beer enthusiasts to the taste of Straub. Since the marketing gimmick started in 1872, the Eternal Tap has not been turned off, giving free beer to customers in good times and bad.
Although Straub has been in operation for more than a century since its founder’s death, if Peter Straub were able to return to his brewery today, he might feel as if he still ran it. The original recipe, the customer appreciation, and the environmental concerns he founded his business upon are still principal brewing laws at Straub today. For the descendents of Peter Straub, keeping the tradition was second nature. “For me, being President/CEO, my job is to be faithful to the traditions and it is really not that difficult,” Brock said. “I have one of the best jobs in the world and I have been given the opportunity to continue an important tradition and legacy.”