Saturday’s ad is for “Rheingold Beer,” from 1947. This ad was made for the Rheingold Brewery, which was founded by the Liebmann family in 1883 in New York, New York. At its peak, it sold 35% of all the beer in New York state. In 1963, the family sold the brewery and in was shut down in 1976. In 1940, Philip Liebmann, great-grandson of the founder, Samuel Liebmann, started the “Miss Rheingold” pageant as the centerpiece of its marketing campaign. Beer drinkers voted each year on the young lady who would be featured as Miss Rheingold in advertisements. In the 1940s and 1950s in New York, “the selection of Miss Rheingold was as highly anticipated as the race for the White House.” The winning model was then featured in at least twelve monthly advertisements for the brewery, beginning in 1940 and ending in 1965. Beginning in 1941, the selection of next year’s Miss Rheingold was instituted and became wildly popular in the New York Area. This ad introduced the winner of the Miss Rheingold 1947 contest, Michaele Fallon. I couldn’t find much information about her. She appears to have been born in 1920 as Bernice Kathryn Fallon and changed it when she started working as a model. She also appears to have two married names, Barros and Neagle. In this ad, from June, she’s at the fair, riding on the “Rocket,” a roller coaster, with her dog, who seems way too calm.
Archives for April 2022
Today is the birthday of Gustav Hodel (April 30, 1875-July 3, 1966). Hodel was born in Emmendingen, Baden, Germany, the youngest of seven. His father, Christian Hodel, owned the local Hodel Brewery. One of his brother’s emigrated to America and became a maltser in Nebraska, then another brother came and became a brewer, and eventually so did Gustav, who everybody called “Gus.” He started in one brother’s brewery in Galena, Illinois but struck out on his own and either owned or worked for a number of different breweries over the course of a 56-year career in beer. He retired in 1946 to Santa Cruz, California to be closer to his daughters, where he remained until his death in 1966.
Brewery Gems has a great account of Hodel’s life, apparently with considerable help from Gus Hodel’s grandson, William “Bill” Whetton. And given that it’s the most complete source I could find, your best bet it to just go read it there.
This is an obituary for Hodel from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 5, 1966.
One of the breweries Hodel owned was the Lewistown Brewing Co., in Lewistown, Montana, which he acquired in 1912 and ran successfully until Prohibition, when in trying to survive got into a bit of trouble with the Federal government.
You can read all about those troubles at the National Archives, in a piece entitled “Run for the border: Beer Bootlegging during the Prohibition.”
Today is the birthday of Lawrence Steese (April 20, 1912-April 19, 1991). Steese is part of the more recent lore of Anchor Brewing. Originally from Mill Valley, in Marin County, he bought Anchor in 1960 when Joe Allen was retiring, though Allen stayed around to teach him how to make Steam Beer. Fifty-one percent of the brewery was then bought by Fritz Maytag, who eventually bought out Steese and assumed full control.
SOME THREE years ago the requiem for steam beer was being played, and the sad demise of a California tradition was being mourned. At that time Joe Allen, owner of Anchor Brewery, announced his retirement. There was no one skilled in the exacting art of steam beer brewing to take his place, and no one, it seemed, who cared to take the time and trouble to learn from the old master. No one, that is, until Lawrence Steese decided he’d like to try. Joe Allen was more than willing to teach. And since his official “retirement” these three years past, Allen has spent his days at the brewery as professor of steam beer brewing. The making of steam beer is not like the brewing of other beers. Steam beer is naturally carbonated; neither additives nor preservatives become it. “The Sincere Beer,” it is called by some. IT IS TRULY a “health food,” its devotees assert, containing more malt and hops than other beers, and without corn or rice to lighten it.
And this is Steese’s story, distilled to its essence on Anchor Brewery’s website today.
This is his biography from his Wikipedia page:
He was born on Spike Island, County Cork, Ireland on 29 April 1826, the son of James Cain (1797–1871), a private soldier in the 88th Foot, a regiment of the British Army. There is some dispute over the identity of Cain’s mother. Later family records and stories claim that his mother was Mary Deane, the daughter of Alexander Deane, an architect and mayor of Cork. However, in the entry for his brother William in the Liverpool register of births his mother’s maiden name is listed as Mary Kirk (died 1864).
The story of the life of Robert Cain and Cains Brewery is told in Christopher Routledge’s 2008 history of the brewery, Cains: The Story of Liverpool in a Pint, which unpicks many of the mythologies that have developed around the Cain family. Many of these mythologies seem to date back to the 1920s and 1930s, when Cain’s sons William Cain and Charles Nall-Cain were given titles in the British honours system, and centre on the idea that the brewery’s founder had a background in the Irish gentry. Such a background would have made his sons more acceptable to the British establishment at the time. However, according to Routledge, Robert Cain was born in poverty in 1826, the son of a private soldier who would soon be forced to leave the army and travel to England to find work. Cain arrived in Liverpool with his parents in late 1827 or early 1828 and grew up in the slums of the Islington area of the city with his older sister Hannah and two younger siblings, Mary and William. When he was in his early teens Cain was indentured to a cooper on board a ship carrying palm oil from West Africa.
After working out his indenture Cain returned to Liverpool in 1844 where he set himself up first as a cooper and soon after, as a brewer. According to Routledge he met Ann Newall, the daughter of James Newall, a shoemaker, and they were married on 4 April 1847 in St. Philip’s Church, Hardman Street, Liverpool. He began brewing around 1848 on Limekiln Lane in the Scotland Road area, but soon expanded his operation to a nearby brewery on Wilton Street and finally moved to the existing Mersey Brewery (now known as the Robert Cain Brewery or Cains Brewery) on Stanhope Street, Liverpool in 1858. At the same time as he was developing his brewing business, Cain also made shrewd property deals and ran a hotel near to the brewery on Stanhope Street; as the company grew it expanded by buying out smaller brewers and taking control of their pubs.
Cain became one of Liverpool’s most successful businessmen with a passion for using the most modern techniques and equipment. He expanded the brewery several times, most notably in 1887 and in 1900–1902, when the landmark redbrick part of the brewery was constructed. By the time of his death on 19 July 1907 Cain was one of Britain’s richest men, leaving a personal estate of £400,000 (around £28 million at 2005 prices). He also had political influence, working behind the scenes to help the Conservative Party maintain control of Liverpool throughout the late nineteenth century. In fact he was so influential in the area of Toxteth Park, Liverpool where he lived that he became known as “King of the Toxteths”. Contemporary reports of his funeral and burial at St. James’s Cemetery suggest as many as 3,000 people attended.
The company, Robert Cain and Sons, owned over 200 pubs in Liverpool but is most notable for having built three of the most gloriously extravagant pubs in Britain: The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, The Vines and The Central. These highly ornate and elaborate pubs, built to celebrate Robert Cain’s own success and to demonstrate the skill of Liverpool craftsmen, remain landmark Liverpool buildings in the twenty-first century.
And this partial history is from the brewery’s Wikipedia page:
The Cains brewery was founded by Irishman Robert Cain in 1858 when he bought an established brewery. Cain had begun his brewing career aged 24 when he purchased a pub and brewed his own ales.
Within 25 years of founding his brewery, Cain had established 200 pubs, including the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, the Vines and the Central Commercial Hotel, which are currently listed as being of architectural merit. His personal mansion had each window arch inscribed with his monogram. In 1887 construction began on a second brewery.
In 1921, 14 years after Cain’s death, the Cains brewery merged with Walkers of Warrington, becoming Walker Cains. Then in 1923 the original Stanhope Street Brewery was sold to Higsons, who continued to brew Cains ales.
In 1985, Higsons was bought by Boddingtons of Manchester. Five years later Boddingtons opted to concentrate on pub ownership and sold all its breweries to Whitbread, at which point the Stanhope Street site was closed.
The company merged with Peter Walker & Son in 1921 to form Walker Cains. Peter Walker & Son had a large brewery in Warrington so sold its Liverpool brewery to Higsons in 1923. Boddingtons of Manchester took over in 1985. In 1990 Whitbread acquired Boddington’s brewing operations and closed the then Higsons Brewery in 1990. It was reopened by GB Breweries, who became part of Bryggerigruppen in 1991, and in 2002 was sold to Gardener-Shaw for £3.4 million.
The brewery closed in June 2013 with debts totalling more than £8m.
This account is from the Brewery’s website:
Liverpool in the first half of the 19th Century was one of the world’s most thriving ports – awash with visitors from all over the globe, money and opportunity.
This was reflected in the stunning rise of Robert Cain, from an entrepreneurial 24-year-old brewing his own ale in one pub, to a rich and influential businessman with the title of Lord Brocket and an estate of 200 pubs.
Purchasing the brewery and establishing Cains in 1858, he commissioned the current premises around 30 years later, determined that the business would endure a lot longer than he could.
And so his legacy is still evident today, not only in the beers which still bear his name, but in the distinctive design of the brewery itself – The ‘Terracotta Palace’ – and the stunning interiors of famous Liverpool pubs such as The Vines, The Central Commercial Hotel and The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, all listed as having special architectural merit.
Born in County Cork, Robert Cain took the path of many poor Irish immigrants and arrived in Liverpool to seek his fortune.
As a wide-eyed teenager arriving in the bustling city he could never have imagined a life which would see him create an enduring Liverpool brand, become wealthy, accept the title of Lord Brocket and marry the daughter of a former Lord Mayor of Liverpool.
When he died in 1907, over 3,000 people are reputed to have attended his funeral.
So how did this man make his fortune, what drove him to continually thrive to make his brewery, pubs and beers the most tasteful and memorable they could be?
Determined to establish the brewery, Robert Cain started with one pub at the age of 24, brewing his beer on the premises and saving towards the brewery he desperately needed to achieve his dream.
As well as this determination, Robert Cain was a perfectionist and a man with a strong belief in himself. If something had his name associated with it, he wanted it to be stylish and impeccable.
Even his self-designed home had his own initials etched into the glass of every single window.
It was this characteristic which led to the detail he insisted on in his pubs. Detail which has seen celebrated venues such as The Philharmonic Dining Rooms as famous for their ornate marble lavatories and incredible ceilings as they are for their beers.
He certainly left everyone involved with the brewery over the next two centuries a lot to live up to.
Robert Cain was born on April 29, 1826 on Spike Island, which is in the entrance to Cork Harbour on the south coast of Ireland. His father James Cain was a soldier in the 88th Regiment of the British Army, known as the 88th Foot “Connaught Rangers.” After his father left the army because of ill health the family moved to Liverpool and Robert went to sea on the Palm oil ships working the West African coast. Palm oil had replaced slaves as Liverpool’s primary trade with that part of Africa and the conditions were hostile and unpleasant. Many sailors died in minor battles and skirmishes, or from Malaria; it was known as the “white man’s graveyard.”
Robert Cain survived his time at sea and arrived in Liverpool in the late 1840s to set himself up as a brewer. He married Ann Newall, the daughter of a shoemaker in 1847 and in 1850 the couple began brewing on Limekiln Lane in the Scotland Road/Vauxhall area of the city. Within a few years the quality of Cain’s brews was such that he expanded the operation, moving to a small brewery on nearby Wilton Street. By 1858 the brewery needed to expand again and supported by his growing collection of pubs Cain bought Hindley’s brewery on Stanhope Street, Toxteth, where the current Cain’s brewery now stands.
The Stanhope Street brewery, which Cain named the Mersey Brewery, was much larger than Cain’s previous breweries and included a great deal of brewing equipment. Over the following decades Cain updated and developed the site, pulling down nearby court-style slum housing to expand. By the 1880s, when Cain and his large family (he had 11 children) were living in a mansion on Aigburth Road, the brewery was one of the largest in the city. Cain himself was an important figure in the powerful Constitutional Association and had considerable influence on local politics. He recruited brewery workers to campaign on behalf of Conservative candidates for the Council and became known as “King of the Toxteths.” He was generally well-liked and respected by his workers and the Cain family were well known in the area of Aigburth and St. Michaels.
Like other Victorian gentlemen Cain enjoyed having his portrait painted and was a patron of the arts. He sat for the well-known Liverpool artist William Daniels for at least two portraits and was also painted by George Hall Neale, a Manx painter who lived and worked in Liverpool in the late nineteenth century. Cain was also a collector of rare plants and was especially fond of orchids.
By 1896, when the company became Robert Cain and Sons Ltd, Cain was one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the city. Cain’s “Superior Ales and Stouts” were available across Liverpool. After the death of his wife he moved to an even larger house near Hoylake and was followed by most of his children, who lived in their own flamboyant mansions nearby. As the twentieth century began Cain began to move control of the business to his sons Charles and William, who later became noted philanthopists, supporting medical charities, including the Women’s Hospital and the Bluecoat Hospital, as well as providing money for aircraft during World War I. William Cain donated his house at Hoylake, known as Wilton Grange, to the nation as a convalescent home for injured officers. Both sons became baronets and Charles Cain became Lord Brocket in 1933.
Robert Cain fell ill in late 1906 and after six months of declining health he died at home on July 19, 1907 during a heatwave. His lavish funeral on July 23 took place on a day of thunderstorms and torrential rain, but despite the bad weather a crowd of three thousand attended and had to be restrained by the police at the gates of St James’s. Official mourners included aldermen, city dignitaries and businessmen, including the brewer Daniel Higson, whose company would later buy Cain’s brewery and operate it for almost 70 years. Also in attendance was Cain’s friend George Hall Neale. Interestingly Cain’s father James, who died in poverty in 1871, and with whom Cain had very little contact after the 1840s, is also buried separately at St. James’s.
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.
Today is the 59th birthday of Tom Riley, who is the brewmaster at Anchor Brewing. Tom grew up in the Potrero Hill area of San Francisco, not to far from the brewery he began working at in 1983. He started on the packaging line, then moved on to being a tour guide and later became an assistant brewer. Last year he was named brewmaster, only the third one at Anchor since the 1970s (not including Fritz Maytag). I’ve run into Tom over the years at events at Anchor events, but got to know him much better earlier this year working on a couple of pieces for Flagship February for which we spent considerable time talking on the phone, and he’s a terrific person. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Matthew Vassar (April 29, 1792-June 23, 1868). Vassar was born in England, specifically in East Dereham, Norfolk. While he’s best know for having founded one of the first women’s colleges in America, Vassar College, the money came from operating his brewery, M. Vassar & Co., which when he first built it in Poughkeepsie it was the largest brewery in the Americas.
Here’s a short biography from Find a Grave:
Business Magnate. Self-made man with only a very basic formal education. When his father’s brewery burned in 1811 and he discontinued business, Matthew Vassar started his own brewery independently. As business increased he became involved in many things. Among others, in 1842 he became President of the Hudson River Railroad. In 1861, inspired by a niece, he endowed the first women’s college in the United States, with $408,000 and 200 acres of land east of Poughkeepsie which is where present-day Vassar College still stands. A lasting legacy for him which is also humorously embodied in an old song, “And so you see, to old V.C. Our love shall never fail. Full well we know that all we owe To Matthew Vassar’s ale.”
There’s also another piece in a blog concentrating on the Hudson Valley, The Rise and Fall of M. Vassar and Co..
Portrait of Matthew Vassar, by Charles Loring Elliott.
Today is the 68th birthday of Pat McIllhenney, brewmaster and founder of Alpine Beer Co. near San Diego. Pat makes some amazing hoppy beers. Unfortunately, his beers are hard to find up our way, but that hopefully will be improving since Alpine was acquired by Green Flash Brewing a few years ago. Join me in wishing Pat a very happy birthday.
Thursday’s ad is for “Rheingold Beer,” from 1947. This ad was made for the Rheingold Brewery, which was founded by the Liebmann family in 1883 in New York, New York. At its peak, it sold 35% of all the beer in New York state. In 1963, the family sold the brewery and in was shut down in 1976. In 1940, Philip Liebmann, great-grandson of the founder, Samuel Liebmann, started the “Miss Rheingold” pageant as the centerpiece of its marketing campaign. Beer drinkers voted each year on the young lady who would be featured as Miss Rheingold in advertisements. In the 1940s and 1950s in New York, “the selection of Miss Rheingold was as highly anticipated as the race for the White House.” The winning model was then featured in at least twelve monthly advertisements for the brewery, beginning in 1940 and ending in 1965. Beginning in 1941, the selection of next year’s Miss Rheingold was instituted and became wildly popular in the New York Area. This ad introduced the winner of the Miss Rheingold 1947 contest, Michaele Fallon. I couldn’t find much information about her. She appears to have been born in 1920 as Bernice Kathryn Fallon and changed it when she started working as a model. She also appears to have two married names, Barros and Neagle. In this ad, from June, she’s at the fair on a ride, most likely a roller coaster, trying to stay cool on a hot day, until she later realized it would be even easier to just drink a cool beer.
Today is the birthday of Louis F. Neuweiler (April 28, 1848-1929). He was born in Württemberg, Germany, and his family was in the brewing business. He came to the U.S., first to Philadelphia, where he worked at local breweries there and also met his wife. In 1891, he moved to Allentown, where he formed a partnership with Benedict Nuding, who had started the Germania Brewery there in 1875 or 78 (sources differ). When they started their partnership, the brewery name was changed to the Nuding Brewing Co, but after Neuweiler bought out Nuding in 1900, it became the Louis F. Neuweiler & Son Brewery, which it remained until finally closing for good in 1968.
Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:
Born into a family of brewers, he immigrated to America and settled for a time in the Philadelphia area. While in Philadelphia he met his wife Sophia. They had 16 children. They relocated to Allentown, PA in 1891. He formed a brewing partnership with longtime brewer Benedict Nuding but bought him out in 1900. In 1906 his son Charles joined the brewery and the business became known as L.F. Neuweiler & Son. The “new” Neuweiler Brewery was opened on April 28, 1913 at the corner of Front and Gordon Streets in Allentown. His son Louis joined the family business and the company became known as Louis F. Neuweiler & Sons. Their slogan was “Nix Besser” meaning “none better”. After Louis died in 1929 the business was run by Charles Neuweiler. Neuweiler beers were regional best sellers until they went out of business in 1968.
This story of the brewery is from a local Allentown newspaper, The Morning Call, from 2004:
Louis Neuweiler came to Allentown in 1891. Beermaking then was more than 100 years old in the Valley, its roots going back to the Moravian brewers in Bethlehem. Neuweiler hooked up with longtime brewer Benedict Nuding, whose business was at Seventh and Union streets. In 1900, Neuweiler bought out Nuding. In 1906, he took his oldest son, Charles, into the business that became L.F. Neuweiler & Son.
The Seventh Street location was too small for expansion, so in 1911 the Neuweilers purchased 4.5 acres at Front and Gordon streets and hired Philadelphia architects Peukert and Wunder to build the brewery. It got its water from an underground lake 900 feet below. Neuweiler ordered his own generators for electric power and had separate wells drilled.
Neuweiler opened at this location on April 28, 1913. That day, son Louis P. entered the business and its name became Louis F. Neuweiler & Sons, a name it would retain until 1965. (Louis P. Neuweiler later left the family business and became a local banking executive at Merchants National Bank.)
Neuweiler’s truly was a family operation. Charles Neuweiler sometimes drove the horse-drawn wagon to Bethlehem loaded with barrels. The women in the family kept the books.
Neuweiler’s also was something of an absolute monarchy. Generous to his family, Louis F. Neuweiler had a temper and little patience with those he regarded as lesser mortals. He once ripped the telephone out of the wall in frustration and told the operator she could go to hell when she couldn’t understand the phone number he was asking for.
Louis F. died in 1929. It was during Prohibition and Neuweiler’s was brewing only near beer with 3.2 percent alcohol and making mixers under the names Purity and Frontenac Pale. In the early 1930s, Charles Neuweiler turned down an offer to buy the brewery for $500,000 from gangster/bootlegger Arthur Flegenheimer, aka Dutch Schultz. According to son Theodore Neuweiler, his father said, “We have always made honest beer,” and ordered Schultz off the property.
At first, the post-Prohibition years were good for Neuweiler’s. Its slogan “nix besser,” none better, was shared across the community. But by the early 1960s it found itself trapped between the growing market share of the beer giants of the Midwest and the growing preference for its lighter product.
On May 31, 1968, Neuweiler’s closed its doors for the last time, $800,000 in debt.
Over the years, some of the equipment was sold. One of the stainless steel brewing tanks ended up at the Milford Park campmeeting grounds in Old Zionsville to be used for water storage.
This is a translation of his German Wikipedia page:
Neuweiler was born as the son of a family of beer brewers. He emigrated to the United States and began to work as a brewer in Philadelphia . Within a few years he obtained the title of a Braumeister. In 1891 he met the businessman and hotelier Benedict Nuding, who had founded the Germania Brewery in Allentown in 1878.
Neuweiler became Nuding’s business partner. Together, they managed the brewery with success – until 1900 they already reached an annual output of 20,000 barrels . When Nuding retired in the same year, Neuweiler took over his shares and moved his sons into the company’s business during the following years. In 1925 the name Louis F. Neuweiler’s Sons, valid until the brewery was closed, was chosen for the brewery.
The brewery continued to be successful. In 1913 Neuweiler had a new, larger brewery complex built. The new brewery employed forty employees and reached an annual output of 50,000 barrels. A subterranean lake under the property was opened and a separate power plant was built – the brewery was thus independent of the electricity and water supply through the city.
During the period of prohibition, the Neuweiler brewery produced alcohol-reduced light beer and lemonade. At the height of its success, the Neuweiler brewery produced about 400,000 barrels a year and had 15 beer brands in its assortment. On May 31, 1968, she was closed.
Neuweiler died in 1929, his sons took over the management of the company. He is buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Allentown.
And this history of the brewery is from the English Wikipedia page:
Neuweiler Brewery was founded by Louis Neuwiler, who bought out longtime local brewer Benedict Nuding in 1900. Nuding’s operation was limited by its location, and in 1911 Neuweiler and his son, Charles, eager to expand, hired Philadelphia architects Peukert and Wunder to build a new complex some distance away, at Front and Gordon streets.
The brewery, featuring its own generators for electric power, opened in 1913. By 1932, the brewery buildings and the warehouse building were joined as one structure, and the former machine warehouse became an independent electric plant with an ammonia tank and ice machine. A pump warehouse had been added onto the northwest corner of the former stock warehouse, and a two-story bottling plant with a basement was located to the north of the other buildings. Neuweiler produced several brands of beer: Light Lager, Cream Ale, Stock Ale, Premium Ale, Bock (seasonal), Half & Half, Porter, Stout and Hochberg. Most were available in the 12 oz. “Steinies” or Export bottles, quarts, cans or kegs. When in full operation, Neuweiler’s was one of Allentown’s largest employers.
By 1950, the bottling plant was extended to the corner of North Front Street and Liberty Street, the stock warehouse was extended toward North Front Street, and a tile ash hopper was located behind the boiler house.
Brewery operations ceased in 1968 due to competition from national breweries. However, the Neuweiler recipes and brand names were purchased by the Ortlieb Brewery of Philadelphia, who also purchased the Fuhrmann and Schmidt (Shamokin) breweries in 1966. After the brewery’s closure, the F&S Brewery produced several of the Neuweiler beers (Porter, Light Lager and Cream Ale) from around 1970 until closing in 1975. After F&S closed, the Ortlieb brewery continued Neuweiler Cream Ale at the Philadelphia plant until the late 1970s.
These pages are from “American Breweries of the Past,” by David G. Moyer:
And this lively history is from a local Allentown television station:
Arthur Flegenheimer, aka “Dutch Schultz,” is not remembered as one of your major league 1930s gangster headline-grabbers like Al Capone or Jack “Legs” Diamond. But such a view badly underestimates the man and his ruthlessness. And when he strode into the offices of Louis F. Neuweiler and Sons Brewery on Front Street in Allentown in 1932 he must have seemed formidable enough.
Cutting to the chase, the dapper dressing “Dutch” had some words for brewery owner Charles Neuweiler, son of the brewery’s founder and then the company’s president. He wanted to buy out the Neuweiler family operation which, since the start of Prohibition in 1920, had been reduced to turning out ice cream, “near beer” and carbonated soda water. He was offering $500,000 in cold cash.
Schultz may have thought he had made Neuweiler an offer he couldn’t refuse. It’s not known if the Dutchman’s “boys” were hanging around with itchy trigger fingers on their “gats” during the conversation.
But according to Charles’s son, Theodore Neuweiler, who recounted this tale to the press in the 1950s, his father was not biting. “We have always made honest beer,” he recalled his father saying before ordering Schultz off his property. And apparently the gangster went quietly.
Shortly thereafter FDR would be elected, Prohibition banished, and happy days here again. And “Dutch” would die in 1935 on a hospital operating room table in Newark, New Jersey, following a hit by rival gangsters.
Today Neuweiler’s, which closed in 1968 and was left in a state that could only be called abandonment, is once more in the local news. Plans about its possible future as apartments, lofts or shops as part of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone- aka “the NIZ”- have caused much speculation. Could Neuweiler’s — at least the building if not the brewery — come back to life?
All of this activity would have undoubtedly impressed old Louis F. Neuweiler, the brewery’s founder, although he might be disappointed that nobody is talking about making beer there. As a native of Wurttemberg, Germany he knew what beer was to all good Germans of his time and place- a thick hardy brew that was both food and drink and had been as long as there had been Germans.
For a time, Neuweiler worked in a Philadelphia brewery and rose within the ranks of the company. In 1891 he came to Allentown and teamed up with longtime local brewer Benedict Nuding. A Civil War veteran and several years Louis Neuweiler’s senior, Nuding’s brewery was located at 7th St. near Union.
Beer making had been going on in the Lehigh Valley probably since the first German settlers arrived. Commercial operations in Allentown are usually traced to the Eagle Brewery that opened at Lehigh and Union Streets in the 1850s. By the start of the 20th century there would be a number of breweries dotting the Lehigh Valley in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.
By 1900 Nuding was ready to retire and Neuweiler brought him out. But even then Neuweiler had bigger ambitions. He had just admitted his son Charles into the business and began to look around for a space that was much larger than the site on 7th Street and also closer to a railroad line that would make shipment easier.
What the new brewery also needed was a supply of pure water.
Neuweiler found all that he was hoping for- even a lake of pure water 900 feet underground- on a 4.5 acre site at the corner of Front and Gordon Streets. To build the brewery he hired Peukert & Wunder, Philadelphia architects with a national reputation for brewery design.
Work began on Neuweiler’s in 1911. It was completed two years later and opened for production on April 28, 1913. The Lehigh Valley had seen many brewery openings before but Neuweiler’s was something special. With its red brick tower that could be seen for many miles it dominated the horizon along the banks of the Lehigh River. In an extra architectural flourish a huge N, similar to those on a Paris bridge that honored Napoleon, framed and mounted in a colossal cartouche, was placed on the side of the building. The era didn’t nickname brewers “beer barons” for nothing.
Despite its size Neuweiler’s was a family business. Charles had been required to learn the business from the ground up, including driving a wagon load of beer barrels when called on to do so. Even the female members of the family played a role by keeping the brewery’s books.
Neuweiler’s was not a democracy. Patriarch Louis F., while a generous father to his family, expected obedience from them, even as adults. Although there is nothing on the record this may explain why one of his sons, Louis P., left the family business and got into local banking.
One of the longtime family stories that was recorded dealt with a confrontation between Louis F. and a telephone operator. When she could not understand the number Neuweiler was asking for he became so enraged he suggested there was a warm place she should go and ripped the phone’s cord out of the wall. His sons, fearing local reaction and gossip, told their father he had to call her back and apologize. According to the surviving sources the exchange went something like this:
Neuweiler: “Is this the woman who I told to go to hell?”
Operator: (timidly) “Yes”
Neuweiler: “Well you don’t have to go now!”
Louis F. died in 1929 and with the end of Prohibition in 1933 Neuweiler’s flourished. But the rise of national brewers and the post World War II preference for lighter beers doomed Neuweiler’s and other local ethnic brewers. But, who knows. Thanks to the NIZ the big N may rise again.