Today is the birthday of John A. White Jr. (February 17, 1878-August 4, 1925). He was the son of John A. White, who in 1866 bought the M. Benson Brewery, along with Jacob Gimlich, which they called Gimlich & White, and which later became known as the Berkshire Brewing Association. Junior’s father died just before prohibition, and as far as I can tell he continued in his father’s footsteps until it was closed by Prohibition in 1918, and never reopened after repeal.
This is a short history of the brewery from 100 Years of Brewing:
Here’s a story of the brewery from the website iBerkshires.com:
One can only wonder what John White and Jacob Gimlich would have thought as federal officers poured 15,000 gallons of locally crafted beer into the sewer on an early May morning in 1922.
Gimlich and his brother-in-law White had first purchased a small brewery on Columbus Street in 1868 from Michael Benson. First called simply “Jacob Gimlich & John White,” the business began at an output of just six barrels a day, but would grow to be a major manufacturer in the West Side Pittsfield neighborhood.
Both men had immigrated to the country from Germany in their youth, and both served tours in the Civil War. Gimlich worked briefly for the Taconic Woolen Mills before going into the beer business with his sister Rachel’s husband.
By 1880, operating as Gimlich, White & Co., the brewers erected a much larger facility in a five-story brick building measuring 40 by 80 feet. The expanded plant employed from 15 to 20 men and was shipping about 16,000 barrels a year.
Gimlich and White built houses directly across the road from their plant on John Street, and as their fortunes grew became increasingly prominent members of the community. Gimlich in particular became enmeshed in a variety of financial and civic affairs. From 1884-1885, he served as the city’s representative in the Legislature, and was one of the organizers and directors of City Savings Bank. Gimlich likewise served on the board of the Berkshire Loan and Trust Co. and of the Co-Operative Bank, was a past chancellor of the local lodge, Knights of Pythias, and member of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and of the local Sons of Veterans.
“Pittsfield has been pleased with the success of Gimlich & White and they are counted among the town’s leading, liberal, and most public spirited citizens,” states one Pittsfield Sun editorial of the time.
By the early 1890s the torch was being passed to the next generation, with sons David Gimlich along with Fred and George White taking on more leadership of the company when it reincorporated as Berkshire Brewing Association in 1892. An additional four-story building was added, with the brewing complex now taking up the full block along Columbus Avenue between Onota and John Street to Gilbert Avenue.
Among Berkshire Brewing’s most popular products were Mannheimer Lager Beer, Berkshire Pure Malt Extract, Lenox Half Stock Ale, and Berkshire Pale Ale, considered to be one of the finest India pale ales then on the market. The plant also churned out bottled mineral waters, ginger ale and other soft drinks.
The elder Gimlich and White passed away in 1912 and 1916, respectively, but the enterprise they founded continued to see steady growth. The only brewery of the kind within 50 miles of Pittsfield, Berkshire Brewing Association had something of a monopoly in the region, along with a thriving distribution throughout the east coast as far south as the Carolinas. At its peak, it employed 150 workers and put out 75,000 to 100,000 barrels worth of beer annually. Records indicate between 1910 and 1920, Berkshire Brewing Association paid $1 million in federal taxes, in addition to state and local taxes and fees, including $1,200 a year for a brewer’s license and $800 for an annual bottling license.
The company was not without its occasional hiccups, such as a lengthy strike in the fall of 1911 by the Pittsfield Brewers Union, culminating in the reinstatement of a dismissed employee.
Real crisis came at the end of the decade, as increasing restrictions on alcohol grew into total national prohibition. They first ceased brewing beer temporarily in December 1918, after a directive from the National Food Administration following the passage of the the Wartime Prohibition Act. Even after the passage of the Volstead Act the following fall, BBA voted to remain in business, focusing on bottled soft drinks while hoping the ban to be a brief legislative phase.
They also continued to brew beer, as did several major brewers throughout the country at first, seeing the government’s lack of resources tasked to enforce the rule. Finally in spring 1922, federal officers arrived to turn off the taps, disposing of 15,000 gallons worth and estimated $15,000 to $20,000 at the time.
Ironically, the company waited it out until nearly the end of the failed domestic policy, the board of directors voting to close down in January 1929.
The brewery building was dismantled soon after; for a time, the Siegel Furniture Co. operated out of the former bottling building, which later became the Warehouse Furniture Co. In 1975, this, too, was cleared as the land passed to the Pittsfield Housing Authority, which developed the Christopher Arms housing project that occupies the former site of the brewery today.
And this biography is from Western Massachusetts; a history, 1636-1925 (Volume 3):
JOHN A. WHITE — Napoleon used to say that in his army every soldier carried the marshal staff among his belongings, and he meant to convey that the successive rise from the bottom to the top rung of the ladder was, and by rights ought to be open to any man able to prove his worth and his competence to occupy and successfully hold a leading post. John A. White, sole owner of the John A. White Motor Company, of No. 576 North Street, Pittsfield, and vice-president and secretary of the Berkshire Brewery Association rose through his own merits and personal qualifications from
the position of bottle washer, which he occupied at the age of eleven years, in the above brewery to the leading posts in the same concern.
He was born February 17, 1878, at Pittsfield, a son of John and Rachel (Gimlich) White, and was educated in the public schools of Pittsfield. In 1923 Mr. White’s spirit of enterprise prompted him to take up a new line
in addition to the brewery, and he decided to go into the auto business. On Januarj’ i, 1924, he formed the present company, which is not incorporated, as Mr. White has no desire to share its ownership with anybody else. He has the exclusive agency of the Grey touring and the Auburn touring cars for the southern half of Berkshire County, and is the representative for the entire Berkshire County of the Grey trucks and Sanford trucks. Throughout his territory Mr. White is represented by agents, who are doing a very satisfactory business. Mr. White, who is a very popular citizen of Pittsfield, has numerous fraternal connections, such as membership of the Crescent Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; the Berkshire Chapter of Royal Arch Masons; the Berkshire Council and Commandery of Knights Templar; the Melha Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He is also a member of the Pittsfield Lodge, of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and the Turn Verein. Mr. White, who is very fond of outdoor sports, is never so happy as when he can go on a day’s holiday or play a game of baseball, in which he is quite an expert. He used to be one of the best semi-professional baseball pitchers in his section of Massachusetts, and his pitching was largely responsible for the high standing of the Pittsfield ball team in many games. In September, 1904, Mr. White married Mable F. Durkee, and with her has one daughter, Evelyn, a for- mer graduate of Pittsfield High School, now a student
of Columbia University.