Today is the 58th birthday of John Hansell, who was the publisher of Malt Advocate, the whisky magazine in America, which also puts on WhiskyFest in several cities, including San Francisco. John’s a terrific person I don’t see nearly often enough, and sadly, not for a few years. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.
Today is the day that Charles Engel died (1811-June 2, 1900). His exact date of birth is apparently unknown, though it took place in Stadtgemeinde Bremen, in Bremen, Germany. He emigrated to Philadelphia when he was 29, in 1840, and began brewing there, first as Engel and Wolf’s, and later as Bergner & Engel’s.
Here’s his story, from “100 Years of Brewing,” recounting his role in brewing some of the first lagers in Ameria:
His first partnership was with Charles Wolf, but after he retired, Gustavus Bergner joined the company and it became known as the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company.
“100 Years of Brewing” also has an entry for the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company:
And this similar account is by Pennsylvania beer historian Rich Wagner:
Charles Wolf, a sugar refiner in the neighborhood, had an employee named George Manger, who was a brewer by trade. Manger obtained some of the yeast and began making larger batches in a brewery on New Street near Second. Around the same time, Charles Engel, also a brewer, emigrated and found work in Wolf’s refinery. In 1844 Engel and Wolf brewed their first batch of lager beer in the sugar pan and stored it in sugar hogsheads to be shared with their friends.
The same year, the refinery was destroyed by fire and Mr. Wolf went into the brewing and distilling business at 354 Dillwyn Street. Engel & Wolf’s brewery became a popular resort of the Germans of Philadelphia who were known to “drink the brewery dry.” Since lager yeast requires colder fermenting and aging (lagering) conditions than ale yeast, ice houses became more important than ever. Vaults were dug in 1845, and with the increasing number of German immigrants, Mr. Wolf expanded the brewery. In 1849 he purchased a property on the Schuylkill River known as Fountain Green where lager beer vaults extending over 200 feet were dug. For several years wort was hauled by ox teams from Northern Liberties to the vaults at Fountain Green, a distance of about three miles. Over the next few years a new brewery was erected on the site, modern and complete in every way. It was the first large-scale lager brewery in the United States.
Fountain Green was an ideal location. It was out in the country where there was plenty of room. There were springs on the property. Wolf’s farm was just up the road. The banks of the river are composed of Wissahickon Schist, which is fairly soft and easy to dig. In winter, being right on the river was an advantage when harvesting ice for refrigeration. In addition, the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad served the brewery with the “Engel Side” spur.
Philadelphia developed along both of it’s rivers, but along the more navigable Delaware, ship building, shad fishing, industry and commerce were most abundant. Philadelphia’s reputation as “The Workshop of the World” was earned in large part by the “river wards” of Northern Liberties, Kensington, and Frankford. These neighborhoods were literally teaming with breweries. When lager beer began to catch on, many brewers rented beer vaults along the Schuylkill River, and in the area that came to be known as Brewerytown.
Engel & Wolf enjoyed success, but in 1870 the property was acquired by the Fairmount Park Association. The city had just built the Fairmount Water Works, the most technologically sophisticated, state of the art municipal water pumping facility in the nation, and to ensure water quality, removed all industry from the Schuylkill River for a distance of five miles upstream. At this time Mr. Wolf retired and his partner joined Gustavus Bergner to create the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company.
Gustavus’ father Charles had started a brewery on North Seventh Street in the Northern Liberties in 1852 which Gustavus took over upon his father’s death. In 1857, Gustavus erected a brewery at 32nd & Thompson Streets, an address that would become the heart of Brewerytown. Interestingly enough, Brewerytown was essentially up and over the river bank from the old Engel and Wolf brewery.
The earliest picture of Brewerytown that I have been able to uncover is based on four Hexamer Surveys that were made in 1868. They show thirteen breweries, one of which had a distillery, three “lager beer vaults,” including one owned by Peter Schemm, a row of dwellinghouses with beer vaults beneath them, a number of stables and at least three or four brewery saloons.
Beginning in the 1870’s ice-making and artificial refrigeration technology radically altered the equation. It made proximity to river ice of little importance. Huge fermenting and storage houses could be constructed anywhere and they could maintain cold temperatures year round. Where brewers had been bound to brew only during the colder months, it was now possible to brew year round. With the exponential increase in popularity of lager beer, artificial refrigeration was the answer to a dream.
Some brewers who had rented vaults in or near Brewerytown built breweries there. Others refrigerated their breweries and no longer needed to rent vaults. According to the list of projects executed by brewery architect Otto Wolf, the breweries were continually being altered and enlarged to accommodate the trade. The trend was for the brewers to go west to Brewerytown from the river wards, but some left Brewerytown and went into business in Kensington.
The Bergner & Engel B.C. was one of the largest brewers in the country. B & E won the Grand Prize at the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876 and the Grand Prize at the Paris Exposition in 1878. Their beer was shipped across the country, and around the world. Gustavus Bergner was very active in the United States Brewers Association, the Philadelphia Lager Beer Brewers Association, and the Philadelphia Brewmasters Association. B & E was the largest brewer in Philadelphia, and eventually absorbed three other Brewerytown breweries: Mueller, Eble & Herter, and Rothacker.
When prohibition loomed on the horizon, Mr. Bergner had significant political clout and did everything humanly possible to prevent severe trauma to the brewing industry, not only in Philadelphia, but throughout the nation. At first, the brewers thought they would not be affected. After all, beer was hardly intoxicating when compared with liquor. Then they thought if they reduced the alcohol to 2.75% they could still sell their product. Anti-dry forces in Congress attempted to make beer available by physicians’ prescription. But in the end the Federal Government established the legal limit for “near beer” at one half of one per cent alcohol.
Prohibition devastated the brewing industry. It was such an unpopular law, that for some time, things just went on as they had before. Most of the city’s brewers were law-abiding German Americans. They could not fathom a world without a foamy seidel of beer. Not only that, but they would have to become criminals in order to make beer, their “staff of life.” Legally, they brewed “near bear,” and made soda. They made malt extract for the malt shop as well as for the home brewer, and sold yeast and ice. The Poth brewery became home to the Cereal Beverage Company, the local distributor of Anheuser-Busch’s Bevo. Due to demand and profitability, however, many continued to produce “high-octane” beer, even after being raided several times, sometimes while they were involved in litigation.
The government targeted the biggest guy on the block and made an example of B & E. After being raided, B & E continued to make beer. It was a case of the public and business community defying a terribly unpopular law and the government responded with a vengeance. And while B & E had lots of legal tricks up its sleeve, in the end the government prevailed and shut them down. Breweries throughout the city were padlocked. And in December of 1928, as police sewered nearly a million gallons of B & E beer, officers were quoted as saying “B & E made the best beer in the city.”
Today is the birthday of Otto Flood Emmerling (June 1, 1889-December 2, 1992). He was the son of John Emmerling, who founded the Empire Brewery of Johnston, Pennsylvania in 1878. It was technically known as the Emmerling Brewing Co. the entire time it was in business, until it was closed by Prohibition in 1920. His son Otto, was born during the Johnstown Flood that began on May 31, 1889, when his mother Philomena went into labor, and he was born the next morning, on June 1 (though some record indicate June 2, but his grave’s headstone shows June 1), so that when he passed away in 1992, he was last survivor of the great flood. It was for that reason he was given the middle name “Flood.” He and his brother took over the family brewery in 1911, shortly before their father died, and continued to run it until it closed for good when Prohibition took effect in 1920.
There’s not much biographical information I could find about Otto, nor any photos of him. He only ran the family brewery for nine years, and must have lost it entirely due to prohibition, and I couldn’t find out what he turned to afterwards or how he made his living between 1920 and 1992, or most of his life.
Today is the birthday of Peter Schemm (May 30, 1824-September 13, 1898). Born in Bavaria, Germany, he came first to Baltimore in 1842, and five years later moved to Philadelphia, where he worked at Dithmar & Bretz, brewers. Thereafter, he worked with Louis Bergdoll, and in 1855 partnered with L. Houser to form the brewery Houser & Schemm. After Houser’s death in 1863, it became the Peter Schemm Brewery, and eventually his son came to work with him, and it was renamed the Peter Schemm & Son Brewery, or the Peter Schemm & Son Lager Brewery.
Here’s Schemm’s obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer, published on September 14, 1898, the day after he sparked worldwide interest by committing suicide by jumping into Niagara Falls.
PETER SCHEMM JUMPS OVER NIAGARA FALLS
Peter Schemm, the popular millionaire brewer, a favorite in many societies, father of eight children, band director and art patron, yesterday leaped over a bridge into the rapids above Niagara Falls just below Goat Island in the sight of hundreds of people. His body whirled to destruction, passed over the falls on the American side and may never be recovered.
The Associated Press dispatch from Niagara Falls was the first news to the family at 931 N. 8th Street. They hadn’t heard from him since Monday when he had left to visit the brewery at 25th and Poplar Streets. This worry and search for him began Monday night after he had failed to appear at the Board of Directors meeting of the National Security Bank which he never failed to attend. The family knew from the breaking off of his daily habits that something was wrong. All they could learn from his faithful carriage driver, Clarke, was that he took Mr. Schemm to the Reading Terminal Depot Monday at about 12:00.
“That’s all, you can go home. I’ll trouble you no more,” were the last words said to the driver. He spoke in his accustomed manner as the driver then thought, and disappeared in the depot. Upon his failure to appear among his coterie of friends (each evening he met his friends at Massholders Saloon near the brewery – Plumber School, building Harback, roofer Walh and undertaker Christian Kunaig and others) and his failure to return home at the accustomed hour in the evening where was usually punctual as the clock, an investigation was started and every effort was made to trace him. Telegrams were sent to his son, Peter Schemm, Jr. at Holly Beach and inquiries were made of all his intimate friends in this city. None knew anything. He sometimes had business at Bethlehem, and had interest in the Warwick Iron Co., but all that could be learned was that the driver had left him in the Reading Terminal at noon.
A distressing night and morning for his family and friends ended in the news that he had become the first sensational suicide of the summer at Niagara Falls.
AT THE FALLS
He arrived at Niagara Falls at 11:00 pm the night before and registered at the Central House as Peter Schemm with putting down his address. He inquired for the Steel Arch Bridge and paid 25 cents to be conducted there at night. The following morning he said he was from Philadelphia and hired hackman Hickey to take him for a drive. He was taken all along the rapids and stopped many times to make examinations out of curiosity, the driver thought, but evidently contemplating a place to jump. When they got to the bridge on the route to Goat Island, he got out and sent the driver on across the bridge saying he would walk across to get a better view. In the middle of the bridge a figure was seen climbing up and over, there was a shout from people which caused all faces to turn. The 200 pound form of the gray-bearded 74 year old man was that of Peter Schemm.
A SELF MADE MAN
Peter Schemm was born at Dottenheim near Newstadt-on-the-Aisch, Bavaria, May 30, 1824. Landing at Baltimore in his 18th year, without friends or relatives in this country, he found employment as a farm hand on what was a large farm on Pelair Road on the identical spot now occupied by the Van Der Horst Brewery. After five years of service at Baltimore, he left for Philadelphia, engaging with Dithmar & Bretz, the celebrated Ale and Porter brewers. In 1849, he entered a business relationship with Louis Bergdoll, then being one of the founders of the I. Bergdoll Brewing Co. Retiring the next year to give a place for Mr. Bergdoll’s brother-in-law, the late Charles Booth, Mr. Schemm formed a partnership with George Nanger as Nanger and Schemm at the 2nd and New Streets, a firm well known in its day, and held happy remembrances for many old citizens in Philadelphia. “Der dic-h George” was one of the characters of German society in the days of over 30 years ago. (The Industries of Philadelphia records that Philadelphia was the first place in this country where Lager Beer was made and the original brewer was George Manger who had a brewery about 1846047 on New Street).
After five years of hard work, Mr. Schemm started a saloon on 238 Race St. Still in existence and known for many years as the principal place of resort of the German element of the city. In 1855 he formed partnership with L. Houser as L. Houser & Co. which was renewed after five years as Houser & Schemm continuing until the death of Mr. Houser in 1863 when Mr. Schemm purchased the widow’s interest and was continued ever since under the name of Peter Schemm.
He was a member of the Odd Fellows, Red Men, Seven Wise Men, Masonic and other Orders, and served in some as Grand Master, State Representative and other important positions. He was also a member of the Germany Society Turners Schutzenverein, Saengerbund, etc. He was one of the founders and president of the Philadelphia Lager Beer Brewers Association. He was also one of the founders of the National Security Bank of Franklin & Ferard and was Director of it since 1870. Also founder of the Northern Savings and Trust Co. and the Warwick Iron Company and was a member of the Commerical Exchange of Philadelphia.
You can also find additional obituaries and follow up stories at the Peter Schemm and Fredericka Rosina Schill Family Group.
There’s some biographical information about Peter Schemm at the Peter Schemm and Fredericka Rosina Schill Family Group.
Peter was born at Dottenheim near Newstadt-on-the-Aisch, Bavaria, May 30, 1821, where for generations past, his family had been brewers. Peter grew up in the brewing trade, learning both brewing and coopering, two trades which were generally carried on together. His family was well to do, but he believed that America offered larger opportunity for him. He arrived at the port of Baltimore at the age of 18 in 1839 and found employment as a farm hand on what was a large farm on Pelair Road on the identical spot which was occupied later by the Van Der Horst Brewery. Seven years later in 1846, he left for Philadelphia, engaging as a brewer and cooper with Dithmar & Bretz, the celebrated Ale and Porter brewers. In 1849, he entered a business relationship with Louis Bergdoll, then being one of the founders of the I. Bergdoll Brewing Co. Retiring the next year to give a place for Mr. Bergdoll’s brother-in-law, Charles Booth, Peter formed a partnership with George Nanger as Nanger and Schemm at the 2nd and New Streets, a firm well known in its day, and held happy remembrances for many old citizens in Philadelphia. (The Industries of Philadelphia records that Philadelphia was the first place in this country where Lager Beer was made, and the original brewer was George Manager who had a brewery about 1846-47 on New Street).
After five years of hard work, Peter started a saloon on 238 Race Street, a principal place of resort of the German element of the city. In 1855 he invested his capital in partnership with L. Hauser as L. Hauser & Co. which was renewed after five years as Houser & Schemm continuing until the death of Mr. Houser in 1863 when Mr. Schemm purchased the widow’s interest and continued after that time under the name of Peter Schemm. Hauser had a three-story dwelling on the ground floor and a small two-story building next door in which the beer was made. The total daily capacity at the start was 10 barrels. The dwelling and original brewery were used as different offices and a cooper shop, and other buildings were erected on the corner below. A large brewery was erected in 1885, and in 1886 the capacity of the establishment was doubled again when another building, which took the place of the two small houses in which the business had started, was erected. Peter was satisfied with the proportion of his trade, but the popularity of his beer and the expansion in the number of saloons created a larger retailer demand.
Peter gained a reputation in his time for great integrity regarding his product. He was not at all interested in fancy innovations in brewing or for the extensions that were often proposed by promoters and big brewing combinations. He had strong ideas on the way his beer should be served as well. The temperature could be neither too high nor too low and it had to be served carefully. Retailers guilty of neglects in these regards were denied his products.
Peter was a generous giver to charities and to friends of his youth who needed assistance. He contributed to charities and to the many German societies of which he was a member.
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 the birthday of Frank J. Hahne, Jr. (May 12, 1883-February 1980). He was the son of Frank J. Hahne, who founded the DuBois Brewing Co. either in 1896 or 1897, sources seem mixed. The brewery survived prohibition, with Frank Jr. taking over in 1932, and the brewery stayed in business until 1973, although the business was sold to Pittsburgh Brewing in 1967. Given that Frank Hahne Jr. lived until 1980, it’s surprising that I could not find any photos of him online, or indeed anything about his exploits running the family brewery.
As I mentioned, there was some confusion about the brewery’s founding date, which is addressed on the Wikipedia page for the town of DuBois, Pennsylvania:
There seems to be some debate as to exactly when Frank Hahne came to DuBois and broke ground on his own facility. One source claims 1898, another 1897. It seems most likely that this occurred between April and the end of 1896. It was on April 16, 1896, that the DuBois Weekly Courier reported: “Some new developments in connection with the brewery may be looked for in the near future.”
There were a number of reasons Hahne chose the DuBois site for his facility, but the most frequently cited was the excellence of the water supply. He purchased 2,300 acres (9.3 km2) surrounding the local reservoir to protect the watershed from pollution.
By 1906, the brewery had four products on the market: DuBois Wurzburger, Hahne’s Export Pilsener, DuBois Porter, and DuBois Budweiser. The Budweiser name would be at the center of controversy for 60 years between DuBois Brewing and Anheuser-Busch.
The DuBois brands soon traveled far and wide for a brewery of its size, ranging up to 150 miles (240 km) away and selling well in Buffalo, Erie and Pittsburgh. The brewery’s 300-barrel kettle was kept busy churning out brands, while the left-over grain materials were pressed and sold for cattle feed and grist mills in the rural areas surrounding DuBois.
As with many other American breweries, DuBois Brewing moved right along until 1918 and the advent of Prohibition. The brewery shifted production to “near beer” and soft drinks and opened the H&G Ice Company. According to the April 7, 1933, DuBois Courier, the brewery won the honor of being one of only two breweries in the entire nation that had never violated or been suspected of violating the Prohibition laws since the 18th Amendment went into effect. As a result, DuBois Brewing Company was issued license number G-2, allowing them to resume brewing immediately upon the enaction of the 21st Amendment.
Frank Hahne died in 1932, and the brewery was passed to his only son, Frank Hahne Jr., whose own only son died in infancy, leaving the family without an heir. Hahne Jr. sold the brewery to Pittsburgh Brewing in 1967.
The brewery was torn down in late 2003.
This account, from the DuBois Area Historical Society, picks up after his father’s death in 1932:
With the death of his father, management of DuBois Brewery passed to Frank Hahne Jr. with his sister, Marie, as vice president.
The DuBois Brewery had many successes and some setbacks defending its right to use the Budwiser name for over 60 years that it brewed a Budweiser beer. Starting in 1905 when the brewery began the use of the name for one of its many beer brands, Hahne Sr. and later Frank Jr. maintained that their major label beer’s name was derived from the original Budvar Brewery of Budweis, Germany, in the present Czech Republic. This was the Royal Brewery of the Holy Roman Emperor dating back to the early Middle Ages. Effective October 31, 1970, however, Frank Hahne Jr. was prohibited from the using the Budweiser name by a Federal Court order.
In 1967, because of no heirs and the fact that he was losing interest, Frank Jr. had sold the brewery to the Pittsburgh Brewing Company for $1 million, as the Budweiser name case was preceding through the appeals process. A temporary production output problem for Iron City and the DuBois competition was eliminated at the same time. Five years later, 1972, the DuBois Brewery was closed forever. The Pittsburgh company had been bound by the terms of sale to keep the DuBois plant operating for those five years. While under the ownership of Iron City, the Budweiser name case was settled with Anheuser-Busch for a reported million-dollar profit for Pittsburgh Brewing, which had won the U. S. Supreme Court decision. So in effect, Iron City Beer got the DuBois Brewery for next to nothing, however over 100 jobs were lost.
The brewery building complex, which had been used by various businesses over the decades since closing as a brewery, was demolished in 2003. Clearfield County took over the largely condemned and abandoned area and tore down the derelict structures that summer. First to go was the H & G Ice Company followed by the stock house, offices, and, finally, the huge main brewery building and smoke stacks. During the demolition, the whole rear side collapsed unexpectedly with a loud crash and a billow of dust. Luckily, the workmen were on a break and no one was hurt. Rubble was piled to make a ramp that enabled the cranes to reach and safely remove the tall smokestacks. The powerhouse and the smaller outbuilding shops were the last to go. A DuBois landmark was gone.
Curiously, the DuBois brewery started marketing a beer under the name DuBois Budweiser in 1905. Not surprisingly, Anheuser-Busch brought suit in 1908, but dismissed it and the two brands were marketed simultaneously until DuBois finally stopped making its Budweiser in 1972, after it was owned by Pittsburgh Brewing. Here’s the interesting story of the two Budweisers, from a Metropolitan News-Enterprise article on Thursday, August 4, 2005
Anheuser-Busch long tolerated the operations of DuBois Brewery, maker of “DuBois Budweiser.” It did sue the small Pennsylvania brewery for infringement in 1908, but dismissed the action without prejudice the following year, supposedly because company president Adolphus Busch was in ill-health and conserving his energies. It wasn’t until 1940 that it filed a new action, 35 years after the introduction of “Dubois Budweiser.”
The Associated Press reported on March 11, 1947:
The DuBois Brewing Co. of DuBois, Pa., contended in Federal District Court Monday that the name “Budweiser Beer” is a geographic and descriptive name and is not the exclusive name of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Corp. of St. Louis. Judge R. M. Gibson heard arguments in a suit entered by Anheuser-Busch to bar the Pennsylvania company using the name Budweiser for its products. “We have a great mass of testimony to show that where Anheuser-Busch Budweiser and DuBois Budweiser are sold together, there is no confusion,” Elder W. Marshall, former Allegheny county judge and counsel for the DuBois company, declared. “The bartender knows his customers and knows which Budweiser they want,” he continued. “Where a stranger asks for Budweiser, the bartender asks him, ‘Anheuser-Busch or DuBois?’” Marshall said Anheuser-Busch had no exclusive right to the name when DuBois first used it in 1905 and that nothing has occurred since to justify issuance of an injunction against DuBois using the name.
Gibson held on Sept. 9, 1947, that “Budweiser” was not a geographic term as applied to the product of either litigant. The beer of neither brewer came from Budweis. And the word was not a mere description because there was no such thing as a Budweiser process for making beer. It was, plainly and simply, a trade name, he found.
Declaring DuBois to be an infringer in using that trade name, the jurist said:
“In the instant case the Court has had little difficulty in determining that in 1905, when defendant adopted its trade name, the name ‘Budweiser’ identified beer so marked to the general public as the product of Anheuser-Busch.”
As to laches, Gibson wrote:
“While the delay in bringing the action has been great, it must not be forgotten that defendant faced the fact that suit might again be brought when it consented to the withdrawal of the 1909 action, and that since the withdrawal it had notice that plaintiff was not consenting to its use of the trade name.”
The majority of a three-judge panel of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saw it differently. Judge John J. O’Connell remarked in his May 12, 1949 opinion:
“Certainly we have found no case in which injunctive relief was granted after an inexcusable delay for a comparable period of time….In our view, this is not merely a matter of laches; Anheuser has been grossly remiss.”
O’Connell said of the dismissal in 1908:
“The conclusion is irresistible that the Association feared the outcome of its 1908 suit, and that the long delay prior to the filing of the instant complaint amounted to at least an acquiescence in use of the word by DuBois, which Anheuser should be estopped to deny at this late hour, if it was not an actual abandonment of the exclusive right as far as DuBois was concerned.”
The DuBois brewery was purchased in 1967 by Pittsburgh Brewing Company which continued to produce DuBois Budweiser. It ceased production in 1972 following an adverse decision in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
The Associated Press reported on Oct. 1, 1970:
A 65-year court battle over the use of the name “Budweiser” by two brewing companies apparently came to a head Wednesday when a federal judge shut off the tap on “DuBois Budweiser.”
Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled in U.S. District Court that the name “Budweiser” is now the exclusive trademark of Anheuser-Busch, Inc., of St. Louis….
The two companies in the past reached several court agreements limiting the area in which the DuBois product could be sold, but each agreement was marred by charges of violation.
Today is the 56th birthday of Bill Covaleski, a co-founder of Victory Brewing Co., along with his childhood friend Ron Barchet. I first met Bill at the brewery doing an article on Pennsylvania breweries for the Celebrator over a decade ago. It’s been great seeing his brewery rack up victory after victory as they’ve grown and become one of Pennsylvania’s best, biggest and brightest. Join me in wishing Bill a very happy birthday.
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.
Today is Suzanne Woods’ 41st birthday. I first met her during my trip to Philadelphia for Philly Beer Week its inaugural year. She used to write online as the Beer Lass and now is the mid-atlantic territory manager for Allagash, though when I first met her she worked for Sly Fox Brewing outside of Philadelphia. Join me in wishing Suzanne a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of William O. Poth (April 17, 1876-March 9, 1901). He was the son of Frederick J. Poth and the older brother of Harry A. Poth. In 1870, his grandfather founded the Fred A. Poth Brewery, which by 1875 was the largest brewery in the U.S. His brother Harry was the brewer, but it’s unclear what William’s role at the family brewery was. I could find very little about him, even his Find-a-Grave page doesn’t list the date of his death. But I did find it mentioned in the trade publication The Western Brewer from March 1906:
I couldn’t find any photographs of him, which isn’t too surprising given I couldn’t find any of his father and only one of his brother, Frederick J. Poth. Sadly, I could find almost nothing else about him, either.
Today is the birthday of John F. Betz (April 8, 1831-January 16, 1908). He was born in Mohringer, Germany and emigrated with his family when he was an infant. His sister Elizabeth married D.G. Yuengling, and he learned brewing there from an early age. When he was 24, he bought a brewery in New York, but moved to Philadelphia in 1867, and bought what was originally the Robert Hare & J. Warren Porter Brewery when it opened in 1775. It was the William Gaul Brewery, but Betz changed it to the John F. Betz Brewery, though after his son joined the business in 1880, it became known as the John F. Betz & Son Brewery. The brewery survived prohibition, but closed for good in 1939.
Here’s one account by Rich Wagner on The Beers and Breweries of Philadelphia in Zymurgy from 1991:
John F. Betz came to Philadelphia in 1867 from New York, where he had been brewing for fourteen years. He took a job at the Gaul Brewery until purchasing it in 1880. Prior to Betz’s ownership, only ale and porter were brewed. Betz commenced brewing lager beer as well. John F. Betz became very active in the real estate market in the city. One of his other concerns was a beer garden at Riverside above the Wissahickon Creek on the Schuylkill River. He put in a line of little steamboats to carry his patrons up the river from Fairmount Dam. Betz produced an IPA of 6.5 % a.b.v. and an East India Pale Ale at 7.5% a.b.v. Betz’s half-and-half was a mixture of two-year old ale and stout, and Betz’s Best was a lager that was said to rival Bavarian imports. The Betz brewery reopened after Prohibition and remained in business until 1939.
Here’s his biography from Find-a-Grave:
Brewer. He started as an apprentice in a brewery in 1844, and in 1855 he established his own brewery. John F. Betz then came to Philadelphia in 1867, working at the Gaul Brewery. He bought it in 1880. In that same year he built a state of the art brewery. Gaul had only brewed ale and porter; Betz introduced lager beer. He also invested in Philadelphia real estate. His beer garden at Riverside above the Wissahickon Creek on the Schuylkill River was so popular that steamboats brought patrons up the Schuylkill from Fairmount Dam. His contemporaries claimed that Betz’s Best was a lager that rivaled Bavarian imports. His brewery at Fourth and Callowhill Streets was one of the nation’s largest breweries until it closed during Prohibition. The Betz brewery reopened after Prohibition and remained in business until 1939. Though a Lutheran throughout his life, he was made a Chevalier of the Order of St. Gregory by Pope Leo XIII. His first wife was Sybilla Caroline Betz. He was later married to Anna Helene Berroldinger. Before his death he disposed of his property among his wife, two adult sons, and two minor children to avoid the any conflicts over his will.
This mention of Betz and his brewery in New York is from “Yuengling: A History of America’s Oldest Brewery,” by Mark A. Noon:
D.G. Yuengling’s son David Jr., who would have been Betz’s nephew, worked at the New York brewery, too. In 1884, the name was changed to the Star Brewery, but it closed for good in 1891.
Betz also started a brewery in Jersey City, New Jersey with Henry Lembeck named The Lembeck and Betz Eagle Brewing Company. “The company was incorporated in May 1890. Since 1869, the brewery grew to become the fourth-largest brewery in New Jersey,” but closed due to prohibition.
This much longer account is from “Philadelphia and Popular Philadelphians,” published in 1891:
I’m not sure if this was a newspaper advertisement or some very favorable coverage, but this was a page from The Times—Philadelphia on May 28, 1893.