Peter Doelger’s obituary, published in the December 16, 1912 issue of the New York Tribune, provides some information on his life and the early years of his brewery.
Mr. Doelger was born at Kleinwallstadt, in the province of Oberfranken, Bavaria, on March 3, 1832. His father conducted in the village a small but prosperous brewery, in which he made a dark brown beer whose fame spread beyond the province. Peter Doelger was one of six children all of whom learned the trade in their father’s brewery. In 1850 Mr. Doelger came to New York to join his brother, Joseph, who proceeded him by two years. The following year Mr. Doelger went to Savannah, but with his brother soon returned to this city and started a brewery in 2d Street between Avenue A and Avenue B. In 1859 Peter started a brewery for himself, and the same year married Miss Margarethe Lambrecht.
There being very few breweries in the city at that time, the one operated by Peter Doelger grew amazingly, his beer becoming so popular that in 1863 it was necessary for him to purchase four lots in East 55th Street, between First Avenue and Avenue A. Today there stands the big brewery that embraces the entire block between 55th and 56th Streets, First Avenue and Avenue A. It is said to be one of the most modern breweries in the country.
The early New York City directories generally confirm the above information. In the mid 1850’s, Joseph Doelger is listed as a brewer at 156 3rd St (not 2nd St). In 1859 Peter Doelger is listed for the first time as brewer at 93 Avenue A.
Between 1860 and 1863, the business of Doelger and Schaefer, brewers, was listed with two addresses: 98 Avenue A and East 55th Street, near Avenue A. By 1865, the Doelger and Schaefer name was gone and Peter Doelger, brewer, was listed at East 55th Street where it remained until the late 1920’s.
After his death, his sons Peter Jr. and Charles continued to run the business. Around this time, it appears that the business was also incorporated. The 1914 Copartnership and Corporation Directory lists the business as the Peter Doelger Brewing Co., Inc., located at 407 E 55th Street. Peter Jr. was named president and Charles was secretary.
Doelger referred to his brewery as Peter Doelger’s First Prize Brewery and his beer was called Peter Doelger’s First Prize Beer. An 1879 advertisement compares sales in 1877 – 78 to 1878 – 79.
Available on draught from the start in 1859, they began bottling it in 1911. A May 9, 1911 advertisement touted: “Science Triumphant at Peter Doelger’s Magnificent New Bottling Department.” In part the advertisement read:
With the scraping of trowels and the clanking of hammers barely stilled, the most scientifically equipped and sanitarily perfect bottling plant in the world stands ready for the push of the electric button which will set its wonderful machinery in motion.
On May 9th, the New Bottling Department of the Peter Doelger First Prize Brewery will begin to bottle its peerless product expressly for the home…
For more than half a century, Peter Doelger First Prize Beer has held undisputed supremacy over all other brews. Since 1859 this healthful liquid food has been drawn directly from the barrel to delight the palate of the connoisseur.
Today, thanks to the unceasing efforts of our experts, aided by the remarkable advance of science, Peter Doelger First Prize Beer will for the fist time be sold to you in bottles; a worthy tribute to the brewers and bottlers highest art.
Another advertisement, this one in 1916, now called it “First Prize Bottled Beer” and touted it as “The one beer that is worth it’s weight in gold as a nerve, body and strength builder.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisements from March 9, 1924 and August 8, 1926 demonstrate that they were brewing near-beer under the Doelger name during Prohibition.
Sometime in the late 1920’s The business sold the East 56th Street brewery and moved to Brooklyn. A September 1, 1929 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle referenced the Doelger Brewery in an article that discussed the trend of old brewery sites on Manhattan’s east side being replaced with apartment buildings.
The Doelger brewery property is on the block bounded by Sutton, 1st Ave., 55th and 56th Sts., held at $5,500,000 and is reported to be sold to builders for re-improvement with fine apartment houses. The site is 200×613.
Around this time, the business moved to Monteith Street and Evergreen Avenue in Brooklyn then, in 1936, they leased the Hauch Brewery in Harrison NJ. The Harrison N.J. location was included on this 1937 advertisement.
The brewery closed in 1947 or 1948. An item in the April 13, 1948 issue of the Plainfield Courier News declared the business bankrupt.
Federal Judge Thomas F. Meaney yesterday declared the Peter Doelger Brewing Corporation of Harrison bankrupt and ordered it liquidated.
A tall modern residential building currently occupies the Manhattan brewery site. It’s not old enough to be the building that originally replaced the brewery
The bottle I found is machine made and dates no earlier than 1911 when their bottling plant opened.
Peter had a brother Joseph whose family also operated a brewery on 55th Street at 234 East 55th Street. The brewery was originally listed in the directories under Joseph Doelger (1904 and earlier) and later under Joseph Doelger’s Sons (1907 and later).