Welz and Zerweck High Ground Brewery, Brooklyn, NY

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Welz and Zerweck traces its roots to John Welz who was listed as early as 1858 in the Brooklyn City Directories as a brewer located at 132 Scholes.

The company was featured in the “Illustrated History of Greater Ridgewood” published in 1906. The feature included information on it’s early history.

The original brewery was established in 1859 by the late John Welz.

The brewery was first established in Scholes Street and Graham Avenue, in the old “Dutchtown” section of Williamsburg. Two years later it was moved to the building on Myrtle and Wycoff Avenues.

In 1897, the brewery was made a limited corporation with John Welz, president; Chas C.D. Zerweck, vice-president, and Harry Roth, secretary and treasurer. These three officers also comprise the Board of Directors and are the owners of all the company stock.

It was called the Welz Brewery until 1883 when Charles C.D. Zerweck and John Welz’s son, also named John, took over the business. Zerweck, a German immigrant, had joined the Welz Brewery in 1878. The business was first listed in the Brooklyn directories as Welz and Zerweck in 1884.

Well and Zerweck was listed in the 1890 Lains Business Directory of Brooklyn and the Trow Business Directory for the Borough of Brooklyn in 1899, 1903 and 1907 (the only years I could find). It was also listed in the “Copartnership and Corporation Directory of the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens 1913-1914; John Welz President, Charles Zerweck VP, Henry Roth Treasurer, Capital $1,500,000. Certainly a closely held company, the 1913 -1914 officers were the same ones that were listed in 1897 when the corporation was formed. The address was always listed as Myrtle, corner of Wycoff, or sometimes 1562 Myrtle.

The feature in the “Illustrated History of Ridgewood” goes on to talk a little bit about the growth of the company in both size and volume of business.

If the old adage “tall oaks from little acorns grow” was ever appropriately applied, it is so applied to the Welz & Zerweck Brewery.

By turning out the best beer that the concern could possibly give to consumers the establishment grew, and from an output of 5,000 barrels a year in the beginning, the concern is brewing and selling more than 300,000 barrels per year, and the new additions that have been made allow a capacity of 500,000.

The entire plant and buildings, which include ice plant, brewery, bottling department, shipping department and offices, cover over four acres of ground.

The beer is sold in every part of Long Island and the Greater City, and is shipped to distant parts, such as the Southern States and Puerto Rico.

Perhaps the best illustration of Welz and Zerweck’s growth from the early 1860’s until the turn of the century are two photographs that attended the feature. The first and largest showed the plant as it existed when the feature was written in 1906. The second, inserted into the lower left hand corner shows the original 1862 building at the Myrtle and Wycoff location.

The brewery complex was located right on the border between Brooklyn (Kings County) and Queens County. This results in an interesting story I found in the December 6, 1894 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. It concerns a saloon and hotel that made up a part of the brewery complex until it was demolished around that time. It was entitled “The House That Stands in Two Counties”

The old building attached to the brewery of Welz & Zerweck at Ridgewood, for years used as a barroom and hotel, has been razed and in its place will be built a large and modern structure. A part of it stood on the dividing line of Queens and Kings counties and it is said that years ago, when the excise law was strictly enforced in Brooklyn the bar, which on weekdays stood on the Kings county side, would on Sunday be removed to the town of Newton, a few feet away. For many years past, however, the change of the bar has been discontinued, it being allowed to remain permanently , it was claimed, on the Queens County side

I haven’t seen many newspaper advertisements for their beers, but one in the February 15, 1912 issue of the“Forest Parkway Leader Observer” listed a wide range of products including: Gabrinus Brau, Pilsner Beer, Export Beer, Standard Beer and Sparkling Ale and made it a point that“our beers and ales are brewery bottled only.” They were were all $1.00 per case.

Another advertisement, this one in a May 1910 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle touts: “Gambrinus Bock Beer – Better than Imported.”

Welz and Zerwick apparently maintained branches or maybe sales outlets on Long Island as well. An advertisement for one of them in Sag Harbor was printed in the November 26, 1910 issue of the “Sag Harbor Corrector.” The advertisement showed that prices outside of Brooklyn were higher by 20 to 50 percent ($1.20 to $1.50 vs $1.00).

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It appears that the business continued to operate under the Welz & Zerweck name during the early stages of Prohibition. A June 21, 1921 article in the “Beverage Journal” provided a review of brewery activities (during prohibition) and stated that Welz and Zerweck was making cereal beverages. They were still listed in the Copartnership and Corporation Directory of the Borough of Brooklyn and Queens in 1922, with both Welz and Zerweck as directors, but by 1925 the business had shut down.

According to the May 7, 1925 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the brewery complex, located at Myrtle and Wycoff was demolished to make way for a new theater and office complex.

The Welz and Zerweck Brewery, one of the oldest landmarks of the Ridgewood section, occupying the triangle formed by Wycoff Ave., Myrtle Ave. and Madison Street., is shortly to be razed to give way to the construction of a modern theater and office building with a street row of stores it was learned today.

The transaction was said to involve nearly $1,000,000 and the purchasers to be a syndicate of business men in Brooklyn and Queens…

The Welz and Zerweck plant has stood on its present site for more than half a century, and until prohibition, was one of the most flourishing Brooklyn breweries. In passing, however, it has been more fortunate than many other breweries. A subway was built through Wycoff Ave. with a station at Myrtle Ave., and a business center for a population of 100,000 has sprung up around the site, making the property of even greater value than ever during the pre-Volstead days.

It is understood that the new theater building will be from five to eight stories high and that work on it will commence in a month or so.

A year later, on May 11, 1926 they held an auction that included:

The last of their former saloon properties…for which, having sold their brewery and retiring from business, they have no further use.

Finally it appears that the the Welz and Zerweck brands were absorbed by Liebmann’s. According to a March 29, 1933 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Liebmann’s didn’t plan on continuing with them when National Prohibition ended.

Before Prohibition put a snag in the beer business Liebmann’s has absorbed many famous brands of beer and breweries. They were Peter Doelger’s, Welz & Zerweck’s, George Ehret’s, Obermeyer & Liebmann’s plaza brew, Beadelston & Woerz and the Krumenaker bottling works – and some 30 other brands. With the possible exception of Peter Doelger’s, all of them will remain absorbed, and they will reappear – are now being bottled –  as Liebmann’s.

I found one bottle with a tooled blob finish, several aqua tooled crowns and one brown tooled crown. I haven’t found a machine made example but have seen them on the Internet.