Beadleston and Woerz, Empire Brewery, New York

 

New York City brewing company Beadleston & Woerz was established in 1878 and later incorporated in 1889.

The history of the company however begins about a half century earlier in upstate Troy, New York. Much of this history was recounted in a 1903 supplement to a publication called “The Western Brewer,” entitled “One Hundred Years of Brewing.” The piece on Beadleston & Woerz included within the supplement  begins:

In 1825, Abraham Nash founded a small ale brewery at Troy, New York, soon afterward forming a partnership with his son under the firm name of Nash & Co. As their business extended it was found necessary to establish an agency in New York City for the sale of their ales. Ebenezer Beadleston, a relative, who had been engaged at Troy, in various business occupations for many years, was selected for their agent, and in 1837 located in the metropolis for the purpose of extending the business in that locality.

Beadleston established an office in New York City at the corner of Washington Street and Dry Street where he’s first listed in the 1838/1839 New York City directory.

Three years later, in 1840, Beadleston was made a principal and the firm name was changed to Nash, Beadleston & Company. By then their Cream, Pale and Amber Ales were being sold downstate, not only in Manhattan but also in neighboring Brooklyn, as evidenced by this advertisement that consistently appeared in 1840 and 1841 editions of the Long Island Star.

In the mid-1840’s the company made the decision to open a brewery downstate and purchased property on the west side of Manhattan in Greenwich Village.  The property was included in the block bounded by Washington, West, Charles and West 10th Streets that at one time had served as a New York State prison, prior to the opening of Sing Sing in 1828. According to the Western Brewer supplement:

The old State Prison, whose buildings were occupied as a brewing and malting plant, was constructed of stone and surrounded by a high wall. The wall was torn down when the property was purchased by Nash, Beadleston & Company who used the cells for malting rooms and built three stories upon the massive foundation.

Called the Empire Brewery, it opened for business in 1846 as a branch of the Troy brewery. Two sketches, one depicting the old prison in 1814, and another showing the brewery when it opened in 1846, accompanied the Western Brewer story.

The Empire Brewery continued to operate as a  branch of the Troy brewery up until 1856 when the two separated and the New York business continued under the name Beadleston & Nash.

In 1860 Nash retired and was succeeded by a long time employee, W. W. Price. Around the same time E. G. W. Woerz took charge of the practical and technical end of the business. This resulted in an 1865 reorganization at which time the name Beadleston, Price & Woerz was adopted. The company continued to operate under this name until 1878 when it was changed to Beadleston & Woerz. The Western Brewer summarized the events that lead up to this final name change, beginning with the permanent retirement of Ebenezer Beadleston.

The firm remained thus until 1871 when Ebenezer Beadleston retired permanently in favor of his son, the late William H. Beadleston, who had become connected with the firm in 1870. Mr. Price died in 1876 leaving his share in the business to his son, Walter J. Price. In 1878 the latter retired and the firm of Beadleston & Woerz was organized.

Throughout the 1870’s and early 1880’s the brewery grew and modernized until, in 1881, they began brewing lager beer in addition to their porters and ales. According to the Western Brewer it was around this time that the last vestige of the old prison disappeared:

In 1872 the firm erected a handsome malt-house on the part of their property fronting on Charles Street, the remainder of the State Prison being used for brewing purposes, until 1879, when the demolition of the old structure commenced. In January, 1881 the new ale and porter brewery was completed, and in the same year they demolished the remainder of the prison. This was done in order that a large ice-house might be erected and the brewing of lager beer commenced.

As early as 1887 the brewery had also added a bottling department to the complex as evidenced by this March 27, 1887 notice that appeared in the New York Tribune.

A circa 1890’s advertisement shown below depicted the much larger brewery as it looked near the turn of the century and an 1890 New York Tribune story described it like this:

How many readers of the Tribune have ever visited a great brewing establishment? A little back from West Street stand the buildings of Beadleston & Woerz. From the river this pile of stone and brick resembles a huge fortress. Mr. Woerz said the other day that he had the capacity to brew 500,000 barrels a year but his present storage capacity limited him to a production of 300,000.

By this time they were one of the largest brewers in the country, a fact reinforced by a story that appeared in the March 4, 1898 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

BIG MALT SHIPMENT

During the past week Milwaukee will break the record of the United States, if not the world, with the largest single shipment of malt ever made. The shipment is to be made by the American Malting Company from the plant of the Kraus-Merkel Company to the Beadleston & Woerz Brewing Company of New York City. The shipment in the aggregate will be 3,400,000 pounds of malt. To move this immense quantity of malt will require 100 cars, which will be divided into four solid trains. The first train left Milwaukee over the Northwestern Railroad and will be transferred to the Nickel Plate and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western road for shipment to its destination. The other three trains will follow as fast as they can be loaded, unless other orders crowd in to make delay necessary. From Chicago to New York two of the trains will go by the route given, and the other two will be shipped by the Lake Shore and the New York Central railroads. The extent of the shipment may be judged from the fact that it will make 51,200,000 glasses of beer.

The earliest newspaper advertisements that I can find for the Beadleston & Woerz product date back to 1887 and most reference their “Imperial” brand. According to court records in an 1896 trademark case (Beadleston & Woertz v. Cooke Brewing Company), the “Imperial” designation became connected with the business in 1885.

Prior to June, 1885, Beadleston & Woerz brewed several grades of beer, the best quality of which was designated as “Kulmbacher.” On the 30th of June, 1885, the firm purchased of the receiver of a defunct corporation, which had been engaged in the manufacture and sale of beer, the supposed title to the word “imperial” as a trademark when applied to beer, its use having been abandoned by such corporation.

This 1894 advertisement that appeared in the February 8, 1894 edition of Life Magazine claimed it to be the King of Beers (long before Budweiser).

beadleston-ad

They apparently sold a number of different beers under their “Imperial” Label. One called “Imperial German Brew” was introduced as a new brand in 1897. This early advertisement appeared in the May 12, 1897 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

A printed notice in the May 25, 1897 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described the new product like this:

Old Fashioned German Beer – Popular taste, like fashion, shows a pronounced tendency nowadays to return to the good old customs and enjoyments of our forefathers. This is particularly noticeable among customers of lager beer, who as a class, are showing preference, akin to an affection, for the old-fashioned German brewing. To gratify this growing demand Beadleston & Woerz, of New York, one of the largest breweries in the United States, have just introduced a new brand called Imperial German Brew, in which, by their strict adherence to malt and hops, exclusively, for the ingredients, the purity, flavor, color and body of the old-fashioned lager beer is reproduced to a degree of perfection that makes it identical to the product of fifty years ago. For the purposes of giving an immediate opportunity to persons desiring to try it Beadleston & Woerz will deliver it direct from the brewery, 291 West Tenth St., New York.

Another, “Imperial Stout,” was marketed as a “malted tonic and up-builder,” with this November 19, 1909 Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisement stating: “Is ideal for those who are recovering from illness or whose systems require a healthful and sustaining stimulant”

A pilsner called “Imperial Golden Label,” was also part of the “Imperial” family. Certainly directed toward the well-to-do, this advertisement appeared in the July 26, 1910 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

A recent archeological study done for the brewery site states that Prohibition shut the plant down permanently in 1920 but the business transitioned into real estate because of all the properties they owned. Apparently they didn’t waste much time. The December 16, 1920 edition of the New York Tribune contained the following story.

A large section of the Beadleston & Woerz Empire Brewery property, a landmark at 158-166 Charles Street, has been leased to the Reynolds Whitney Warehouse Co., Inc., for twenty years at an aggregate rental of $600,000. The warehouse company also secured an option to lease the buildings at 674 and 676 Washington Street and 287-303 West Tenth Street.

I’ve found two bottles, both tooled crowns probably in the 1900 to 1910 range. I’ve seen similar bottles on the Internet with their labels still present.