The founder and original proprietor of the Munch Brewery was a German immigrant named Ferdinand Munch who was first listed in the 1869 Brooklyn Directory as a brewer living on Dean Street, corner of Franklin Avenue. Over the next ten years he was listed at several different Brooklyn addresses and always with the occupation “brewer.” Then, according to his June 2, 1890 obituary in the New York Evening World, sometime in the late 1870’s he established his own brewery.
Mr. Munch purchased the old Armory on Cobb Hill, corner of Vernon and Sumner Avenues, Brooklyn, less than fifteen years ago, and by perseverance, energy and strict attention to business, succeeded so greatly that in a few years he purchased a couple acres of land and erected a mammoth brewery with a yearly output of 50,000 barrels of beer.
Munch’s brewery was first listed at the Vernon and Sumner location, 283-299 Vernon Avenue, in the 1882 Brooklyn Directory and based on the following advertisement, printed in that directory, he was certainly up and running at that time.
The advertisement located the brewery on the block bounded by Vernon, Sumner, Myrtle and Lewis Avenues, where it remained until at least the early 1920’s. Munch ran the business until his death in 1890 at which time the business incorporated and his son Frerdinand Munch, Jr., took over. Munch Jr.’s June 14, 1897 obituary in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described his role in the brewery.
After leaving school he associated with his father in his business and when the latter died about seven years ago the present stock company was formed and young Munch was elected to the presidency of the corporation. He retired from active service in the business about a year ago on account of ill health.
Two of Munch Sr.’s other sons, William and Otto, were involved in the management of the brewery for several years after Munch Jr. retired. William was listed at the brewery address between 1897 and 1904 and Otto between 1901 and 1904. During some, if not all of this period, William served as president and Otto secretary of the corporation.
Beginning in 1905 the directories don’t associate any Munch sons with the Brewery so its not clear who was running the business. By 1913 – 1914 the family was not directly involved. That year Brooklyn’s Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed: Ernest F. Dissler, president; Robert Weigel, secretary and William Muller, treasurer.
In late 1915, the company began construction of a new bottling plant. The announcement was included in the December 15, 1915 edition of “Ice & Refrigeration.”
The Ferdinand Munch Brewing Co., 277 Vernon Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y., have let contracts for the erection of a new bottling house to cost $10,000.
In February, 1917 the bottling plant was listed in the NYC telephone book under a new company name, the Munch Brewery Bottling Dept., Inc. Its address of 1022 Myrtle Avenue appears to have been located within the same block as the main plant on the corner of Myrtle and Sumner Avenues. That year, the Ferdinand Munch Brewery was listed in the same directory with the Vernon Avenue address but one year later, in 1918, only the Bottling Department was listed.
In 1919 the business was purchased by Edward B. Hittleman, a long time employee of the brewery. According to his April 6, 1951 obituary in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
Coming to the United States shortly after the turn of the century, Mr. Hittleman went to work at the Ferdinand Munch Brewery in this borough as a clerk. He became general manager and in 1919 purchased the company and became sole owner.
Brooklyn’s 1922 Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed Hittleman as the president and treasurer of the Munch Brewery Bottling Dept., Inc.
Some time in the mid-1920’s it appears that Hittleman had acquired portions of the old Otto Huber Brewery, originally calling it the Hittleman Golden Rod Brewery and later, the Edelbrau Brewery. Information on the brewery prior to the acquisition by Hittleman is presented in another post on this site entitled: Otto Huber Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
During this time the Munch Brewery Bottling Dept., Inc. continued to be listed, initially at 1022 Myrtle Avenue and later at several different Brooklyn addresses including 13 Wycoff Avenue (early 1920’s) and later at 92 Stanwix Street.
Sometime in 1927 the company name changed again, this time to the Munch Brewery, Inc., and in the 1928 Brooklyn telephone book their address was listed as 1 Bushwick Place, the address of the old Otto Huber Brewery. This June 13, 1927 Bridgeport (Connecticut) Telegram advertisement for their near beer was the first one I could find that exhibited the new name and location.
The 1928 phone book also listed the Hittleman Brewery at the same address so it seems that by then, and possibly earlier, the operations of both companies had been consolidated at the old Otto Huber plant location. Nevertheless in 1933 they were still producing beer under both company names. The first advertisement shown below, referencing the Munch Brewery, was from the May 13, 1933 edition of the Palm Beach Post the second, mentioning Hittleman Golden Rod Brewery, is from the August 17, 1933 edition of the New York Daily News.
By this time, they were also marketing another brand called Edelbrau and as early as 1930 phone book listings included the Edelbrau Brewing Company at the 1 Bushwick Place address as well.
During much of the 1930’s the Munch Brewery and Hittleman Brewery along with the Edelbrau Brewing Company (sometimes Edelbrau Brewery) were all listed in the directories at the 1 Bushwick Place address. Then, sometime around 1940 the listings for Munch and Hittleman disappeared leaving just Edelbrau.
A November 10, 1941 story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle featuring the Edelbrau Brewery described the operation at that time as well as it’s featured brand “Edelbrau.”
(Dating back to the Otto Huber days) The plant was originally established at its present site in 1861. Today it employs 250 workers in a modern eight-story building several hundred thousand square feet in area.
The brand name Edelbrau came into existence in 1928. This year (1941), in order to simplify pronunciation, it was changed to Edelbrew. The beer is marketed throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, including exports to foreign countries in the Americas, Central and South America, Asia and Africa.
Extensive improvements and extensions to the brewery proper and bottling plant have been made and are still continuing. Since 1928 there has been a tremendous increase in sales in the Edelbrau plant.
The Edelbrau Brewery incorporates several square blocks on Meserole St., Bushwick Place, Montrose Ave. and Waterbury St., several distribution stations throughout the Metropolitan area, plus warehouses outside the brewery…
Edelbrau has just installed more modern machinery as part of its expansion, capable of bottling 300 bottles a minute per unit. Previously hops were purchased abroad, but today they are grown in New York and rank with the finest crops.
In the past year Edelbrau has exported a great deal of beer abroad for use by the British army in Egypt and the Near East.
The article went on to describe one of their marketing strategies relating to bottle size.
According to E. B. Hittleman, president of Edelbrau, the brewery was the first in the United States to to introduce the solo bottle which contains a single glass of beer. The brewery was also a pioneer in marketing the half-gallon jug of beer. It is now producing the largest and smallest container of beer in the United States.
According to this July 13, 1943 advertisement in the New York Daily News, they referred to their solo bottles as “Steinies.”
The Edelbrau Brewery closed shortly after Edward Hittleman’s death in April, 1951, but in the early 1940’s he was still making improvements to his plant. In conjunction with one set of improvements he was making in 1942 a warehouse associated with the brewery was targeted for demolition. The building ultimately made a little history when it was scrapped along with a 41-mile section of railroad and an unfinished/bankrupt 22-story skyscraper and contributed to the war effort. According to one newspaper account that appeared all over the country:
Picture a skyscraper hurtling across the Atlantic, Berlin bound…a railroad winging over the Pacific, headed for Tokyo…Crazy Dream?
No, just part of what the Nation’s biggest city is getting ready to throw at the Axis in the form of bombs and bullets, tanks and planes.
Uncle Sam said: “The steel mills need scrap, 17,000,000 tons of it, in order to continue producing for the war.”
New York said: “Count on us to do our part”
…Over in Brooklyn, Edward Hittleman, president of the Edelbrew Brewery, decided to turn in $100,000 worth of brewery equipment – great copper kettles, metal insulated tanks and other pieces used in the past as spare parts. Together with structural steel from a five-story warehouse which Hittleman is tearing down, the brewery’s metal will total 175 tons.
The skyscraper, railroad and brewery are only a few of the big things New York will hurl at Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini.
A staged photograph commemorating his contribution appeared in the October 1, 1942 edition of the New York Daily News.
What became of the original Munch Brewery on Vernon Avenue is unclear but today the block accommodates a large 1950’s era apartment building under the control of the New York City Housing Authority.
I found two bottles with identical embossing. One is aqua and export style the other brown and champagne style. Both are machine-made. They most likely date between 1917 and 1927 when the embossed company name “Munch Brewery Bottling Dept., Inc.” appeared in the directories. I’ve also found a machine-made, export style Hittleman bottle that probably dates between 1925 and 1940.
The bottles all exhibit similar characteristics including a large single letter on the neck that represents the company name.