Three generations of the Hupfel family owned and operated two breweries located in and around New York from the mid-1800’s up through the start of Prohibition. One was situated in New York City’s Borough of Manhattan and the other in the Westchester County town of Morrisania, that later became part of the Bronx.
The Manhattan location got its start in 1854 when a German immigrant named Anton Hupfel along with several partners established a brewery on East 38th Street. The founding of the brewery along with its early history was described in a publication entitled “One Hundred Years of Brewing,” published in 1903.
In 1854 John Roemmelt, Anton Hupfel and Dr. Assenheimer, under the firm name of John Roemmelt & Company, founded a brewery in New York City, in Thirty Eighth Street, between Second and Third Avenues. In 1856 Andrew Leicht, Charles K. Leicht and John M. Leicht purchased Dr. Assenheimer’s interest, and two years later (1858) Anton Hupfel bought out Messrs. Roemmelt and Leicht.
Much of this history is supported in the N.Y.C. directories where Roemmelt & Company was first listed in 1855/1856 as brewers with an address of 151 and 153 East 38th Street. By 1858/1859 Anton Hupfel was listed individually as a brewer on East 38th Street.
Later, in 1863, Hupfel acquired his Morrisania brewery. Its history prior to Hupfel’s acquisition is somewhat muddled. According to “One hundred Years of Brewing:”
About 1857 Xavier Gnant built a small brewery in New York City, which he operated until his death. His widow (Eliza) married a Mr. Schoemig, who in 1863, disposed of the business to Anton Hupfel.
Records associated with an 1868 Westchester County Supreme Court Case, “Xavier Gnant against Anton Hupfel,” tell a different story. They indicate that Xavier’s brother, George Gnant actually established the brewery and was the Gnant actually married to Eliza. In 1857 George deeded the brewery to Xavier in an effort to protect the property from the claims of an ex-wife. Though the property was deeded to Xavier, it was George who continued to run the business and it was his death in January, 1862, not Xavier’s, that resulted in Eliza’s marriage to Schoeming and the sale of the brewery to Hupfel; a sale that Xavier would go on to unsuccessfully contest.
A reference to the brewery found in the 1858/1859 N.Y.C Directory refers to the business as G. Gnant & Co. which serves to support this version of the brewery’s early history. Either way, it’s quite certain that by the end of 1863 Hupfel was running the brewery.
The Supreme Court records generally located the brewery in an area bounded by streets formerly named Carr Avenue, Cliff Street and Avenue A in the Town of Morrisania, with the 1858/1859 directory listing its address as 93 Avenue A. In 1874, Morrisania, along with much of the surrounding area west of the Bronx River, was annexed to New York City and ultimately became part of the Bronx. At that point N.Y.C directories were listing the brewery’s address on St. Ann’s Avenue (3rd Ave.).
Both breweries operated under Anton Hupfel’s name until 1873 when, according to “One Hundred Years of Brewing,” he disposed of his entire interest to his two sons, J. Christian. G. Hupfel and Adolph G. Hupfel. Over the next 10 years the sons continued to operate both breweries as a single business entity that was listed in the directories as A. Hupfel’s Sons. This advertisement that exhibits the address of both breweries under the A. Hupfel Sons’ name appeared in the December 31, 1878 edition of the “New York Times.”
In 1883 the Hupfel sons dissolved their partnership at which time Adolph Hupfel continued to operate the 161st Street brewery under the the A. Hupfel Sons’ name while J. Chr. G Hupfel retained possession of the Manhattan plant. Individual advertisements for each brewery published in late 1883 and early 1884 serve to confirm the new arrangement.This December 25, 1888 “New York Sun” advertisement located A. Hupfel’s Sons solely on 161st Street in Morrisania…
….and an April 27, 1884 advertisement, also in the “New York Sun”, put J. Chr. G. Hupfel on 38th Street in Manhattan.
A history of each entity moving forward continues below.
J. Christian G. Hupfel Brewery, 229 East 38th Street
In October, 1887 the business incorporated as the J. Chr. G. Brewing Company with capital of $500,000 and J. Christian G. Hupfel as president. The first listing for the new corporation that I can find appeared in the March, 1889 N.Y.C. Copartnership and Corporation Directory.
At some point during the 1890’s Hupfel’s three sons, Anton C. G., Adolph G. and Chr. G. Hupfel were appointed officers and/or trustees of the company, as evidenced by the March, 1900 N.Y.C. Copartnership and Corporation listing below.
A turn of the century depiction of their 38th Street facility appeared on this serving tray recently offered for sale on the internet.
In 1914 the company added a Brooklyn plant, acquiring the former brewery of Joseph Eppig. Joseph Eppig Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y. The acquisition was announced in the August 8 edition of the Brooklyn “Times Union.”
The plant of the Joseph Eppig Brewing Company, which covers an extensive area at Central Avenue, Grove and Leonard Streets, has been sold by the estate of Joseph Eppig to the J. Chr. G. Hupfel Brewing Company, of 229 East 38th Street, Manhattan. The purchase price is not known, but the property is known to have brought a high figure.
The Eppig Brewing Company’s plant consists of two large brick and one frame structure covering an area of 200 x 500 feet.
Another story covering the sale, this one published in the “New York Times,” went on to say:
Both breweries will be operated in the future under the Hupfel Company’s name.
Five years later, with Prohibition becoming a reality, the Hupfel’s transitioned into the real estate business and in 1919 established the Hup Realty Company. The incorporation notice was published in the October 3, 1919 edition of the “New York Times.”
The address of the realty company, 229 East 38th Street, makes it clear that they were running the business out of their former brewery building. Another advertisement, this one found in the September 3, 1922 edition of the “New York Herald,” indicates that other portions of the 38th Street brewery (items 2 and 3 on the list) were being rented out to other businesses.
That being said, as Prohibition ended the Hupfels were back in the beer business serving as brewers for Canada Dry who at the time was attempting to expand into the domestic beer arena. The Boston Globe was one of many nationwide newspapers providing the details. They appeared in their August 31, 1933 issue.
CANADA DRY GINGER ALE, INC TO HANDLE HUPFEL’S BEER
P.D. Saylor, president of Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Inc., and Anton C.G. Hupfel, president of J. Chr. G Hupfel Company, Inc. announced yesterday that an agreement has been entered into between the two concerns, under the terms of which a company will be organized called the J. Chr. G. Hupfel Brewing Corporation, in which Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Inc., will have a financial interest. There will be no sale of stock to the public.
The new company will immediately install modern equipment in the Hupfel brewery on 38th and 39th Sts., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Manhattan, New York City, established in 1854.
Brewing will begin about the first of next year, and distribution will start about April, 1934, when it has been properly aged.
Distribution of Hupfel’s beer will be undertaken by Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Inc. The initial capacity of the brewery will be about 350,000 barrels and may be increased as demand warrants it. A new bottling plant will be erected on the 39th St. side of the property.
The agreement marks the launching of Canada Dry’s domestic beer business.
Canada Dry newspaper advertisements for “Hupfel’s Beer” began appearing in June, 1934
Canada Dry’s venture into the beer business was short-lived with the end of the venture, as well as the end of the Hupfel brewery, coming less than four years after Hupfel Beer was introduced. An October 21, 1939 story in Toronto Canada’s “Financial Post” ultimately served as the final chapter in the brewery’s history.
In 1935, a former contract was revised and a new one signed, whereby Canada Dry was relieved of all financial responsibility with respect to the brewery and from any obligation to market draft beer.
Canada Dry gave back its 50% interest in the common stock of the brewing company in consideration for the cancellation of the original agreement. Canada Dry still had the $1 million first mortgage on the property and when in 1938 the Hupfel Corp. discontinued operation, foreclosure proceedings were started.
The story went on to say:
Canada Dry Ginger Ale acquired the property of the J. Chr. G. Hupfel Brewing Corp. at a mortgage sale recently. Canada Dry was the foreclosure plaintiff and bid in $500,000 for the brewery property. Amount of the mortgage debt involved was about $1.2 million.
A. Hupfel’s Sons Brewery, St. Ann’s Avenue (3rd Ave) and 161st Street
Meanwhile back in the Bronx, Adolph Hupfel continued to operate the 161st Street brewery under the A Hupfel Sons name and in 1889 joined a newly formed corporation called the United States Brewing Company. The terms of the deal were explained in the May 13th edition of “The Journal,” published in Meridian Connecticut.
New York, May 13. – Three big lager beer breweries in Newark, one in this city and one in Albany were combined last week in a great brewing corporation, with a capital stock of $4,750,000. The owners of the plants are Gottfried Krueger, the brewer king of Newark; Mrs. Christiana Trefz of Newark: Peter Hauck of East Newark, Adolph Hupfel of this city and the Albany Brewing Company…Krueger’s brewery is the largest in the scheme, and it is understood that it has been taken at a valuation of $2,000,000, and that he is to receive half in cash and the other half in stock. The valuation upon Hauck’s brewery is said to be $1,000,000, and he gets the same terms. Mrs. Trefz’s is valued at $600,000, Hupfel’s at $600,000 and the Albany Brewing Company’s at $500,000. The management of the breweries is to remain entirely in the hands of the former owners…
The brewery continued to operate under the A. Hupfel Sons’ name up through Prohibition.
This 1896 view of the brewery appeared on a post card recently offered for sale on the internet…
…and a May 23, 1908 feature published under the general heading “Industry and Commerce,” in the Staunton Va. “Leader,” provided this snapshot of the business in the first decade of the 20th Century. By this time, Adolph’s son, Adolph G. Hupfel, Jr. was serving as president.
Four different kinds of beer are brewed by A. Hupfel’s Sons – a light beer, in which rice is an ingredient; a dark German brew which, with the beer used for ordinary consumption, is a malt product and a special brew for bottling purposes.
Twice each day there is a brewing. Each adds 300 barrels to the output of the A. Hupfel’s Sons’ brewery, whose capacity is 600 barrels a day….
Started in 1854 by Anton Hupfel with an output of only a few thousand barrels a year, it now produces 120,000 barrels annually, and has branches at Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Peekskill, Ossining, Fishkill, Mamoroneck and Bridgeport Connecticut. A total of 100 hands is employed.
Between 1913 and 1915 the brewery transitioned from horse drawn delivery to motor trucks. A story found in the March 5, 1917 edition of the “Anaconda (Montana) Standard,” described the associated benefits of this transition in Adolph Hupfel’s own words. It also provides some insight into the issues associated with the operation of an early 20th century brewery.
Mr. Hupfel explained that the great gain affected by the trucks had been in the abolition of two service stations. These were located at Mount Vernon and Mamaroneck. Beer was shipped to the two points in car load lots under the old arrangement and then distributed by horse-drawn vehicles.
At both points it was necessary to maintain full-fledged stations with 10 horses each, 6 wagons, 3 drivers, watchmen, stablemen, superintendent, clerks, etc.
There was also the problem of the extra handlings. Beer had to be carted to the railroad station, taken off, loaded on the platform, thence into freight cars, taken off these at the end of the journey and then put on the horse-drawn vehicles that completed the journey.
Now all the delivery is made from the main garage. The stations have been rented for other purposes and now, in place of being a source of outlay to the company, have become a source of revenue.
The brewery survived prohibition in unique fashion, transitioning into, of all things, a mushroom plantation. A November 4, 1923 story in the “Tampa Tribune” tells the story.
Speaking of prohibition and the changes it has wrought, one of the most remarkable is to be seen from the windows of elevated trains that pass the old Hupfel brewery at Third Avenue and 161st Street. Above the lofty cornice of the big red brick building a sign rears itself: “Hupfel Mushroom Plantations.”
Inside those red walls, covering only a portion of a city block, ten acres of ground, a fair sized farm, is under cultivation, and is yielding daily something like half a ton of fresh picked mushrooms…
Mr Hupfel himself hardly knows why he selected mushrooms as an industry when he had to admit to himself back in 1918 that prohibition was practically sure to come. A brewery represents a very large investment, mostly in the shape of insulated store rooms which are but slightly adaptable to any other line of manufacture. Also as a brewer, one of his principal interests had been the growing of yeast, a very low form of fungus. So it didn’t seem wholly strange to contemplate growing a higher fungus, the mushroom…
Building specially designed racks in the cellars and store rooms he created a skyscraper garden precisely on the principle of the skyscraper office building or dwelling. Now in many rooms six tiers of beds are erected one above the other, which accounts for the existence of a ten acre “plantation” on a comparatively small ground space..
The end product was a paste marketed under the name “Champee,” a name he trademarked in 1922.
The following spring advertisements for “Champee” made their appearance in more than a few magazines and newspapers. The following appeared in the May, 1923 edition of the Chilton Hotel Supply Index.
“Champee” advertisements popped up in other forms as well. Look closely and you’ll see a “Champee’ billboard in this photograph of Yankee Stadium taken on opening day in 1923. The photo is courtesy of the Detroit Public Library.
After Prohibition the Hupfel Brewery resurfaced as a division of the Allied Brewing and Distilling Company called the Pilsner Brewing Company (Listed first below).
A stock offering for the Allied Brewing and Distilling Company, published in the June 28, 1933 edition of Louisville, Kentucky’s “Courier-Journal, clarified Allied’s relationship with the Pilser Brewing Company.
Allied Brewing and Distilling Company, Inc. represents a consolidation of a number of long established and profitable enterprises which have been developed and operated for many years under the present management. The company has acquired all of the assets, including plants, equipment, patents, trade-marks, inventories of merchandise and supplies as well as the organizations of the constituent companies…
This advertisement for Pilser’s “Special Draught” appeared in several Westchester County newspapers in the late summer of 1936.
Other Pilser brands included “Lion Beer,” “Koenig’s Special,” “Champ Ale” and “New Yorker Beer.” This advertisement for “New Yorker Beer” is the last one I’ve been able to find.
The ad appeared in the June 17, 1948 edition of Hackensack, New Jersey’s “The Record.” That year, The Pilser Brewing Company was still listed at 3rd Avenue and 161st Street, now 561 East 161st Street, in the New York City Telephone Directory. After that I lose track so it’s likely the company didn’t last into the 1950’s.
Today 561 East 161st Street certainly looks like it could have served as a brewery office back in the day.
The subject bottle is blown in a mold and roughly 12 oz. in size.. It’s embossed with the company name of A Hupfel’s Sons and an address of 161st St. and 3rd Ave. That associates it with the Bronx location and its tooled crown finish dates it well after the Hupfel brothers dissolved their partnership in 1883. Likely early 1900’s.