Welz & Zerweck High Ground Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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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’ve also found a machine made example that exhibits a standard slug plate.

 

 

 

 

J. H. VanBrunt, Far Rockaway, L. I.

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The J stands for James H VanBrunt.

He apparently took over the business of H C Muller in Oct/Nov of 1904. The following letter appeared in the November 15, 1904 issue of the “American Carbonator and American Bottler”:

One year later, the October 1905 issue of American Bottler reported that VanBrunt’s bottling factory sustained $1,000 worth of damage in a fire but he remained in business for at least the next 15 years.

The business was listed in the Trow Business Directory of the Borough of Queens 1907, 1908-9 and 1912 as a bottler of lager beer Carlton Ave c Guy. This location was identical to the former address of HC Muller. In addition, the ensignia on his slug plate is remarkably similar if not the same (a vine or small tree).

At some point he became associated with the Otto Huber Brewery, probably as a local Far Rockaway bottler. The NYC Telephone Directories for Brooklyn and Queens between 1914 and 1920 listed him as “Huber’s Beer,” with a Carlton Avenue address. As early as 1910, census records listed his occupation as an agent in the beer bottling industry.

He’s also listed as a certificate holder in the “Annual Report of the Commissioner of Excise” for 1914, 1915, 1916 and 1919.

He’s no longer listed in the 1925 directory so I suspect he was a victim of National Prohibition.

Carlton has been renamed Nameoke Avenue and Guy has been renamed Augustina Avenue. 1910 census records indicate that VanBrunt’s family and a boarder all lived on Guy Street, probably at the same location as the business. This leads me to believe that an old frame building on the northwest corner of Guy (now Augustina) once accommodated the business as well as the family.

 

The bottle I found is a champagne style tooled crown (12 oz) that fits the early 1900’s time frame. I’ve seen blob top VanBrunt bottles on the Internet so I assume it’s not one of his initial productions.

Trommer’s Evergreen Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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John F. Trommer purchased the recently built plant of Stehlin and Breitkopf in 1896. Prior to that he served as William Ulmer’s brewmaster. After his death in1897, his son George took over and grew the business.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that the business had incorporated in their August 3, 1897 Edition under the heading “New Brewing Company.”

Albany N.Y., August 2 – The John F Trommer Evergreen Brewery Company of Brooklyn was incorporated today with the secretary of state with capital stock of $175,000. The directors are George F Trommer and Caroline Trommer of Brooklyn, William G Ringler, Lorenz Zeller and Edward Michling of New York City.

George Trommer continued to be listed as President and Caroline Trommer as Treasurer in the “Copartnership and Corporation Directory” of the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens 1913-1914.

They were one of just a few breweries to make an all-malt beer with 100% barley and wheat malt and hops (no other additives like corn, rice, cane sugar, etc.).

In addition to the Brewery, the Evergreen Complex, located at 1632 Bushwick Avenue (corner of Conway) included a restaurant and beer garden. An advertisement in the October 5, 1907 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle provided actual photographs of the beer garden entrance and interior of the restaurant. It called the restaurant “one of the best appointed restaurants in Brooklyn”

A June 1913 advertisement went much further, calling the complex “A Great Family Resort, Cool, Inviting, Entertaining, Always.”

The advertisement goes on to provide a colorful description of the complex (that now included bowling alleys) and  the beer it served.

It can accommodate and entertain 4,000 people at one time. The entire property consists of 200,000 square feet. The main ballroom accommodates 1,000 couples.

The Gardens surrounding the main building are set with numerous maple trees and hedges of California privet, which afford shade and country atmosphere to one of the prettiest “summer spots” in Greater New York. It is the finest park of the kind in the City; illuminated at night by countless colored lanterns and incandescent lights.

Trommers has been for years and is, the rendezvous for automobilists for the hasty snack and full course dinner. The restaurant is completely equipped for the entertainment of large parties and its cuisine and service is unsurpassed. The Bowling Alleys in the main building are open for dates during the coming season. Fine instrumental music every evening by Fred A Reese’s Instrumental Band. Vocal entertainment by male singers every evening and Sunday afternoon and evening.

We wish to inform you that we have produced, in addition to our celebrated three perfect brews of Grand Prize Pure Malt Beers Pilsner, Muenchner and Bavarian (the foremost bottled beers for family, restaurant, hotel and club use) a new brew of very finest quality – our “Augustiner Brau.”

The finest Pure Malt Beer, produced from the highest grades of barley malt, choicest growths of imported Saazer hops and German yeast exclusively, strictly made according to the German (Muenchner) brewing method and fully matured, representing the highest type of a “Pure Malt-Real Doppel-Lager Beer.” Our Augustiner Brau is a rich, nutritious, liquid food, contributing to the strength of body and nerves. “There is none better brewed and matured.” Try it and convince yourself. Send your order today, by mail or phone, we assure prompt delivery. Phone 1100 E.N.Y.

Trommer’s Bottled Beers – Our sanitary methods and care in bottling are second to none, and each bottle of our Pure Malt Beers has a reputation as to its Purity. We only brew one grade of beer, that which is made of the best Barley, Malt and choicest Saazar Hops exclusively.

If you would spend a pleasant afternoon or evening come to Trommer’s. Take your wife and family. All cars – surface and elevated- transfer within one block of the door.

During Prohibition they managed to expand the business by lending money and giving support to potential owners of hot dog restaurants as long as they’d feature Trommer’s White Label Near Beer.

In 1930 they opened a second plant in Orange NJ and were extremely popular through much of the 1940’s.

In 1949 a strike by brewery workers shut the NY breweries, including Trommers, down for 72 days. This allowed out of town brewers to get a foot old within NYC. Worse for Trommer’s was the strikers who had taken over the facility didn’t take care of their unique strain of yeast (required for fermentation) when they took over the plant and it died. Trommer’s had to begin a new strain of yeast and this radically changed the taste of their beer and NOT for the better.

Trommers ultimately sold the Orange NJ plant to Liebmann’s (Rheingold) in 1950, and on February 9, 1951 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that  they sold the Brooklyn plant to Piel Brothers.

William Piel, chairman of the board of directors of Piels Bros., well known brewers for almost three-quarters of a century, announced yesterday the purchase of the Brooklyn brewing properties of the John F. Trommer Co. This acquisition joins together two famous names in brewing, Piels Bros., founded in 1883 and John F. Trommer Co., founded in 1897, who have been neighbors in Brooklyn for over half a century…

Terms of the purchase will give Piel Bros. ownership of Trommer’s fixed properties, inventories and good will, including the right to brew and distribute under the Trommer label, which Piel Bros., will continue to do…

The plant was closed in 1955 and Piels discontinued the label in 1962. There’s no sign of the Brooklyn plant today.

I’ve found a total of 4 differently embossed Trommer bottles, all champagne style tooled crowns (12 oz). Two have the embossed name “John F Trommer (one script and one block letter slug plate) and the other two are embossed Trommer’s. I’ve seen blob top versions of all except for the script version on the Internet so I don’t think the name difference is any indication of age.

I’ve also found a machine made export bottle apparently made during Prohibition as it matches the bottle in a mid 1920’s advertisement for White Label.

  

George Sessler, Glenwood Landing, N.Y.

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According to census records, in 1900 George Sessler Jr. was a clerk living with his family on First Avenue in Manhattan. By 1910, the census records indicate he had moved to Oyster Bay, Long Island, listing his occupation as “bottler of mineral water.” Two of his brothers, Adolph and William lived with him and listed their occupation as “worker – bottling works.”

Sessler was elected “a member at large” of the American Bottler in 1907, so it appears the business started sometime between 1900 and 1907. The business listed their address as “Highway, Glen Head Depot to Shore” in the Annual Report of the State Commission of Excise in 1913, 1915,1918 and 1919. This location appears to be the same as the house address Sessler listed in 1920 and 1930 census records, further indication that it was a small family run business.

In 1920 and 1930, George continued to list mineral water manufacturer as an occupation and Adolph listed his as mineral water salesman. So the business must have continued at least into the early 1930’s.

I was able to find two newspaper advertisements. One in a May 1918 issue of the “Sea Cliff News” stated Sessler was a bottler of mineral waters, seltzer and beer. The other was in the March 4, 1923 issue of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” and it announced that he was the sole distributor of Jeffress Irish Style Canadian Ginger Ale.

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George Sessler passed away on September 29, 1933 at the age of 60. Adolph continued to list his occupation as mineral water salesman in the 1940 census records but it’s not clear whether or not he continued the family business or worked for another company at that point.

I found 4 bottles, all different (7oz, 8oz, 27 oz and 28 oz) and all machine made. Three are embossed George Sessler or George Sessler Jr and one is embossed Sessler’s Beverages. Recognizing the change in name, this last one may have been manufactured after George’s death in 1933. All of them are embossed with the Glenwood Landing location.

F & M Schaefer Brewing Co., New York

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The F & M stand for brothers Frederick and Maximillian Schaefer. A story marking Schaefer’s 100th anniversary in the March 22, 1942 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle stated that they were one of, if not the first, to brew lager beer in the United States.

The founders (Frederick and Maximillian) really knocked the cognoscenti of their day cold when they put their first brew upon the market. In 1842 beers were of the “top-fermented” type such as ale , porter and common or still beer. The Schaefers introduced the sparkling, lighter-bodied product. It was served cold rather than at room temperature. It was called “lager beer” because it was “lagered,” rested in cold storage.

The start of the business was told in a New York Times item published in their June 7, 1885 edition.

Mr. Fredrick Schaefer – The F. Schaefer whose name appears in the name of the present company, is a native of Wetzlar, Prussia, and was born in 1817. In 1838, when just 21 years of age, he came to this country, and being a thoroughly practiced and experienced brewer he quickly obtained employment in the brewery of Mr. Sebastion Sommers, who at the time owned an establishment between eighteenth and nineteenth Streets, on Broadway, where now stands the well-known Sloane’s carpet store. In the following year-1839- Mr. Maximillian Schaefer, a brother to Frederick, also arrived in this country, and by his exceptional industry and rare business capacity speedily acquired sufficient insight into the commercial methods of this country to warrant his starting in business on his own account. In accordance with this determination the two brothers bought Mr. Sommers’s brewery on Broadway in 1842 and carried on the business there for two years.

I couldn’t find any mention of the original Sommers Brewery in the NYC directories but a story about Brooklyn breweries in the April 26, 1940 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle included a picture of the original Schaefer Brewery in 1842.

The photo caption read:

Oldest brewer of lager beer in the United States is the Brooklyn concern, F. and M. Schaefer Brewing Company. This is how the plant looked back in 1842 when it first began serving the nation’s thirsty.

The 1885 New York Times article goes on to describe how the business ended up at their long time location on Park Avenue (previously called Fourth Avenue) and 51st Street

Then, finding their business rapidly increasing beyond the capacity of the facilities possessed by them, it became necessary to enlarge their borders as it were. Accordingly, in 1844, having secured a more advantageous location at Nos. 109 and 111 Seventh Avenue, between Sixteenth and Seventeenth Streets, they removed there, and the brewery which they erected is still standing, although no longer in active working order. After taking possession of this establishment the demand for their lager increased more rapidly than ever, and was in much greater request than any other brewers. In fact, their trade flourished and spread so rapidly that they again very soon found themselves cramped for room. In 1849, therefore, the plot of land on which the present premises stand was chosen and the cellars were excavated and built. The erection of the present brewery was commenced a year later…

The NYC Directories of the time generally support this part of the story:

  • F & M Schafer (no e), brewers was listed on Seventh Ave in the 1847/1848 Directory, however they’re address was given as “85 & 87 Ave 7” not 109 and 111 as mentioned in the story. They remain listed on 7th Avenue (85-91) through 1863.
  • F&M Schaefer began listing E 51st Street & Fourth Avenue as an address in 1857 (Fourth Avenue was later renamed Park Avenue). Between 1857 and 1863 the company listed both the 7th Ave and 51st Street locations as addresses. In 1864 they dropped the 7th Avenue address.
  • On the 4th of February, 1878, the firm was organized into a joint stock corporation. It was first listed as the F & M Schaefer Brewing Company in the 1879 Directory at the 51st Street address.

The brewery converted from ice to artificial refrigeration in 1880 and the bottling department was added in 1892. The New York Times article described the new refrigeration plant like this:

The company have also recently erected a large four-story building, 44 by 75 feet, on the north side of 51st Street, where their ice machinery is located. No ice whatever is used, a gigantic ice machine taking its place. This machine was built by the Consolidated Ice Machine Company, and has a capacity for cooling equivalent  to 125 tons of ice per day – all on one floor. Previous to this no less than 15,000 tons of ice were consumed by the company every year.

The company was one of many profiled in a special section on “Business and Commerce” in the May 23, 1908 edition of the Staunton (Va.) Daily Leader. The feature described the three types of beer that the company was brewing at the time.

Three kinds of beer are brewed – “Wiener,” very light in color; “Lager,” an amber-colored beer, and their “Special Dark,” which is highly recommended by physicians for its nutritious qualities. The “Wiener” and “Special Dark” are unsurpassed in this country, while the “Lager” compares very favorably with other popular brews. These beers are also bottled for hotel, export and family trade. The bottling is done directly from the vats, which are under government supervision.

The business remained at the 51st Street location until the mid-1910’s when they decided to move across the East River to Brooklyn. An article in the “real estate” section of the May 29, 1915 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle introduced the upcoming move and two weeks later Schaefer took out an advertisement in the Eagle introducing themselves to Brooklyn.

Another industry is to be added to the rapidly growing commercial center in the vicinity of the Williamsburg Bridge. No movement in the past ten years has been so marked as the demand for factory sites in this locality and the decision of the F & M Schaefer Brewing Company to abandon its present plant on Park Avenue and Fiftieth Street, Manhattan, for a more accessible location at the Brooklyn waterfront is further proof of the value of the section for business purposes.

The new Brooklyn plant opened in June 1916 and the old Manhattan plant was sold off in parcels.

Prior to National Prohibition I didn’t find many Schaefer newspaper advertisements. One I did find was for their Wiener Beer entitled “Special Holiday Brew” put out during the 1893 Christmas season. Another advertisement that was pretty common between 1893 and 1906 referred to their Bock Beer and made a point that its bottled at the Brewery.

        

The Brooklyn plant stayed open during prohibition making cereal beverages and manufacturing artificial ice and dyes. Their license to brew beer after Prohibition was posted in a June 1933 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Their advertising message at the end of Prohibition was “Our Hand Has Never Lost It’s Skill” and one advertisement in November of 1933 goes on to say:

A man may have a poor memory for faces, but he never forgets the first time he is introduced to a glass of Schaefer.

By 1938, Schaefer was selling one million barrels per year and in 1944, two million. They purchased the Beverwyck Brewery Company in Albany, NY in 1950 and in the 1970’s acquired the rights to the Piels label.  Between 1950 and 1970 Schaefer was one of the top selling Breweries in the nation and in 1968 the company went public.

At the same time however, like other local breweries they were losing market share to the national brands. In 1972 they opened a new modern Lehigh Valley Plant in Allentown Pa and four years later they closed the aging Brooklyn Plant and consolidated there. An Associated Press item on January 23, 1976 reported:

The F. and M. Schaefer Brewing Co., New York’s only remaining brewery has announced it is moving to Allentown Pa.

Schaefer Chairman Robert W. Lear said about 850 workers will lose their jobs as a result of the move.

Blaming mounting production costs for the closing, he said brewing operations for the company’s Schaefer and Piels beers would be consolidated at the firm’s new Lehigh Valley plant in Pennsylvania.

Lear said at a news conference at the company headquarters Thursday that the move was “dictated by financial losses caused by excessive and increasingly rising cost of brewing beer at our Brooklyn plant.

Major factors in the move, he said, were the obsolescence of the plant, the high cost of utilities, municipal services and taxes and a high labor intensity factor resulting from inefficient plant layout.

The Schaefer family sold to the Stroh Brewing Co in 1981 and Stroh was later absorbed by PABST who retains the license to Schaefer and sells a reformulated brew to niche markets today. The Allentown facility is currently owned by the Boston Brewing Co who makes Sam Adams.

There’s no longer any sign of the Schaefer complex in Brooklyn. The former brewery site bounded by 9th and 10th Streets, Kent Avenue and the East River is now part of a waterfront park.

In Manhattan, St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church purchased the portion of the brewery site on Park Avenue between 50th and 51St Street and built the church that remains there until today. It opened to the congregation in 1918.

I’ve found three different styles of bottle. Two are champagne styles with a tooled crown finish. One is brown with the company name written in script and the other aqua with the company name and beer barrel insignia embossed on the front. The beer barrel insignia is similar to the one in the 1893 Christmas advertisement shown above (but the banner substitutes the words “Brewing Co.” for “Wiener Beer”).

  

The third, export style, is machine made.  The machine made export was certainly made after 1916 when they modernized in Brooklyn.

The bottles are all embossed New York as opposed to Brooklyn, so it looks like they never changed the embossing to reflect the Brooklyn plant.

Jacob Ruppert Brewer, N.Y.

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Jacob Ruppert was the son of Franz Ruppert, a NYC brewer who owned the Turtle Bay Brewery. The 1865 NYC Directory lists Franz as a brewer at 192 E 45th St.

At the age of 10, Jacob began working in his father’s brewery before founding the Jacob Ruppert Brewing Company in 1867. His obituary, in May, 1915 provided an brief overview of the business up to that point.

As a boy of ten years Mr. Ruppert began his career as a brewer in the employment of his father, Franz Ruppert, in this city. Later he started his own brewery in a building hardly fifty feet square, with no machinery. His establishment now has an annual capacity of 25,000,000 barrels. It contains four of the largest brew kettles ever built up to the time of its construction, each of which is composed of 200,000 pounds of copper and has a capacity of 25,000 gallons.

In the 1869 NYC Directory, the Ruppert Brewery address is listed as Third Avenue, near 91st Street. Beyond 1870, the Brewery address is continuously listed as 1639 Third Avenue.

Ruppert’s brewery and George Ehret’s brewery were located adjacent to each other in Yorkville. By 1879, Ehret’s Hell Gate Brewery was the largest in the country and Ruppert was 7th largest. Ultimately their combined operations covered the four blocks from 90th to 94th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. The Hell Gate Brewery shut down in 1929, before the end of Prohibition, and in 1935, it was purchased by the Ruppert Brewery.

Ruppert’s son, Jacob Jr, was also in the business and by 1890 he was serving as the Brewery’s general manager. When Jacob Sr died in 1915 he took over the operation and ran it until his death in 1939. At the same time Jacob Jr was running the Brewery he became an owner of the NY Yankees and he was the president of the team when they acquired Babe Ruth, built Yankee Stadium and won their first championship.

The brewery registered three labels with the United Stated Patent Office on April 14, 1908. They were:

14,137 – Jacob Ruppert Extra Beer

14,138 – Jacob Ruppert Ruppiner Beer

14,139 – Jacob Ruppert Knickerbocker Beer

I found each of these labels and a fourth, Jacob Ruppert Metropolitan Beer, in a 1911 advertisement that provided pricing information.

Their flagship beer was Knickerbocker. I’m not sure when they started using the name Knickerbocker but I haven’t seen an advertisement for Knickerbocker that I can date prior to the 1908 Label Registration date. Their slogan was “The Beer That Satisfies.” Advertisements as early as the one below from October 1909 contained the slogan and they continued to use it up through the early 1930’s.

The beer survived Prohibition and in fact an April 6, 1933 advertisement for Knickerbocker Beer signaled the end of Prohibition for Ruppert:

To many of the fathers and Grandfathers of this present generation of New Yorkers the return of Knickerbocker Beer must be like the home coming of a genial friend, absent for a while from his native place, but never wholly forgotten…The rare unforgettable flavor is back again – all the zest and the sparkle, the tonic qualities and the wholesome delight that made the Knickerbocker beer of their youth the favorite of taste wise New Yorkers is yours today!

According to “Beer in America, The Early Years”, during Prohibition, Ruppert failed to modernize his plant. This coupled with the increased competition by the national brewers put the Ruppert Brewery in a vulnerable position and the brewery ultimately closed in 1965. The Poughkeepsie Journal reported the closing in their January 2, 1966 issue.

The Jacob Ruppert Brewery, a landmark in the Yorkville section of New York City ceased operations Friday.

The Ruppert beer will continue to be brewed by Rheingold Breweries, Inc., which paid $12 million for the trademark, formula and equipment.

Two years ago the brewery made known plans to build a plant near Carmel, Putnam County, but difficulty is assuring an adequate water supply, among other things, caused these plans to be abandoned.

There’s no sign of the brewery complex today. The entire area from 90th Street to 94th Street between Second and Third Avenue consists entirely of modern high rise buildings.

I’ve found quite a few Ruppert bottles over the years, both tooled crowns and machine made versions of the same export style embossed “Jacob Ruppert Brewer New York” in a small circle at the base of the neck. The brewery certainly preferred the export style bottle as evidenced by their advertisements.

I’ve seen blob top finishes on the Internet but have never found one.

 

H. Ressmeyer, 516 E 85th St., N.Y.

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The H stands for Henry Ressmeyer.

Henry Ressmeyer was first listed with the business of Evers and Ressmeyer, located at 987 Park Avenue, in the 1901 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory. Both Henry Ressmeyer and Frederick Evers were also listed individually in the general directory that year as bottlers at 987 Park Avenue. The business remained listed that way through 1904.

In 1906, Ressmeyer was listed individually as a bottler located at 234 East 84th Street. At this point the firm of Evers and Ressmeyer is no longer listed so it looks like Evers and Ressmeyer went their separate ways. By 1909 Ressmeyer had moved to 514-516 East 85th Street where he remained listed as a bottler through at least 1933. Census records in 1910 through 1930 called him a beer bottler that owned his own shop, so apparently it was not a large operation.

He’s also listed in the Annual Report of the NYS Commission of Excise for Years Ending September 30, 1911 and 1913 @ 516 E 85th Street.

It’s not clear when the business ended but I couldn’t find a listing for him in the 1940 census records.

Today, 514 and 516 E 85th Street no longer exist. They have been replaced by a large apartment building at 510 E 85th St.

The bottle has the 516 E 85th Street address embossed on it dating it no earlier than 1908-1909 when the business moved to that location. It’s a champagne style beer with a tooled blob finish so it wasn’t manufactured too long after the move.

Piel Brothers, East New York Brewery

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A story in the February 9, 1951 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle provided a good overview of the early days of Piel Bros.

In 1883 , three Piel brothers, Gottfried, Wilhelm and Michael, pooled their funds and bought the old Lanser Brewery in East New York, a small three-story brick building set in the middle of farmlands and a good half-day’s journey by horsecar from Brooklyn’s City Hall. Here with a handful of employees, the Piel brothers succeeded in recreating the fine Old-World quality of which they had dreamed, and offered a new brew to the surrounding countryside.

During the first year, 850 barrels were brewed and sold. Piel’s had started on its road to fame with a reputation for superior quality which has constantly been maintained from this humble beginning.

From the neighboring farmers, the fame of Piel’s Beer soon spread throughout the country-side to Brooklyn and “far-away” Manhattan. From the beginning it was the policy of the company to make the business grow purely through the quality of its product and without offering financial aid to outlets, either retail or wholesale. This was a daring and courageous stand for any brewer to take in those days and one from which the company never varied.

The pioneering spirit which launched the business was later in evidence on many occasions. Piel’s Brewery was first to produce and maintain a brew that really matched Old World quality and flavor; the first to use the automatic pasteurizer; the first in this country to employ cultured yeast; the first to use colored bottles and a leader in the precise control of its brewing process – another step forward in uniformity of product.

I haven’t been able to confirm the 1883 start date using the Brooklyn City Directories but according to this September 4, 1885 notice in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle they were certainly brewing by then.

The first listing that I can find is in the 1887 Directory. Gottfried, Michel and Piel Bros were all listed in the 1887 Directory with the occupation liquors, located on Sheffield Avenue, corner of Liberty Avenue. Later in 1889 William was also listed and all three brothers and the business were called brewers.

The business was listed in the 1890 Lain’s Business Directory of Brooklyn; the 1899, 1903 and 1907 Trow Business Directory Borough of Brooklyn and in the Corporation and Copartnership Directory of the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens 1913-1914 (Gottfried President, Michael VP and William Sec/Treas).

By the late 1800’s the brewery was part of an entire complex that was billed as a family resort. An advertisement in the September 13,1896 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle mentioned a barroom, two beer halls, restaurant and hotel. Other advertisements also mentioned a large charming summer beer garden unrivaled in beauty.

One of the beer halls was described this way in an October, 1888 notice in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that announced its opening:

THE MAGNIFICENT NEW HALL OF PIEL BRO’S BREWERY has been opened. Built in Italian palace style and richly decorated, it is really the finest family resort in the city.

By 1905 the plant included facilities on all four quadrants of the Liberty/Georgia intersection and in 1911 the Beer Garden and Restaurant had to be discontinued in order to expand the Brewery to 40,000 barrels annually.

A June 21, 1921 article in the “Beverage Journal” provided a review of brewery activities (during prohibition) that stated that Piel Bros was making malt extracts, soft drink syrups, cereal beverages, birch beer, ginger ale, cider and apple beverages and white and red champagnes.

Their cereal beverage (near beer/less than 0.5% alcohol) line was called Kovar. An advertisement in June of 1919 described eight different Kovar beverages:

  1. Piel’s Kovar (Light) – a foaming cereal beverage with the delicious tang of real Saazer hops
  2. Piel’s Kovar (Dark) – foaming, nutritious; rich body; dark in color
  3. Piel’s Kovar Ale – a rich, light creamy cereal ale, round and full in flavor
  4. “Piel” – a foaming amber malt beverage with the piquant Saazer hops flavor; a popular temperance beer for “wet” territories.
  5. “Piel Ale” – mellow and light in color with a distinctive malt flavor and a tang all it’s own; an ale type temperance beer for “wet” territories
  6. Piel’s Orange Kovar – a natural orange beverage; sparkling, made from oranges and pure cane sugar only.
  7. Piel’s Apple Kovar – possesses the original flavor of freshly pressed, hand picked apples; produced as an unfermented apple champagne.
  8. Piel’s Ginger Kovar – sparkling delicious; the exquisite flavor of the old Irish formula enhanced by the Kovar process.

Their license to brew beer after Prohibition was posted in a June 1933 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle but…

In May of 1933 the Hotel Huntington was already selling Piel Bros. Beer on draught.

Piel Bros bought Trommer’s Brooklyn Plant in 1951 and Rubsam and Hormann’s Staten Island Plant in 1953. They then closed them in 1955 and 1963 respectively.

Subsequently:

  • 1963 – Piels was acquired by Associated Brewing (who operated a chain of local breweries)
  • 1973 – the Brooklyn plant closed
  • 1970’s – Schaefer bought the rights to the Piels label
  • 1980’s – Schaefer bought out by Stroh’s

Ultimately most of Stroh’s brands including Piels were sold to Pabst who discontinued making Piels in 2015.

Today, an old building on the northwest corner of Liberty Avenue and Sheffield Avenue was once the brewery’s administration building.

I’ve found three different types of Piel Bros bottles. Two are tooled crowns (12 oz); one champagne style and colored aqua, and the other, a brown export style. They probably date back to around the later part of the beer garden era.

I’ve also found a machine made squat (probably 8 oz). It’s embossed “Kovar” on the back so it’s from the Prohibition era.

  

 

 

 

Pflug & Ackley, Hempstead, L.I.

 

   

Plug & Ackley was mentioned in a story entitled “Old Timers Carry On at Hempstead,” printed in the June 26, 1940 edition of a newspaper called the Nassau Daily Review Star.

The late Henry E. Ackley and Daniel Plug established Plug and Ackley’s Beverage Company in 1880. Their sons took over the business at a later date and now the business is being operated by the third generation.

In the 1890 Lain’s Business Directory under Hempstead, Pflug & Ackley was listed as a bottler at 33 Greenwich. The “Annual Report of the Factory Inspectors of the State of New York in both 1899 and 1900 indicated the business had 6 employees during that time, all male. Through at least the early 1930’s the plant remained at the 33 Greenwich address.

A Pflug and Ackley advertisement carried in several issues of the Nassau Post between May and July of 1914 contained a photograph of their “Bottling Department and Sales Rooms in Hempstead L.I.”

The advertisement went on to list a wide range of beverages that were bottled by the company at the time. It included rye, bourbon and scotch whiskeys, gin, bitters, brandies, ales and porters and mineral waters and vichy water.

An article under the Headline “Makes Good Beverages” in the December 17, 1925 edition of the Hempstead Sentinel provided a snapshot of the business at that time.

One of the oldest established firms in Hempstead is the Pflug and Ackley bottling works at the corner of Greenwich and Prospect Streets. The name has been synonymous with good beverages extending over nearly three generations. At the present time the business is managed by William H Ackley, who has a reputation for progressiveness.

Mr. Ackley keeps pace with all the newest methods, particularly those for the manufacture of the purest of products under the best sanitary conditions. He has recently installed machinery that has done away with much of the labor of human hands.

Mr. Ackley reports that although he is daily securing a large quantity of cider for the holidays there is such a demand for it that his delivery trucks are kept busy filling the orders of customers.

There was a P&A advertisement in the same December 17,1925 issue of the Hempstead Sentinel for Russet Apple Cider.

pa-ad

A series of advertisements within several issues of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” between June and August of 1920 named them as the local Nassau County bottler for Ward’s “Orange (and Lemon) Crush.

There were also P&A advertisements for Orange Crush in at least two May, 1923 issues of the “Hempstead Sentinel”.

By 1938, the company had apparently changed its name to the Ackley Beverage Company. I’ve found shards of a bottle embossed Ackley Beverage Co, Hempstead NY on the base that includes a 1938 embossed date. The embossing is very similar to the Pflug & Ackley embossing.

33 Greenwich Street does not exist today nor can I find Prospect Street in Hempstead. The address would have been located near the intersection of Greenwich and Peninsula Blvd and was most likely acquired when Peninsula Boulevard was widened to its present configuration.

This business spanned the conversion from mouth blown to machine made bottles and I’ve found both types. Mouth blown ones include two blob tops,  a champagne style beer (12 oz) and a large 27 oz, and several 8 oz tooled crowns, one embossed with the year 1917, another with 1918 and still another with 1919. Machine made finds include a 27 oz bottle embossed with the year 1926 and a 6 oz Orange Crush.

The Orange Crush bottle has the P&A monogram embossed on the base. I’ve also found a small 6 oz machine made bottle embossed “Ackley Beverages Hempstead NY” that probably dates to the 1930’s.

 

Pichel & Schwab, 174 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.

pichel        

The business of Pichel and Schwab was first listed in the Brooklyn directories around 1897 as “liquors” at 174 Bedford Avenue. They are not listed in 1895. The business was listed in the various Brooklyn Directories up through 1920.  Most listings labeled them as either “liquors” or “wine merchants.”

1900 census records list Adolph Pichel, Jacob Schwab and his son Daniel, all living at 174 Bedford Avenue, so it appears they were the founders of the business.

Up through 1907 the business listed a single address at 174 Bedford Avenue, then in 1909 they added a second location at 1351 Fulton Street. Both of these addresses were listed between 1909 and 1914. The directory classifications generally labeled the Bedford Avenue location as “wholesale liquors” or “wine merchants.” The Fulton Street location was simply labeled liquors so it was probably the retail store.

The 1910 census records showed Adolph Pichel living on Bedford Ave and Daniel Schwab living on Fulton Street. Based on this I assume it was a relatively small operation with each living at or above one of the stores.

Over the years, they occasionally  listed other addresses as well including: Metropolitan Ave., corner of Graham and 48 Sumpter. I assume these were also retail locations.

In 1915 they dropped the Bedford Avenue address and just listed the single location on Fulton Street. By 1920 the business had moved to 278 Ralph Avenue, also in Brooklyn.

The business was almost certainly a victim of National Prohibition. The February, 1920 telephone book listed Pichel & Schwab, liquors, at 278 Ralph Avenue. Three months later, in the May listings, the business name had  changed to Pichel Products and 1920 census records listed Adolph Pichel’s occupation as “wholesale merchant – candy.”

Daniel Schwab was also included in the 1920 census with no occupation. By 1930 he was in the oil business

One of the products they were associated with was King David’s Monogram Whiskey. A Pichel and Schwab shot glass, exhibited on e-bay, advertised both the Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street addresses.

The building at 174 Bedford has recently been razed. In 2015 a new building was under construction there.

The bottle I found looks like a pretty common champagne style beer bottle. Based on the above research, it may have contained wine or at some point they also bottled beer. The bottle has a tooled blob finish (12 oz) embossed with the Bedford Ave address.