30,000 gallons of beer in the creek: Stroudsburg Brewery Co.

May - SBC
Aerial view of the Stroudsburg Brewery Company.
By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

In 1899, a group of citizens decided that Stroudsburg needed its own brewery to craft local beer. Stockholders formed the Stroudsburg Brewery Company and met to elect officers, choose managers, select a brewmaster, and organize and submit the necessary paperwork to Harrisburg to apply for a charter.

The Stroudsburg Brewery Company was incorporated with George F. Healey as president, John S. Schoonover as vice president, and Hiram W. Kistler as secretary and treasurer. Fred Wagner of Scranton was the brewmaster, and according to
The Daily Times newspaper, he “had a wide experience in the brewing of malt liquors.”

On April 25, 1899, the charter was approved in Harrisburg by Governor Stone, and the stockholders began to build the brewery. The task of constructing the plant was given to the Grieser Company of Milwaukee, Wis.; local labor was to be used in the actual building of the structure. The Stroudsburg Brewery Company was located at present-day First Street in Stroudsburg, right next to the Brodhead Creek. The brick building stood five stories tall.

By 1901, the Stroudsburg Brewery Company was operating at full capacity, producing mostly bottled beer. To keep up with the high demand for their product and to take advantage of improved brewing technology, an addition was added to the original structure to house the “modern machinery” needed to maximize output. The brick addition was built by the Shiffer Brothers with a footprint measuring 80 feet x 30 feet.

In addition to the space dedicated to beer bottling, the expansion held a main office and a private side office and boasted steam heat, electric lights, running water, a toilet room, and “everything desired for comfort and convenience.”

The rear of the new addition housed the improved bottling department, where the electric lights could illuminate the area throughout the night “so that work may be carried on at all hours.” Pasteurizing tanks and the sterilizing machines were also located in the back room. The new bottling machine had a pressurized tube and could rapidly fill 10,000 bottles of beer per day; this machine could also cork 90 bottles per minute.

All of the machines were powered with a vertical steam engine. A freshwater spring was located in the rear of the property just outside the brewery which accounted for the “wonderful tasting beer and success of the brewery.” In fact, the freshwater spring was such an important part of the success of the brewery, that the stockholders boldly ran advertisements in the local newspapers stating that “There is No Purer Drink Than Properly Made Beer.”

The brewery thrived for the next 12 years until, for undocumented reasons, the brewery went bankrupt. In August 1913, Sheriff Bonser was instructed to sell off the “personal property including horses, wagons, auto trucks, etc.” The sale of the plant was scheduled for the following month.

After the sheriff’s sale, it appears as though the building sat vacant until 1921, when a new company purchased the old Stroudsburg Brewery. The enterprise had the notion to retool the land and buildings for a vegetable oil refinery. This new company, The Pocono Food Products Company, remodeled the old brewery to transform the building to refine, “cottonseed, peanut, cocoanut, corn and soybean oils for the use of making nut butters, margarines, lard compounds, medical emulsions, fine soaps, candles, lubricants, etc.” The business could refine 7,500 tons of oil per year.

Unfortunately, The Pocono Foods Products Company and its vegetable oil refinery did not survive for long, and it appears that the old Stroudsburg Brewery again sat vacant until the brewing industry was reborn in 1933 when Victor Neustadtl purchased the property.

At this time, the 21st Amendment had repealed the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, ending Prohibition. Pennsylvania Gov. Gifford Pinchot signed the beer control bill, a licensing and taxing measure that took effect June 1, 1933, ahead of the national repeal of prohibition.

On June 1, all businesses selling legal malt brew and wine had to display licenses issued by the county treasurer. Revenue from the taxation bill was sent to the state. Neustadtl, a brewer from New York, intended to take advantage of the timing of the end of prohibition and quickly worked to be able to produce beer again at the First Street site. The Neustadtl Company registered their famous trademark name “Gesundheit” which, translated from German, means “good health.”

Victor Neustadtl hired local employees to work in his factory and secured George Sipple of Chicago as the new head brewmaster. Mr. Sipple had 30 years of experience and had been the vice president of a large brewery in Illinois. He had also become a brewmaster at the age of 21 and was, at that time, the youngest brewmaster in America.

Neustadtl received his federal operating permit in record time.
The Daily Record newspaper attributed the speedy return of the necessary federal documents to Neustadtl’s “financial responsibility and straightforwardness” and that his “long connection with the industry has always been of a nature as to constitute the biggest kind of and asset at this time.” The local permit was PA-U-396.

Neustadtl had great quantities of malt and hops in storage and was waiting for the paperwork from the government before he could begin to brew his famous “Gesundheit” lager beer. The malt he used was Muenchen-Kapubiner; his hops was the well-known Saaz variety.

The rebirth of the brewing industry seemed secure. Townspeople were happy that the building was being used and that there were employment opportunities for local residents.

Unfortunately, the residents’ hopes were not realized for long. Although the Gesundheit product was successful, financial issues plagues the Neustadtl Brewing Company. On March 26, 1935, the personal property of the brewery and of Neustadtl himself went up for auction. A large number of people attended the auction which was held by C.R. Bensinger of Stroudsburg and F.J. Heldriegel of Scranton. Wayne Posten was the auctioneer. The property sold for $7,600 and was purchased by representatives of the Lyons Brewery of Wilkes-Barre and the Manayunk Brewery of Philadelphia.

One month later, on April 10, 1935, the brewery was emptied of all of its equipment, barrels, bottles, etc. Under the supervision of federal inspectors, 30,000 gallons of Gesundheit beer was dumped into the nearby Brodhead Creek for disposal.

For decades, the old brick building stood vacant and was heavily vandalized. In the 1960s, there was discussion about revitalizing the structure, then the tallest building in Stroudsburg, but the years of decay made the project cost prohibitive.

On January 24, 1974, the “poshest pigeon pad in Stroudsburg” according to the
Pocono Record, went up in flames as the result of a “controlled burn” that went out of control. The once imposing structure was demolished, erasing all evidence of a once-thriving brewery business in Stroudsburg. Advertising pieces from Neustadtl’s Gesundheit beer can still be found in local flea markets and online auctions.

Image 1: Label from the Neustadtl Brewery Company’s Gesundheit beer.
Image 2: Aerial view of the Stroudsburg Brewery Company.