NJ Beer History - Part 1 By: Ben Bakelaar

Hey everyone, this week I want to delve a little into the history of beer in New Jersey. If you’ve ever met me in person, you’ve probably already gotten an earful about some aspect of history that involves beer – it’s quickly becoming one of my hobbies! I’ve mentioned bits and pieces of history in a few of my past posts, but now I will likely be turning this into a regular series. To start, I’m keeping it real local – i.e. several miles away from where Love2Brew sits today. That’s right, good old New Brunswick, home of Rutgers, Harvest Moon, Old Bay, and the newest addition, George St. Ale House.

About 1 year ago, I noticed an article on NJ.com that offered a nice glimpse into New Brunswick’s history. Turns out, there used to be a New Brunswick Brewing Company (NBBC)!

From http://www.nj.com/news/local/index.ssf/2011/04/glimpse_of_history_new_brunswi.html:

The New Brunswick Brewing Company operated at 339-345 Sanford St. in New Brunswick from 1935 to 1938. This picture was taken in 1935, when the facility was under construction. The New Brunswick Brewing Company brewed and bottled Brunswick Beer, Hub City Beer and Cole's Lager. The company's slogan, "It's a Gosh Darn Good Beer," was advertised throughout the city. Today, the New Brunswick Brewing Company is out of business, but New Brunswick is home to a microbrewery, the Harvest Moon Brewery and Cafe, located at 392 George St. Harvest Moon brews Harvest Hefeweizen, Full Moon Pale Ale, Paddy's Irish Stout and Jimmy D's Firehouse Red. For more information on Harvest Moon, visit www.harvestmoonbrewery.com.

Click the link above for a picture. What else can Google tell us about this local brewery? Well, for one thing, it seems to have only been open for 4 years, from 1935 to 1938. That’s not a very successful business! But another source says it was open from 1907 to 1914.

From http://www.bankerfamilytreeofnj.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=122585871:

1907 - The New Brunswick Brewing Company has been incorporated with a capital stock of $50000 by G. Fenn, Philadelphia; JC Belleff, New Brunswick, NJ, and P. Feller, Metuchen NJ. In the May 9, 1914 newspaper under RECENT TRANSFERS OF REAL ESTATE IN MIDDLESEX is "John G. Belloff has bought 3 acres in Highland Park, formerly the property of The New Brunswick Brewing Company, for $17,000."

Another piece of information from the Banker Family Tree of NJ indicates that NBBC “took over” operations. I assume from an existing brewery?

From http://www.bankerfamilytreeofnj.com/businessendeavors.htm:


1907 – The New Brunswick Brewing Company took over operations and ran immediately into trouble with sponsors of the growing prohibitionist movement who were actively engaged in the battle to ban all alcohol sales. By 1909 brewers' advertising signs had to be removed from local saloons, and measures to ban Sunday sales were being passed by many communities. However, business at the local plant boomed, and by 1909, the New Brunswick Brewing Company announced plans to enlarge its Highland Park facilities. New managers were Max Berger and Carl Fischer


Present Capacity to be Doubled

Wurtzburger Beer to be Produced

Directors Chosen and Officers Elected

The New Brunswick Brewing Company is enlarging its plant in Highland Park so that during the next year its output will be more than double that of any previous year. The ice plant will also be doubled and in addition a new brew, an American Wurtzburger will be put in. This beer, will be in every respect the duplicate of the famous Wurtzburger beer made in Germany.

At present the company only brews the New Brunswick Brewing Company beer of the light and dark varieties. The Wurtzburger will be a dark beer. The capacity of the brewery at present is 15,000 barrels per year. When the additions are completed at the cost of $20,000, the capacity will be 35,000 barrels. With the enlargement of the plant all the present equipment will renovated and the brewery will be in better shape than ever.

The report of the manager, Henry H. Banker, was a very satisfactory one and showed conclusively that the addition to the plant was a necessity. The company has not been able to meet the demand in any way during the past year.

At the stockholders meeting the following directors were elected. Among others were Gervaries Fenn of Philadelphia, Louis Stamm, Henry H. Banker, William Schlesilnger, John C. Belloff, Dr. Louis J. Belloff.

At the directors' meeting immediately after, the officers were elected as follows; President Gervaries Fenn; vice president, Louis Stamm; treasurer and manager, Henry H. Banker; secretary, Willliam Schlesinger.

1935-1938 – The New Brunswick Brewing Company operated at 339-345 Sanford Street, in New Brunswick, NJ.

Prohibition made its way into law in 1920, and stayed in effect until 1933. The source above, however, indicates that as early as 1907, local businesses were feeling the effects of the prohibitionists, and communities were starting to pass laws limiting sales of beer or alcohol! To provide a little context, the chart below shows that there were 1,568 breweries in operation in 1910, but the numbers had already been dropping steadily decade after decade since 1870. Still, it seems likely that the New Brunswick Brewing Company had indeed taken over an existing brewery in New Brunswick in 1907. Piecing the rest of history together, it probably closed sometime between 1910 and 1920, when Prohibition went into effect, and then within 2 years of the end of Prohibition in 1933, attempted to re-open.

From http://appellationbeer.com/blog/consolidation-started-long-before-prohibition/:

NJ Beer History  |  love2brew.com

I highly recommend clicking on the link above, there are several comments that contain some interesting information and links, including a link to a book published in 1910, titled “The brewing industry and the brewery workers’ movement in America” which is available to read on Google Books! Just incredible.

On the next post in this series, look for me to continue tracing what additional history of the New Brunswick Brewing Company I can find on Google. I’ll also spin off to various other aspects of beer and history, trying to keep it local when possible.