What are they now? Large U.S. brew houses from 1950
It takes hops, barley, water and yeast to brew most beer. And space. Lots of space when you’re talking about pumping out millions of barrels of ale and lager a year.
That was the case in 1950 as consolidation took hold of the post-prohibition U.S. beer industry. The number of U.S. breweries, which had grown to 857 by 1941, dipped to 350 as the 20th century hit its midpoint, according to the Brewers Association.
The top 10 national breweries of that time lautered, boiled and fermented their way to producing more than 30 million barrels in 1950. Their large brew houses occupied dozens of acres of space, most in the heart of big American cities. Many started as small plants decades earlier and were expanded to meet growing demand and deploy the best technology of the day.
But we all know the story. Large beer makers of that time, despite their rich histories, continued to fade fast, like the head of a fizzy, yellow lager. Within a few decades all but two of 1950’s top 10 breweries had been swallowed by larger rivals or met a different demise. However, the brew houses – those bulky brick and mortar landmarks – or the space they occupied live on. So what are they now?
I captured a current day view of the large brew houses of 1950. Many of the breweries had multiple plants, so I focused on the original or signature location. In some cases the rebirth of the site is as awe-inspiring as the story of the brewery’s founder. In others, the current-day facilities are as bland as the beer once brewed there.
The snapshots below reflect a quick view using online research. We’d like to hear your story. Maybe your father once toiled in the mill room for Schlitz. Maybe you have fond memories of Rheingold from Liebmann Bros. in Brooklyn (the beer not the Rheingold Girls). Tell us what these places mean to you.
In the meantime, here’s what they are now.
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