The Brooklyn Growler

"Life is all skittles and beer." — Tom Lehrer

Federal Brewing Co. Leaves Federal Dust

Some things are here for only a little while and then they’re gone, leaving behind very little. In the case of many former Brooklyn breweries, the buildings that once housed these businesses still remain, while the breweries themselves have long since been forgotten.

Brooklyn’s landscape is constantly evolving. Today, many former industrial neighborhoods of the nineteenth century are now full of luxury apartment buildings.

The old Schaefer plant in Williamsburg is now a community center and could, quite possibly, become condos at some point in the near future. A lesser-known brewery – the Leonhard Michel plant in Gowanus – is empty and who knows what will come of it.

Here’s a real deep cut –

The Federal Brewing Co., located at 83 Third Ave. in Boerum Hill, was a short-lived brewery that closed down operations in 1907. But looking at the building today, one would hardly even believe that was the former home to beer.

This brewery went through a variety of names and owners in its fifty-three years of life. Founded in 1854 by Samuel Duell, the brewery produced ales under the name of the Long Island Brewery. It was a small facility but grew in size over the next few years. In 1872, Duell sold the brewery to Arthur A. Brown who maintained the brewery’s name and production of ale.

By 1887, Brown had expanded the size of the brewery and added a lager to the beers Long Island Brewery produced. Arthur Brown died in 1879, passing the business to his son J.W. Brown who ran the plant until 1902 when it changed owners again and became the Federal Brewing Co. The plant held on for a few more years, closing for good in 1907.

As Quality Cosmetics in 1976, from Will Anderson's Breweries of Brooklyn.

The building still remains standing on a patch of Third Ave. between Dean and Bergen. From the exterior, the only major difference is that its turret has long-since been taken down.

After Federal left, the building was occupied by the Pittsburgh Glass Co., something called the Fred Goat. Co., and Quality Cosmetics. Will Anderson contacted Quality Cosmetics for his book Breweries of Brooklyn in 1975. Quality had no idea that a brewery was once housed inside its building.

Today, Federal appears to be an apartment complex and is little more than a footnote in the history of Brooklyn’s breweries.

Filed under: beer history, breweries, , , , , , , , , , , ,

When Schaefer Put the Lights Out

The F&M Schaefer Brewing Co. is America’s oldest lager brewing company. It was also the longest-running brewery in New York City, and the last to leave in the 1970s.

By the beginning of the 20th century, there were an estimated 50 breweries operating in Brooklyn, by the end of the 1970s – all of them would be gone.

Launched in 1842 by two German brothers – Frederick and Maximillian – Schaefer was originally based in Manhattan. Its first location was on Broadway between 18th and 19th Streets, while the second was uptown on Park Avenue (then known as Fourth Avenue) and 51st Street. In 1914, the brewery moved to 430 Kent Ave between South 9th and 10th Streets in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

During Prohibition, Schaefer survived by brewing “near beer,” manufacturing dyes, and artificial ice at the Brooklyn plant. But once Prohibition ended in 1933, Schaefer hit New York City with a marketing blitz built around the motto, “Our hand has never lost its skill.” By 1938, Schaefer was one of the few breweries to produce over one million barrels of beer each year. By 1944 (a few years after its 100th anniversary), Schaefer was producing over two million.

By 1971, Schaefer had constructed an ultra-modern plant in Allentown, Penn. It was only a few years later that the company decided to shutter its Brooklyn plant as well as two other plants that were full of outdated machinery and were expensive to operate.

The breweries of Brooklyn were all shutting down by the 1970s. The last two to leave were Rheingold and finally Schaefer, who turned out the lights in 1976.

The building that housed Schaefer’s Brooklyn plant still exists. Here it is pictured in the 1970s from the book Breweries of Brooklyn by Will Anderson (photo by Karen Umminger), next to a photograph of the face of the building as it exists today.

Schaefer of the ’70s and today.

The lettering for the original F&M Schaefer brewery has been covered up by the new signage. Also lost is the logo featuring a barrel and a banner that reads “fine beers.”

There is a developer who has been working to convert the building into eighteen and twenty-four-story residential towers. The project has been stalled, but don’t count it out yet.

Some sign of the building’s former beer glory still exists.

Filed under: beer history, , , , , , , ,


• franksmith {at} gmail {dot} com

• Facebook

• Twitter

Twitter Updates

Top Clicks

  • None
December 2020