Kaier Brewery Back in the News
A crew from WVIA Public Broadcasting visited Mahanoy City on Saturday, December 7, 2013 to film footage for" Back In The Day", a new series which features businesses of the past in the WVIA viewing area. WVIA Program Manager Larry Vojtko and a camera crew came to the Village Inn on West Centre Street to interview Louie Cameli who worked at Kaier's from 1956 until 1967 when the brewery closed after being sold to Philadelphia's Ortlieb Brewery. Louie and the WVIA crew were the guests of George Mammarella, owner of the Village Inn and also the property on North Main where the brewery operated for the better part of a century.
Above: WVIA visits Mahanoy City to film a Back In The Day segment. To view the program click on the link below.
In 2002 John C. Lieberman, the geat grandson of the brewery's founder C.D. Kaier and the last brewmaster at Kaier's, wrote an article for American Breweriana Journal. With the permission of the current editor, John A. Grier, the historical society is able to reproduce the article below. For more information about the American Breweriana Association click on the link below. Thanks to John C. Lieberman for keeping alive the Kaier history. For more Kaier history and photos click on the link to the Kaier page below the article.
Early in 2014 I was contacted by John A. Grier, the editor of American Breweriana Journal. John asked if I could write a short update on the 2002 article written by John C. Lieberman and supply a few more pictures. The whole 2002 article was reprinted in the March-April 2014 edition of the magazine with the addition of the updated page which you can find below.
If you've been to this site before you may have seen the 1912 Kaier Souvenir Booklet. Much more content has been added to the Kaier page. Special thanks goes to John C. Lieberman for sharing pictures and information and to others who allowed the use of pictures including: Frank Senglar, Shirley Ryan, Mary Ellen Koval Steeves and George Mammarella among others.
America was truly the land of opportunity for entrepreneur Charles D. Kaier. At the age of 43, he owned one of the largest breweries in Pennsylvania, was a bank president, operated a grand opera house, a hotel and restaurant, the Broad Mt. Water Co. (Kaier's dam), an ice company and controlled the operations of the Anthracite Light, Heat and Power Company. He also owned 40 taverns in the Mahanoy City area, owned a whiskey rectifying operation and ran a thriving retail liquor business.
Coming to America in 1854 at the age of 15, he was a Civil war veteran, married, and in the liquor business by the age of 23 when, in 1862 he founded The Chas. D. Kaier Co., in Mahanoy City, PA. His firm would last over 100 years. Until 1880, Mr. Kaier's primary business was in liquor, although he did package and sell beer for other brewers during that period. He purchased whiskey from distillers by the barrel and after transferring it into bottles and then sold it by the quart or pint. Before 1890, he had his own rectifying plant and was making his own blend which was named "Kaier's Special "A" Whiskey". In the 1960 film (video), you can see the word "Distillery" painted on the bottom on the west side of the stack. There are still some glass mixed drink stirrers, with Kaier's Special "A" Whiskey" etched into the glass, in the memorabilia market. (see Kaier items on the Kaier web site)
Chas. D Kaier was successful in the retail liquor business and his success continued with his brewery. In the late 1870's, he convinced his cousin, Franz Kaier, to leave Germany and be the brewmaster in the brewery Chas. D. was building. He sent Franz to the American Brewing Academy in Chicago, so that he could become familiar with American brewing terms and the English language in order to have a better working relationship with the brewery employees. The brewery opened in 1880 as part of the Chas. D. Kaier Co..
In the first major expansion of the brewery in 1892, he installed two industrial refrigeration compressors, (prior to this , Kaier's used stored ice, caves and underground vaults to keep the processing beer cold), He also moved his whiskey rectifying area to the third floor of the bottle shop, where the barrels of rye whiskey and corn (Bourbon) whiskey were blended and packaged into quarts, pints and jugs. Kaier's sold whiskey and other spirits until 1920 when prohibition went into effect.
In 1885, Philip Henry Fuhrman, who was the plant superintendent of the Kaier brewery and very friendly with his mentor, Chas. D. Kaier, returned from a vacation in Germany. Fuhrman, who a had accrued $25,000 in brewery stock through the generosity of his friend and mentor, Mr. Kaier, sued the Kaier Company for not managing the brewery properly while he was in Germany. Mr. Kaier quickly bought Mr. Fuhrman's stock (less than 5% of the total issued stock and terminated his employment. Mr. Fuhrman then went to Shamokin, PA, where he already had an interest in the Eagle Run Brewery. In 1896 the Eagle Run Brewery became the Fuhrman and Schmidt Brewery ( F & S ) And as many people said. "F & S was born, thanks to Chas. D. Kaier."
Chas. D. Kaier died in 1899. Control of the brewery, bank, opera house, hotel, Broad Mt. Water Co. etc. passed on to his widow, Margaret, who in a short time turned over the operation of the entire Chas. D. Kaier Co. to her two favorite unmarried children. Her daughter Mary (affectionately called "Mame"), who was 24 years old and the only son, Charles, who was 20 years old.
In 1900, the Schuylkill Brewing Company, which was the syndicate for the consolidation of brewing interests in Schuylkill, Columbia and Northumberland counties, failed in their attempt to acquire the Kaier brewery. On June 12th, 1903, the Kaier brewery was offered to a Mr. D. M. Graham, at his request, for the price of $1,243,000. In today's (2004) dollars , that would equate to $25,232,900. The Kaier brewery was sold to the Ortlieb Brewing Co. of Philadelphia PA in 1966 for $500,000. The price included $250,000 in cash in the Union National Bank of Mahanoy City. The cash in the bank was included in the sale to make the "finder's fee" more attractive. That $500,000 would equate to $2,775,000 in today's (2004) dollars. (One of the reasons for the difference is because in 1903, the brewery was netting about $3.00 per barrel per year versus $1.00 per barrel per year in 1966. And the 1903 production was 90% keg beer versus 50% in 1966). [In the 1970's, at the Pabst Brewery in Pabst GA, which was a very efficient and highly automated plant, we generated a little over $11 net profit per barrel per year on sales of 4,500,000 barrels per year.]
According to the American Brewer magazine, Kaier's sold over 100,000 barrels of beer in 1903. The brewery had 150 employees at that time. Kaier's peak sales years were in the late 1940's when they sold 200,000 barrels of beer per year. In August of 1950, Kaier's beer was awarded 1st prize, "The Star of Excellence", in Brussels, Belgium for the best beer in the American/Canadian beer category. Television advertising and the nations national brewers forced Kaier's and many other brewers out of business in the 1950's and 60's because of price reduction and advertising that the small brewers could not afford. In 1945, there were 466 brewing companies in the USA, today (2004) the average person can only think of three, Anheuser Busch, Millers and Coors. There are very few small brewers, Yuengling of Pottsville PA being one of the best known.
The matriarch of the family, Margaret Curry Kaier, passed away in 1913. Legal battles over her disputed will left Mame and Charles in control, but only temporarily. Charles, "Champagne Charlie" was a member of the New York Friars Club and had more interest in the Kaier opera house than the brewery. Within a few years Mame ousted him and replaced him as president of the brewery and replaced him with her newly-acquired , and much younger husband. Never in the history of the Kaier brewery was the word "brewery" ever used as part of it's business name. And only from 1891 until 1894 was it legally known as the "Chas. D. Kaier Brewing Co." In 1894 the name was changed to the "Chas F. Kaier Co. Ltd." and remained that until 1920 when prohibition went into effect. After prohibition, in 1933 the legal Kaier's name was Charles D. Kaier Co. and remained that way until it was sold to Ortlieb's in 1966.
Mame and Lloyd Fahler did not want their names associated with the operation of the brewery during Prohibition, 1920 to 1933, since the plan was to keep the business profitable during the dry period. The Kaier brewery was operated by Shalleck and Zack, "two front men" who ran the risk of spending time in a federal prison if the brewery was caught putting out beer with an alcohol content over 0.5%. alcohol by weight. Bill Dewey also was involved in helping to operate the brewery during prohibition, but not in the same capacity as Shalleck and Zack. Kaier's sold legal "near beer" at 0.5% and illegal "good beer" at 3.2% alcohol by weight from 1920 until 1933.
While Prohibition was being enforced, Kaier's ran a pipe line down the North branch of the Mahanoy Creek to a barn on Vine Street (where the Schuylkill bus barn was later located), and racked (filled) their kegs with illegal high alcohol beer. The brewers had to brew high alcohol beer and distill most of the alcohol from that beer in order to make good tasting legal low alcohol beer. Kaier's had some secret walled-in cellars that contained this high alcohol beer that they had no intention of running through the distillation process. When the brewery was filling kegs and shipping this illegal beer, they had "spotters" stationed on all roads leading into Mahanoy City. These spotters had the license plate numbers and the model and colors of the Federal Agent's cars (naturally Kaier's paid for this information), and would phone the brewery if they spotted a Federal Agent's car. When the brewery received one of these dreaded calls, they immediately shut down the keg filling operation and assigned the employees to other jobs in the brewery. Kaier's used their bottling equipment during Prohibition to package "temperance" or soda as it is called today. They had a variety of flavors, including Kaier's Ginger Ale, Kaier's Root Beer, Kaier's Orange and others.
When Prohibition was repealed, then Mame and Lloyd Fahler ran the brewery without the help of the "gentlemen" bootleggers. In 1936, Kaier's bought out the new two year old Frackville Brewing Co. in Frackville, PA. They demolished the brewery buildings and removed the two-year-old equipment, moved it to Mahanoy City and used it in their expanded brewery which was dedicated in 1937. Kaier's next big expansion was in 1950, when all of the new packaging equipment was installed in the bottle shop and a new warehouse was built in the block south of the brewery property. Prior to 1892, when artificial refrigeration was installed at the Kaier brewery, Kaier's beer was aged in underground vaults on the brewery property. In 1968, the vaults were in excellent condition and not a stone was missing from the vaulted ceilings of tank cells. They probably can still be found on the brewery property.
These Kaier's brands were in use at some time during the brewery operation. 1892 - Kaier's Export Beer, Kaier's Salvator Beer and Kaier's Dublin Porter. 1894 - Kaier's Kaiser Beer and Kaier's Miner Beer. 1912 - Kaier's Anthracite Beer. !933 -1968 - Kaier's Beer, Kaier's Ale, Kaier's Porter and Kaier's Bock Beer. There could have been more, these are the only brands that I knew existed.
These men were the key Kaier employees in 1894. President Chas. D. Kaier, Treasurer John B. Lieberman, Secretary Michael J. Haughney, Brewmaster Franz X. Kaier, Chief Engineer M. Schaefer, Manager of bottling department Lewis Sachs. Manager of brewery shipping Thomas J. Nolan, Manager of Liquor rectifying dept. Lewis Heller, Manager of Liquor shipping dept. Edward J. Kaier, General salesmen and collectors I. H. Rowlry, Val Mendlar, James O'Brein, A. L. O'Connor and M. Brobst.
The brewery had six presidents over the years. Chas. D. Kaier, Mrs. Margaret Curry Kaier, Charles F. Kaier, Lloyd W. Fahler, Chas. A. Domson and John B. Lieberman II, Chas. D. Kaier's grandson. The brewery had nine brewmasters, Franz Kaier, Charles Korn, George Larson, Jacob Maurer, Anton Von Winning, Charles Kuehner, Robert Bopp, Martin Hasenfuss and John Curtin Lieberman, Chas. D. Kaier's great grandson.
revised 4/8/2006 John C. Lieberman
FULL HALF CENTURY has passed since the late Charles D. Kaier founded in Mahanoy City, the brewery which bears his name. As a tribute to his memory and a mark of appreciation on this 50th Anniversary occasion this booklet has been prepared by the Charles D. Kaier Company. No man ever entered business with a stronger determination to succeed than did Charles D. Kaier when he opened this brewery. He had great faith in the future of Mahanoy City and its possibilities and the success which he achieved amply demonstrated that his judgement was both keen and accurate.He was a man of strict habits and beliefs and imbued with a strong public spirit. As a member of many fraternal organizations he became one of the best known men in this section of the State and never lost an opportunity to help Mahanoy City grow or to encourage an industry worthy of his attention.
Mr. Kaier was born March 6, 1839, at Biningan Baden, Germany. On January 8, 1863, he married Miss Margaret Curry, a native of Schuylkill County, at St. Patrick's Church in Pottsville, Pa.
Not only was he a factor in the brewery business, but he also exercised an active interest in the Anthracite Light, Heat and Power Company, the Broad Mountain Water Company, as well as several other enterprises. He gave to Mahanoy City one of the safest, prettiest, and best-equipped opera houses in the interior of Pennsylvania.
He was one of the promoters of the Union National Bank and served as vice-president from its organization until the time of his death, having declined the presidency on account of his health. He was one of the first defenders of the war of the Rebellion, and when the Spanish-American War broke out, he notified his employees that he would grant them full pay as long as they were in the country's service at the field of action.
Having the welfare of his employees at heart, Mr. Kaier founded the Kaier Beneficial Association and did everything in his power to make it the strong institution which it is today. He is one of the largest real estate holders in Mahanoy City.
Nowhere in Pennsylvania is there a more complete or up-to-date brewery than the Kaier. Its equipment is the very best that money will buy, expense never standing between Mr. Kaier and and the possession of a possible improvement. The capacity of this brewery is now over 100,000 barrels per annum. Connected with the brewery is one of the finest bottling departments in Eastern Pennsylvania. Its completeness is unsurpassed anywhere.
None but the purest spring water is used in the manufacture of all Kaier products and this supremely good water has had much to do with the fame of Kaier beer. This water is furnished by the Broad Mountain Water Company, which also furnishes practically all the ice to Mahanoy City.
One can get some idea of the completeness of the Kaier plant when it is realized that this concern makes all its own wagons and harnesses, has its own cooperge shop, its own blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, tinsmith shop, plumbing shop, and the largest individual ice plant in the vicinity and many other features too numerous to mention here. Direct shipments to all railroads are made on the Kaier Company's own tracks.
Since Mr. Kaier's death, which occurred on May 31, 1899, at his Philadelphia residence, his various business enterprises have been perfected along the lines laid down by him during his lifetime, by his wife, who was made president of the Kaier Company, and his son, Charles F. Kaier, who is secretary and treasurer of the Kaier Company.
A branch of the Kaier Brewery is located at Reading and it is operated on the same high standards as prevail at the Mahanoy City plant. The company are also the largest rectifiers and wholesale liquor dealers in eastern Pennsylvania.
There can be no question as to the popularity of the Kaier Company's products, as the constantly increasing business proves most convincingly that the public appreciates their merits. If one can judge by the enlargements which have been made in the Kaier plants during the past few years, it will not be very long before the concern will have one of the largest breweries in the State- a great credit to Mahanoy City and to the energies of the late Charles D. Kaier and his heirs.