At the present time, there are many different brewing companies out there that produce beer in different styles and flavors. Among the many breweries that have come and gone, one of the most classic was the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company. It was a brewery located in Newark, New Jersey. It was founded by Gottfried Krueger and his uncle John Laible back in 1858. The company was known to have produced Krueger’s Special Beer, which was the first beer to be sold in cans.
If you are looking into learning more about this brewing company, you’re in the right place. In this post, we are going to give you more information about the Krueger Brewing Company.
History of the Krueger Brewing Company
On the evening of September 25, 1883, a party was held in Newark when the Gottfried Krueger’s Brewery was opened on Belmont Avenue. It accommodated around 5,000 people, including congressmen, senators, judges, mayors, assemblymen, and police officials. Those who didn’t know the directions only needed to look for the glow of electric lights and 140-foot-tall Gothic malt tower, topped with an American flag and the initials “GK.”
The grand opening of the brewery featured music and good cheer in the outdoor courtyard. Inside, the guests marveled at the shiny copper brew kettles, large oak fermenting casks, and the endless arrays of pumps, pipes, vats, and hoses. Lots of samples of their products flowed as employees educated their guests about the finer points of making beer.
The newest plant was the latest milestone of the family’s brewing tradition at that time, which spans more than a century in Newark. Their brewing business began in 1853, during the time when teenage Gottfried Krueger first arrived in America from Germany. Newark, like other major cities, had a lot of breweries by mid-century. One such venture was the Adams & Laible firm, which created a brewery on Belmont Avenue at West Kinney Street in 1851. This was the place where young Gottfried learned his craft. He began as a brew master’s apprentice to Laible, which was his uncle.
During those times, beer brewing on that side of the Atlantic was on the edge of an essential transformation. For generations, British-style brews, such as porter, stout, and ale, had been the norm in America. But an exploding population of European immigrants encouraged a demand for lighter and less alcoholic German-style lager beer. After a while, German immigrant brewers had achieved a uniquely American version of lager beer, which is a light, sparkling, golden brew that would soon catch the palate of the nation and build great fortunes for its creators.
In 1865, after becoming a brewmaster in his uncle’s brewery, Krueger bought the brewery on Belmont Avenue in partnership with Gottlieb Hill. As the popularity of lager beer increased, so did the sales of his brewery. When the two partners took over the company, it was making no more than 4,000 barrels, which is 31 gallons per barrel, of lager beer each year. Sales increased to 25,000 barrels per year by 1875, which required almost constant expansion of the brewing facilities. However, in that same year, Hill retired, which made Krueger the sole owner of the brewery.
The growing condition of the industry offered German-American brewers inroads to positions of leadership, and Krueger took full advantage of this. First, he was elected Freeholder. In 1876 and 1879, he served as a New Jersey Assemblyman. Then, he was appointed Judge of the Court of Errors and Appeals in 1891, which he held for 11 years.
Krueger Brewing Company in the 20th Century
When the 20th century came, the consumption of beer in America had increased from a trifling 750,000 barrels back in 1850 to more than 39,000,000 barrels in 1900. During these times, the small, wood-frame breweries had been replaced by lavish Victorian-style structures that stood as monuments to the grand success of German-American brewers. Lager beer has become the national beverage.
At the Krueger Brewery in 1903, sons John F. and Gottfried C. Krueger had each joined their father in the family business. This was the time when the company faced the first great challenge of the industry. While beer was slowly embedding itself into the culture of America, the abstinence movement had been making strides of its own. Groups like the Anti-Saloon League and Women’s Christian Temperance Union had thousands of members nationwide, and their influence was felt by many brewers everywhere.
During the Prohibition
The outbreak of war in Europe back in 1914 only made matters worse because a widespread anti-German sentiment swept the nation. In Texas and Pennsylvania, well-publicized investigations of the brewers painted the whole industry as unpatriotic and pro-German. Lubricated by the heated wartime climate, the National Prohibition slid through Congress and the state legislatures easily. This was the worst nightmare for the brewers.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution took effect on January 16, 1920, which made the manufacture of beer a federal crime. With this, a lot of brewers turned to soft drinks, dairy products, and low-alcohol near-beer. Among other products, the Krueger brewery made a near beer called Krueger’s Old Essex Brew, which had the taste of real beer but only had less than ½ of 1 percent of alcohol allowed by law.
On April 7, 1933, beer became legal again, largely through President Theodore Roosevelt’s urging of Congress. This was an event referred to as “New Beer’s Eve.” During this time, beer drinkers around the country celebrated. The Krueger brewery was in a key position to supply real beer the moment it became legal as it was one of only a few breweries in New Jersey that were still making near beer. In just 18 hours post-prohibition, the Krueger brewery had sent out 35,000 barrels of beer and had orders they could no longer fill. However, Gottfried was not able to see this moment as he died in 1926 at the age of 89.
The victory of brewers started to fade when they faced a new harsh reality. Beer was re-legalized by Congress mainly to give new revenue streams. With this, a heavy $5.00 per barrel tax was imposed. The nation was also in the midst of a Depression during these times. There were some that predicted that beer sales would reach their pre-prohibition levels. However, that would not happen for many years. From 1935 to 1945, the number of breweries in America fell from 766 to 468.
The First Beer in Cans
source:Porterhse, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
But the Krueger Brewery was optimistic. Even though they are facing challenges, they held on to a good beer, a strong financial position, and an innovative marketing strategy to bring success. In 1934, the company achieved an important victory under president William Krueger when it became the very first brewer to sell beer in cans.
Before prohibition, most beers were served over bar tops. When iceboxes were introduced, the consumption of beer in homes increased enormously. With this, the beer can was a perfect idea. Beer in cans chilled faster, and they also took far less space compared to bottles. They also did not require return or deposit and were easier to carry and transport.
Within three months, more than 80 percent of distributors were handling Krueger’s canned beer. Krueger was also eating into the market share of the three big national brewers, which are Schlitz, Pabst, and Anheuser-Busch. Competitors followed the trend, and by the end of 1935, more than 200 million cans were produced and sold.
The End of the Krueger Brewing Company
In the end, the only means of survival was massive sales volume. Big brewers like Pabst, Schlitz, and Anheuser-Busch had grabbed large shares of the beer market in almost every city in the nation by the mid-1950s. The economies of scale, streamlined distribution systems, and huge advertising budgets battered the fragile markets of small, regional brewers.
In 1961, the Krueger Brewing Company drained its tanks of its last drops of beer and closed its doors permanently. The Krueger label was sold to the Narragansett Brewing Company. It brewed its version of the brand in Rhode Island and shipped it back to Newark. However, it was never the same.