The Orange Brewery in Orange, New Jersey was a brand new brewing facility whose construction began in 1901 and was completed in April, 1902, with the formal opening taking place on July 17 of that year. Michael Winter, formerly of Pittsburgh, was the owner. He, along with his two brothers, Wolfgang and Aloysius, originally came to America from Bayern, Germany in 1873, and soon settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1883 the three brothers began their brewing business in that city under the name of The M. Winter Brothers Brewing Company. In 1899 they sold this highly successful business to the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, and in 1901 Michael and Wolfgang Winter, fresh from the sale of their Pittsburgh brewery, removed their residences from Pittsburgh to Orange, New Jersey in order to start construction on their new brewing venture, known as The Orange Brewing Company.
The Orange Brewery was designed by Chicago architect and engineer Oscar Beyer, and was built at a cost to Michael Winter of $350,000. It was located on the corner of Hill and Prince Streets in Orange, New Jersey on a site comprising an area of 190 by 490 feet. The main plant building was seven stories in height and constructed of brick, with roofs of tile, and trim ornamentations of blue stone. The plant and machinery were powered by electricity and steam.
Adjoining the main brew-house was the machine-house, which had a water distilling facility for ice making. The ice making factory, located at the rear of the main building, was equipped with two ice making machines…one of thirty-five tons and the other of one hundred tons capacity. There was also a bottling house on-site which was separate from the main plant building, which also housed the Business Office. Daily operations at the brewery were capably handled by Mr. William F. Wurster, the Superintendent of the brewery. He was from Stuttgart, Germany and had previously served as the President of the United States Brewmasters Association. The plant capacity was 100,000 barrels-per-year, with much of the finished product being shipped throughout the region by railcar. The enterprise produced a Pilsener Beer, an Ale, a Porter style beer, and also brews named Wurzburger and Export Beer. Perhaps there were also some other varieties, but this has yet to be determined. The product was available in many local Essex County area pubs and taverns, as well as bottled delivery by horse-draw wagons (and later by motor truck) to one’s own front doorstep.
The Orange Brewery Trade Mark logo of "Purity and Strength" was displayed visually as a delicate flower (representing purity) encircled by a chain link (representing strength). This logo can be found on bottles, trays, beer labels, and other advertising.
This 1916 photograph taken outside of the brewery displays barrels and case loads of bottled beer ready for local delivery. With talk of Prohibition and the temperance movement gaining momentum in America, Michael Winter makes an obvious political statement to the contrary with signage on his trucks to those who would propose to do away with the consumption of alcohol and spirits: "Beer Is The Best Temperance Drink In The World". However, the advent of prohibition effectively ended the brewing careers of the Winter brothers as beer barons, and their brewing operation at the Orange Brewery ceased by late 1919. It was a short run of less than 20 years for their pre-prohibition enterprise.
During the 'dry' years in the 1920’s, the Winters for a while utilized the Orange Brewery for the production of soda water and syrup type drinks. They manufactured a champagne-like, fruit flavored, carbonated soft drink beverage known as Jo-La Cola. Also during this period they formed a corporation known as The Sugola Company of New Jersey, which was an enterprise involved with (through the brewing process) converting starches to glucose in order to produce a byproduct that served as a food additive with properties that were similar to sugar. After the death of Wolfgang Winter in 1922, Michael Winter continued these ventures along with his son Frank W. Winter for a short period of time, but eventually retired and sold the Orange Brewery to new owners in about 1925. Several other businesses, including a laundry, eventually occupied the former beer plant.
In October of 1927, twelve men, including the then current owners of the Orange Brewery, were indicted on charges that alcohol was being illegally distilled and manufactured on a wholesale basis from the facility from at least January 1 of that year up until it was raided by Federal Agents on June 21st. The illegal product was being shipped in car load lots to destinations as far away as Kansas City in containers marked as "paint", "oils", and "boiler compound". Molasses, so distilled into alcohol, was being shipped in railroad tank cars.
As President Roosevelt repealed the prohibition laws in 1933, the demand for beer skyrocketed. C. D. Williams, then Secretary of the United States Brewers Association, stated that "Contrary to many dire prophecies, legal beer has come back into its own without disorder and with general acceptance from all classes of people, including women and the younger generation. It is popular; it is the smart thing to drink."
In response to this overwhelming demand, on April 12, 1933 the Orange Brewery was purchased from then owners John F. Monahan and Frank J. McCann by John F. Trommers Breweries of Brooklyn, New York at a reported cost of $700,000. The Trommers company then made $400,000 in immediate plant renovations over the next 90 days, increasing capacity at the Orange Brewery to 300,000 barrels per year.
-----View after the Trommers improvements, c. 1935-----
The Trommers company continued to brew beer at the Orange location under their brand throughout the 1930's and 1940's. In November, 1950 the facility was then sold by Trommers to Liebmann Breweries, Inc. of New York, which bottled Rheingold Beer at the Orange facility up until the 1970's. By that point in time, sagging sales and industry competition had eventually hurt the Rheingold brand, and the company announced plans to shut down and cease all operations in early January 1974. However, the brand was rescued when just a few months later the entire Rheingold brewing operation and the old Orange Brewery was purchased by the Chock Full 'o Nuts Corporation, as a means of diversifying their corporate holdings.
It took less than four years for the new owner to learn what the previous one already knew, and after continued weak sales of Rheingold Beer, an agreement was signed by Chock Full 'o Nuts Corporation on October 7, 1977 to sell the Orange plant and Rheingold operations to the Christian Schmidt Brewing Company of Philadelphia, brewers of Knickerbocker and Gablinger brand beer.
Schmidt utilized the facility for only a couple of years, and closed it for good by 1980. The plant has since been completely demolished, and only the story remains of the Orange Brewery and its life of 78 years.
--------Demolition begins at the Orange Brewery, c. 1980--------
Have you any information about, or items pertaining to The Orange Brewery,
which was built and owned by our Winter family ancestors?