© 2017 Butler County Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.

Butler Independent Brewing Company

1903-1912 and 1918-1920

Artist:  Aaron Taylor

Sponsored by:  Debra Brown

Building Owner:  Butler Brew Works

Mural located at 101 South Main Street, Butler, PA

Walldog Organizer: Scott "Cornbread" Lindley

2016 Butler Brush-Up hosted by the Butler County Historical Society

In the latter years of the 19th century brewing emerged as a significant industry.  After the Civil War there was widespread immigration to the United States from Britain, Ireland, and Germany, strong beer drinking countries.  It was during these years that beer emerged as the nation’s dominant alcoholic drink. 

With the industrialization and urbanization during these years many workers in the mining and manufacturing sectors drank beer during and after work.  Workers began to receive higher wages and salaries, enabling them to buy more beer.  As members of the temperance movement advocated lower alcohol beer over high alcohol spirits such as rum or whiskey it benefited the sales of beer.

With improvements in artificial refrigeration, brewers were able to brew during warm summers and new styles of beer were created.  Pasteurization, developed by Louis Pasteur helped extend the shelf life of packaged beer which made storage and transportation more reliable.

In the 1800s, beers brewed in the United States were usually British-style ale.  Ales are brewed with top fermenting yeasts that range from light pale ales to porters and chocolate-colored stouts.  As the century progressed, the brewers began brewing lager beer that continental European countries and Germany made popular.  Lagers require a longer maturation period, using a bottom fermenting yeast and temperatures must be closely controlled, requiring a lot of attention and care from brewers.  By 1900, lagers outsold ales by a significant margin and lager production soared.

The beer market had greatly transformed by 1900 and had grown into one of the leading manufacturing industries in America.  In 1865 the per capita consumption in gallons was 3.4.  By 1900, it had grown to 16 gallons per person.  While the population had risen, the increase in the per capita consumption rose dramatically.

Through the 1880s, breweries in the United States were mostly small scale, local operations.  At this time companies like the Pabst Brewing Company in Milwaukee and Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis had become nationally-oriented and also the first to surpass one million barrels annually.

Our nation’s growing railroad system allowed these large breweries to distribute their beer to distant beer markets.  These large breweries became known as “shipping” breweries.  They became very powerful, but still did not control the pre-Prohibition market for beer. 

After the Civil War and before national prohibition, the beer production and consumption far outpaced spirits.  One of the best-organized political pressure groups of the day was the temperance and prohibition forces as the 19th century wore on.  Their efforts were so successful that they brought about the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 that coupled with the Volstead Act, made the production and distribution of beverages with more than one-half of one percent alcohol illegal.  Prohibition reigned for thirteen years, 1920-1933, causing estimates of beer consumption to greatly decrease, but it is thought that spirit consumption remained constant or possibly increased slightly.

The pessimists sold their holdings, often at substantial losses while other firms decided to produce related products and remain prepared in the event modifications were made to the Volstead Act, allowing for beer.  The pre-Prohibition shippers produced near beer, which was a malt beverage with one-half of one percent alcohol.  Its production allowed these companies to keep their beer-making skills current, but it was not a big commercial success.  They also had been granted special licenses by the federal government for beers with great alcohol levels for “medicinal purposes.”

Some of the shippers and local breweries made malt syrup.  It was advertised it as an ingredient for baking cookies and the companies were left alone by the government.  But it was apparent that its primary use was for homemade beer.

The breweries turned their sights towards thoughts involving investment decisions and expanded their inventories of automobiles and trucks during this time period.  They took a chance on the idea that these would become key assets after repeal.  The leading shippers also invested in bottling equipment and machinery, which they were able to use in the production of near beer, root beer, ginger ale, and other soft drinks.  While these products were not the successes that beer had been, the breweries got experience in bottling and distribution which paid off after repeal.  Distributing their products in bottles forced the breweries to change their packaging skills and practices, since 85 percent of pre-Prohibition beer was kegged.  The way they functioned with the packaging and distribution of beer after repeal was radically different than what they had experienced in the past.

By 1902 The Butler Independent Brewing Company was a branch of the Pittsburgh Independent Brewing Company that opened in Butler in 1902.  The Company was located at                                  and employed people.  Deliveries in this area were made using their horse drawn wagon. 

Eugene Schaeffer was the manager.


© 2017 Butler County Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.