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Stegmaier Brewing Co.

Charles Stegmaier was born on October 7, 1821 in Wurtenberg, Germany where he would later learn the art of brewing beer. He worked in several local breweries in Wurtenberg until the age of 27 when he set sail for America. He quickly found a job working in the small Corporation Brewery in Philadelphia. Soon after he worked with the Louis Berdoll brewery where he met John Reichard of the Reichard & Weaver brewery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1851. Charles and John formed a partnership and produced the first lager beer in that section of the state. This partnership did not last however. That same year, Charles married Catharine Baer who was the daughter of George C. Baer. A few years later Charles would accept a position at the George Laurer brewery in Pottsville.

In 1857, Charles Stegmaier moved back to Wilkes-Barre. Once there he formed a partnership with his father-in-law George Baer and built a small brewery on South Canal Street where he brewed beer in a wooden kettle and stored it in an abandoned coal mine under the building. In order to expand their operation they built a new brewery, complete with underground vaults, on East Market Street. The new brewery opened in 1863 but would close just 10 years later.

Charles needed to find work to support his family so he operated a hotel for two years until he was able to purchase the Joel Bowkley brewery on North River Street. He formed a new partnership with his son Christian and they were finally able to raise the funds necessary to buy back the Baer and Stegmaier brewery in 1880. The business continued to grow and they expanded further by building a new brew house and storage facility in 1894. This increased their yearly output to 300,000 barrels.

The business was doing very well by this point and in 1897 Charles and Christian would incorporate as the Stegmaier Brewing Co. Charles stepped down from being the company’s manager in 1902 letting Christian take the helm along with his other sons Fred and George. Within the community the Stegmaier family was well known for their charity, as they contributed a lot to the development of Wilkes-Barre.

In 1910 and 1913, Stegmaier Brewing Co. won eight gold medals in Paris, Brussels and Rome. After the end of prohibition it was one of the largest independent breweries in all of North America. At it’s peak, Stegmaier was producing half a million barrels a year and used the rail lines of Wilkes-Barre along with a fleet of 60 trucks to distribute its beer. Stegmaier beer could be purchased all along the East Coast of the U.S.

The Stegmaier Brewing Co. saw many years of success before they closed their doors in October of 1974 when a sudden announcement of the sale of the company to another local brewery, Lion, Inc., was made by Edward R. Maier. Edward was the great grandson of Charles Stegmaier. The announcement was a surprise to the workers at Stegmaier Brewing Co. The company had always been a family owned business and was well respected by it’s employees. Many of the employee’s parents and grandparents had worked in the brewery. After the sale to Lion, Inc., which was Stegmaier’s closest competitor, about 50 employees were hired, including Edward Maier who stayed on as Executive Vice President. The remaining 150 lost their jobs.

Since 1974 the old Stegmaier Brewing Co. building sat vacant. During the 1990s, Wilkes-Barre city council voted to have the building torn down but it was later saved by a federal project to take over the building. On February 17, 1998 the Stegmaier Federal Building opened as an office building for the U.S. Post Office and other federal programs. The building was restored and preserved as one of Wilkes-Barre’s most significant historic landmarks.

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