Schmulbach Beer

Henry Episode 2 Recap: Saloons of Wheeling

Today, saloons are relics of the past, appearing in ghost towns and Western movies.  But did you know that at one point in time there were 199 licensed saloons in Wheeling, with over 100 of those on Main Street alone? In episode two of Henry, “An Uncommon Brewer”, we learn more about the culture of beer, brewing and recreation in Wheeling during the 19th century. Wheeling was first a frontier town and, later, a center of industry and manufacturing, both of which contributed to Wheeling’s reputation as rough and tumble. Henry Schmulbach and his brewery were a key part of this atmosphere in Wheeling.

LISTEN NOW: Henry, Episode 2 – An Uncommon Brewer

Beer enthusiasts today may be excited to learn that, during Schmulbach’s era, beer was touted as medicinal, with an ad describing it as a “healthful tonic” that was “good for the general health.” Advertisements even had different beers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why was beer such a popular drink? Since water was not filtrated at the time, it made it dangerous to drink. Beer, on the other hand, was pasteurized, making it a safer beverage option – and the brewing industry in Wheeling certainly grew to meet this need for a safe drink. When Schmulbach took over what was then known as Nail City Brewing Company, they were brewing 5,000-6,000 barrels a year. That number quickly grew to 50,000, and then as high as 200,000 barrels a year at Schmulbach’s peak. While these barrels were exported all across the region, plenty of them remained in Wheeling to quench the thirsts of Wheelingites.

Schmulbach Beer


But Schmulbach was not the only brewer in Wheeling. In this episode, we learned more about his friendly rivalry with Anton Reymann. While Schmulbach was an excellent businessman and grew his brewery to become the most successful in the state, Reymann was an expert brewer.  Like Schmulbach, Reymann was innovative.  Of the two, Reymann was the first to come up with the idea to create a park to promote recreation, and, of course, his own beer. Today, Wheeling Park is home to a swimming pool, lake, golf course, ice rink, and more. But did you know that it started out as a beer garden? Anton Reymann owned the land that we now know as Wheeling Park, and he operated it as a beer garden that served Reymann beer and an amusement park with a rollercoaster and a casino.

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Wheeling Park Refreshment Garden


Just like his rival, Schmulbach decided to create a park. He wanted his park to be closer to his brewery, and so he created Mozart Park on a hill above South Wheeling. The park sold Schmulbach beer, and it had many attractions. For instance, the steep hill of Mozart Park meant it had an incline railway to take visitors up the hill to the park. Another unique attraction was a zoo. Beyond consuming Schmulbach beer, guests at Mozart Park once memorably ate a bear.  The bear had been part of the zoo but became a nuisance so tickets were sold to a bear feast. After all, Schmulbach was certainly creative!

Mozart Park Incline


It was fascinating to learn about the different cultures of Wheeling during this era, and the ways that manifested such as a beer garden where Wheeling Park now stands. If you are interested in that, be sure to listen to Episode 3 – Murder Out the Pike, which discusses Henry’s involvement in a murder based around saloons along National Road, including one on the current site of Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church.

If you are thirsty for more about Henry Schmulbach, check out this bonus video! In this episode, Betsy Sweeny and Ryan Stanton gave a tour of the buildings that once comprised Schmulbach Brewery. This week’s behind-the-scenes footage is from a public walking tour of these same sites. If you feel inspired after watching this video, you can visit the buildings yourself! Download Wheeling Heritage’s self-guided tour of the Schmulbach Brewery Complex and let the adventure begin! Be sure to keep a lookout for some of the details mentioned in the podcast and video, like the Schmulbach Brewing Company logo.

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Katherine Leary is a summer intern at Wheeling Heritage. She is from Wheeling and is currently a senior at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts studying History.