Americans are known for enjoying many things –sporting events, carnivals, a good burger and a tall, cold pint of beer. While interest in craft beer has been on a steady rise for years, brewing was once a booming industry here in Wheeling and the tradition lives on today. It is easy to understand why beer is the go-to beverage for so many. It is refreshing, communal, and there’s a flavor for even the pickiest drinkers. With April 7 being National Beer Day, it seems appropriate to take a look back at the history of the brewing industry and, most importantly, where you can raise a glass to celebrate!
HOPS, BREWS AND HISTORY
The origins of why we celebrate National Beer Day dates back to 1933. That is right… Prohibition. While Prohibition was still alive in the United States leading up to its dismantlement in December of that year, there was much preparation leading up to that point.
It was widely known that alcohol consumption had been not only active during Prohibition, but had drastically risen. Between bootlegging and speakeasies, drinking had become somewhat of a mischievous sport.
While Prohibition was still active, it began to see its demise in February of 1933. The United States Congress proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would end Prohibition. Just one month after this proposition, newly-elected president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed the Cullen-Harrison Act.
This legalized the manufacturing and sale of certain alcoholic beverages in the United States. From this point forward, Prohibition began to falter with the majority of Americans pushing for its removal.
Come April 7, 1933, the Cullen-Harrison Act went into action, forever allowing beer sales in the United States. While Prohibition didn’t officially end until December 5, 1933, beer was ahead of the game thanks to the American people and their love of this crafted libation.
While beer became legal once again for consumption, local breweries such as Schmulbach Brewing Co. and Reymann wouldn’t return to the Friendly City.
Frederick Ziegler founded the Schmulbach Brewing Co. in 1855, originally known as Nail City Brewery. Henry Schmulbach, a German brewer, and a stock company he worked in conjunction with then took over the brewery in 1873. The stock company put master brewer Ernst Irion in charge who at the time was a very sought-after brewer and held in high regard. Schmulbach became the majority owner in 1881 and shortly thereafter changed the brewery’s name to match his position with the company.
The brewery did very well up until 1914 when state prohibition laws would permanently shut down the Schmulbach Brewing Co. However, Schmulbach left his mark on Wheeling long after his death. Several locations in Wheeling are now on the Historic Registry thanks to Schmulbach, including the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building and a row of Victorian houses in North Wheeling.
According to Wheeling Heritage’s podcast titled Henry, he was also heavily involved with the community in many aspects of its growth and politics. Schmulbach worked and lived in Wheeling until his death, proving his love for the city and not just its brewery prospects.
George Reymann also felt the harsh slap of Prohibition. Reymann’s son, Anton, built the Reymann Brewery in 1865 in East Wheeling with his father. This brewery grew to be the most extensive in the state of West Virginia. Exactly like the Schmulbach Brewing Co., Reymann and his son shut down operations after Prohibition went into effect in the state of West Virginia.
CANS, TAPS AND MODERN-DAY BREWING
While Reymann and Schmulbach fell on hard times in the early 1900s, Wheeling’s brewing business is bustling today, even through the current pandemic.
Wheeling Brewing Company is one of several local breweries in the Ohio Valley and is located in the Center Market Historic District.
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Jimmy Schulte is the co-owner, manager and brewer of Wheeling Brewing Company. Schulte has taken this past year as an opportunity to look at the past and pay homage to the brewers who created roots for the beer community in Wheeling.
“Wheeling has had almost 40 some breweries in its history. We opened in 2011 and moved down here to Centre Market,” said Schulte.
“We make all the beer in-house. The beer is brewed and served here on site. We always have different things we release.”
While Wheeling Brewing Company isn’t releasing a specific beer for National Beer Day, they have several beverages on their tap list, many of which pay homage to Wheeling’s present and the past.
“One of our beers is the Reymann Ale, which is us paying homage to that local brewery,” said Schulte. “Moon Dog or Nail City — they’re our original brews. Moon Dog is hoppy and easy to drink and it’s an IPA. Nail City is paying another homage to the city. It’s dark and heavy and goes well with almost anything.”
While Moon Dog and Nail City are local staples of the area — and also Schulte’s favorite brews — Schulte’s knows all too well that whichever beer you choose, it’s about who you are drinking it with.
“Beer is what they call the drink of civilization. Anytime there’s a big city, they had to boil the water to drink it and beer could be created with that. That’s a big part of why beer is something that brings people together. It has allowed people to come together and enjoy something for a long time,” said Schulte.
Schulte also says beer brings people together, even in ways we cannot see. Relationships are created through community by working with local vendors and farmers.
“Our uniqueness is done by using local items to make our food and make sure our grain is American grown. And then we make sure that we get those to farmers to feed their livestock and we buy that product back from those farmers,” said Schulte.
Some beer options at Wheeling Brewing Company include the Moon Dog IPA, Nail City Porter, Panhandle Pale Ale, Old Reymann’s Amber Ale, Weelunk Blonde Ale (Hey! That’s us!), Wheeling Withier and many more!
TIME, FEELING AND PLACE
Kevin Ayers, owner and brewer of Brew Keepers, believes that his craft is unique, but for a different set of reasons.“We aren’t special. No more special than anyone else. We are unique. Just like all other forms of arts or crafts,” said Ayers.
“Everyone has their niche. And each are worth the attempt to perfect and to be shared and enjoyed by anyone who is willing to explore or be adventurous. We just work extremely hard and are meticulous about everything we do and want to share that with others. Take them on a journey.”
Ayers believes this community opens the door to more than just conversation. “It’s an avenue to celebrate and to mourn, to think and to share, to ponder and to reminisce… Beer is about a mood, a feel, a time, a place.”
When asked what his favorite brew is at Brew Keepers, he simply could not choose, as many of us can relate.
“Not to sound cliche, but all of them (are my favorite). It changes daily, weekly, monthly. With temperatures, food, environment and much, much more. There are so many factors that go into each and every choice.”
A few beer options at Brew Keepers include Ye Ole Ale, Suspension, Topper Gold, Deathwind, Flip Flop, Heritage Porter, Irish Pirate, CitRye-PA, Highlander and many more! Loads of locally named beers to really get in the spirit of Beer Day in Wheeling.
Wherever you choose to celebrate National Beer Day, have fun, have good conversation and be safe!
• With a background in journalism and being a true Wheeling native, Jessica Broverman was destined to work with Weelunk. She holds a degree in journalism with a minor in criminal justice and works with Williams Lea Tag as a legal proofreader. When she isn’t typing away for Weelunk or WLT, she is enjoying a coffee at one of her many favorite spots in Wheeling, spending time with friends, or having fun with her husband Zachary and their two cats, Proctor and Max.