Tracing its origins back to 1878, the Neuweiler Brewery complex was completed in 1913. Owned and operated by the Neuweiler family, with patriarch Louis at its head, the brewery annually produced over 300,000 barrels of beer and ale at its peak. It survived the Prohibition era by converting its production facilities from beer to soda and expanded its operations shortly after World War II. However, it could not compete with the growing number of national breweries and produced its last beer in 1968. Sections of its multi-building complex were used by other companies, but most of it remained largely abandoned for decades. As of writing, the old brewery has been purchased and talks of converting it to a multi-use facility are in progress. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Backstory and Context
What was to become the Neuweiler Brewery began as the Germania Brewery which was founded in 1878 by Benedict Nuding at the rear of his hotel along 7th Street. In 1891, Louis Neuweiler partnered with Nuding and the name was changed to Nuding-Neuweiler Brewing. This arrangement lasted until Neuweiler bought out Nuding in 1901 and brought his two sons, Louis Jr and Charles, into the business. By 1910, the Neuweiler family decided they needed a new, self-contained brewing facility to maximize production and meet the growing demand. To that end, they purchased a 4.5-acre plot at the corner of Front and Gordon Streets and construction began in 1911.
The Neuweilers employed the Philadelphia architectural firm of Peukert and Wunder and a granite and brick office building topped by a rooftop copper cupola was the first building completed. A brew house, stock house, pump house, laboratory building, bottling house, boiler room, fermenting cellar and tall smokestack soon followed. It generated its own electricity, steam heat and pumped water from an underground lake 900 feet below the surface. It used that pure water to brew various beers and ales to include light lager, cream ale, bock, and stout among others.
The brewery complex and production levels expanded over the years and it survived Prohibition by converting production over to soda until 1933. It also was one of the early breweries in the country to begin using cans in 1935. The brewery remained profitable into the 1950s. However, as the 1960s dawned, Neuweiler began to lose market share to the growing national breweries such as Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, and Schlitz. Neuweiler limped along until it was forced to seek debt relief when it filed for bankruptcy in 1967. Unfortunately, bankruptcy was unable to save the brewery and it ceased production on May 31, 1968.
Since its closure, the complex has remained largely abandoned with Mack Trucks using one of the buildings for storage in the 1980s and a herbicide, pesticide and detergent company using a section of it during the 1990s. Recently, the complex was purchased by Brewers Hill Development Group, a branch of Ruckus Marketing, for $1.7 million in 2014 after it had come under the perview of Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone. The initial plans to spend $30 million to create mixed-use retail and commercial buildings, a brew pub and office space have since been scaled back. In 2017, renovation work was done on the old bottling house with hopes to use it for office or light industrial use. As of late 2018, the future of what remains of the old Neuweiler Brewery remains very much in doubt.
Hojsak, David. "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form." United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. March, 1980. Accessed October 30, 2018. http://www.dot7.state.pa.us/CRGIS_Attachments/SiteResource/H000748_02H.pdf
Wagaman, Andrew. "Neuweiler Brewery developers looking for tenants after renovation." Allentown Morning Call. November 10, 2017. Accessed October 30, 2018. http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-biz-neuweiler-brewery-update-20171106-story.html
Pedersen, Brian. "Work begins on redeveloping former Allentown brewery into commercial space." Lehigh Valley Business. September 11, 2017. Accessed October 30, 2018. http://www.lvb.com/article/20170911/LVB01/170919986/work-begins-on-redeveloping-former-allentown-brewery-into-commercial-space
Brill, Douglas. "Ruckus Brewing Co. plans to take over Allentown's Neuweiler Brewery." Lehigh Valley Live. January 2, 2013. Accessed October 30, 2018. https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2013/01/neuweiler_brewery_ruckus_allen.html