Marietta's longest-lasting brewing establishment was located at 613 2nd Street, at the northwest corner of St. Clair Street. Originally known as the Union Brewery, it was built in 1866 by Christian Held. In May 1868, however, the plant was sold for $2,500 to Martin Seamon (aka Seeman), who then sold it seven months later to George M. Kestel for the sum of $5,600. Kestel continued production of lager beer through 1876.
Kestel accepted assignment in 1875 to protect himself from his creditors. The brewery was then sold at auction in January 1876, to brothers Fidel and William Rapp, for $6,000. One year later, they sold the plant to John Schneider. Brewing operations appear to have continued throughout this period, with annual production as high as 2,000 barrels. Success was brief, however, as Schneider had died by 1884, with management being assumed by his wife, Elizabeth, and sons Charles & Martin. Production at the small plant continued through 1890, when brewing operations ceased. The Schneider brothers became saloon owners after this, while the brewery stood idle.
In November 1898, the empty Union Brewery was purchased by a three-man group, William Feller & Co., which consisted of Feller, August V. Kuehn (both formerly in-volved with the Riverside Brewing Company of Zanesville), and Jacob Epple, all three German immigrants. They invested a great deal of money into the plant to bring it up to the standards of the day, including the addition of an ice plant, bottling house, and other machinery.
Renamed as the Marietta Brewery, the plant was employing 20 men, as its capacity had been greatly increased to 15,000 barrels per year, although generally its production was only half to two-thirds of that. The icehouse could produce up to 15 tons a day, while the bottling equipment could fill up to 500 dozen bottles of export beer per day. All of this machinery was powered by an 80 horsepower engine. The plant itself (somewhat outdated by the standards of the time) consisted of a series of two-story buildings, mostly of wooden frame.
By 1903, Feller had sold his interest to the other two men and moved north to Bellaire, Ohio, where he became a driving force behind the creation of the new Bellaire Brewing Company. Reincorporated as the Marietta Brewing Company in that year, with a capital stock of $60,000, the plant was then led by Kuehn as president, with Epple as vice-president, and Kuehn's son George as secretary and treasurer. The brewery's products were sold primarily in town and in the surrounding rural areas, as well as along the Ohio River, as Marietta re-mained a primary port for steamboats well into the 1900s.
After the Rose Law was passed in 1908, Washington County went dry the following year, forcing the company to shut down and temporarily sell its facility to the Crystal Ice Co. However, despite the county remaining dry, beer production resumed in 1911 with products shipped to Parkersburg, WV., thirteen miles down the Ohio River, for distribution. By the next year, Washington County was once again wet and production resumed at its earlier level. George Kuehn succeeded his father as company president when the latter died in 1913 at the age of 64, due to "rheumatism and gout", according to local reports.
Production continued until Prohibition arrived in 1919, after which a brief attempt was made to brew cereal beverages. The company had closed by 1924, however, after which the plant operated as the local Whistle soft drink bottling plant. This continued through the end of Prohibition.
In 1933, after Repeal, a brief attempt was made to revive the Marietta Brewing Company, but no production ever took place. However, another attempt was made, with the name American Brewery Co., which lasted through 1935. It was located in one of the smaller buildings in the brewery complex, with Elmer Epple, Jacob's son, as brewmaster, and T. L. Archer as manager. Minnie Epple, Jacob's widow, continued to live in this building throughout this period. It appears that no actual beer production took place, however. By 1937, this same location was occupied by the Covert Baking Company, which, oddly enough, was listed in the city directory as a beer distributor, not a bakery. This company was gone by the onset of World War II.
The main brewhouse was razed in the 1940's, and the site was occupied by a service station. That building was later removed, and a medical office building now stands at the site. Two of the smaller buildings in the complex, including the bottling plant, remained standing until 1999, when they were razed for an addition to the office building.
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