William (Wilhelm) Feller came to the city of Bellaire in 1903. A native German, he had come to the U. S. at the age of seventeen, living first in Cincinnati, then in Zanesville. There he first entered the brewing field before moving south to become a major force behind the creation of the Marietta Brewing Company in 1898. Now he had his eye on the beer drinkers of another industrial Ohio River town, in a larger metropolitan area which would allow much more growth potential for a new company. Thus the Bellaire Brewing Company was born in late 1903, with an initial capital stock of $85,000.
Feller became the company's first and only president, with Conrad Rumbach as vice-president, and Charles W. Rodewig as secretary and treasurer. Other directors included Charles R. Powell, Sebastian Wimmer, John B. Watt, and Emil Schmidt. Rumbach was a native of Switzerland, born in 1849, who was proprietor of the Germania Saloon (which also offered its patrons a billiard parlor, ten-pin alley, and beer garden) and also was vice-president of the local Dollar Savings Bank. Watt and Schmidt were proprietors of hotels in the city.
Construction soon began on a new state of the art brewery, located at the southwest corner of Hamilton and 32nd Streets, on a hillside and along a main line of railroad tracks. The company's first brew was sold to the public in 1904, and soon after this the directors' optimism led to an increase of the company's capital stock to $110,000. Various additions to the plant would occur over the next fifteen years, including an enlargement of the ice house which increased its daily capacity to sixty tons.
The company's directors remained largely unchanged over the years, with two exceptions: Rumbach died in 1912 after slipping on icy pavement, fracturing a hip, and subsequently developing pneumonia. Wimmer became the company's new vice-president after this. In 1914, William Schneider became the new brewmaster, having formerly been associated with the Portsmouth Brewing & Ice Co. in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Production continued through November 1918, when postwar Prohibition brought an end to all brewing operations. Remaining beer continued to be sold until May 1919, when all sales in the state of Ohio came to a halt. After this, the company reorganized as the Bellaire Beverage Company, for the production of cereal beverages and eight different flavors of soda pop. This continued until 1924, when the doors closed, the equipment was liquidated and the building was sold for $20,000 to the First National Bank of Bellaire.
The plant remained essentially empty until March 1936, nearly three years after the end of Prohibition. At that time it was purchased for $1.00 by a new group, to be known as The Matz Brewing Company, with the stipulation that the company would pay all real estate taxes due on the building. William Matz had previously been the brewmaster of the Belmont Brewing Co. and Belmont Products Co., and he now became the new company's president, treasurer, and brewmaster. Vice-president was Albert W. Eick, who had been the president of the Belmont Products Co. C. F. Neugart was the secretary, and P. A. Bower was the plant's chief engineer.
New brewing and bottling equipment was installed, giving the plant an annual capacity of 35,000 barrels (later increased to 40,000 barrels), although this made it one of the region's smallest breweries of the era. Matz took a more žold fashionedÓ approach to brewing, refusing to use any additives or to use inexpensive ingredients, even if it meant a lower level of production. When the brewery officially opened on September 19, 1936, the new anchor brand was Matz Olden Time Beer, although later would come the introduction of '84 Pilsener Beer, Directors' Reserve Beer, 1884 Golden Ale (originally made several miles north in Martins Ferry, the brand name was continued by Matz after the Belmont Brewing Co. closed in 1940), and a number of seasonal beers as well, including Matz Bock Beer, released each year on St. Patrick's Day. To advertise the release of the bock beer in 1939, a float was driven around the area throughout the entire week, topped with a small beer wagon and two live goats.
Despite temporary grain rationing during World War II, production continued through 1953, after which the brewery closed for good, another victim of industry com-petition. In fact, at the time of its closing, the Matz Brewing Co. was the last operating brewery in the upper Ohio River Valley, out of nearly thirty that had operated through the years between Marietta and Pittsburgh. The plant was later used for storage purposes, and eventually was razed completely. An apartment complex stands at the site today.
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