Drinking To Our Forefathers

October 26, 2010

I attended the 1st annual Beer Barons to Homebrewers cemetery tour and homebrew competition last weekend. I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. There were probably 60 attendees who gathered on the grounds of the historic West Laurel Hill Cemetery on an absolutely gorgeous fall day. We gathered around the mausoleums of the great Philadelphia brewing clans as Rich Wagner filled us in on the history of each brewer as we sipped pre-prohibition style home-brewed beer.

We walked from grave to grave, then assembled on the veranda for a German-style buffet and more beer. A few of the big names in the philly beer scene (including Joe Sixpack) judged the entries as we ate and mingled, then we were given a nice pint glass and sent on our way. It was quite a success that will surely become a yearly tradition.

The John F. Betz mausoleum, the largest in Laurel Hill. The thing is larger than my house. Seriously. Betz owned breweries in both Manhattan and Philadelphia. He owned a beer garden on the Schuylkill River and put in a line of little steamboats to carry his patrons up the river from Fairmount Dam. Betz also brewed an IPA at the turn of the century, making him the true craft beer revolutionist.

Above is Frederick Poth‘s mausoleum. Poth only owned the second-largest brewery in Brewerytown at STILL managed to produce almost 200,000 barrels of beer a year. He dabbled in real estate as did Betz and was the developer who built the lovely mansions along Parkside Avenue once overlooking the Centennial Exposition grounds in West Philly.

I didn’t get a picture of Gottfried Binder‘s grave, but above is the house he died in, located at 23rd & Poplar Street. I snapped the picture on my way home since I live on Poplar Street and his house is a mere 2 blocks away from me!

The Louis Bergdoll burial site. His beautiful brewery complex at 29th & Parrish Sts. was saved from the wrecking ball by condos.


The homebrew judges.

The John Hohenadel mausoleum.

“John F. Betz” doors.

Not a brewer, but maybe an ancestor of mine? It’s doubtful since previous generations were all farmers.

This is the Grandson of Charles Bergner. Not a very large headstone for one of the largest and most well-known brewers in the country.



  1. Interesting. Can you give Me more information about this tour? My daughter is writing a college paper on Phila breweries before prohibition. Thanks!

  2. I just purchased a large copper and brass beer stein made in the period of 1880-1920 that was engraved “Gottfried Binder from George F. Ott”.

    I am willing to bet that the Gottfried Binder is the owner of the Brewery that was mentioned in this article. There are two mentions of a “George F. Ott” that could match up with this stein.

    One is a George F. Ott that owned a copper and brass foundry in Philadelphia in the period of 1898 (I found a notice of a fire with 100,000 dollars in damages mentioned in a paper). The stein could be a gift from one friend to a brewer (and/or customer), showing off his expertise in copper and brass (both useful in a brewery).

    The second is a George F. Ott that owned the Deer Park Brew Co. in Port Jarvis, N.Y., so the gift could be from one brewery owner to another.

    And it could also be that the “two Georges” are one and the same, with Mr. Ott branching out, as Port Jarvis is not *that* far from Philadelphia.

    Does anyone know if the “two Georges” are indeed one and the same?



    • I will answer my own post. I later found out that George F. Ott, the owner of the copper and brass foundry in Philadelphia had done a lot of work for the Deer Park Brewery in Port Jarvis.

      When the Deer Park Brewery started having financial trouble, its creditors took it over and elected George to be its president. He apparently did a good job of that, and the brewery continued on for a while until George’s wife died and George relinquished his presidency.

      Prohibition did not create a deathknell for Deer Park, but it certainly made it go downhill, and today the Deer Park Brewery no longer exists.

      • Hi, I just discovered this post. George F. Ott is my great great grandfather! I was wondering if you would consider ever selling that stein and if so, what would you want for it? Thanks.

  3. […] a king, building mansions in the city and suburbs. One of his estates featured a roller coaster. His giant, domed mausoleum is among the most magnificent at West Laurel Hill […]

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