The story of George Ehret & Hell Gate Brewery (1897)

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George Ehret’s Hell Gate Brewery Company

When George Ehret came from Germany to America in the year 1857, he was twenty-two years of age and already a thoroughly practical brewer. His father had preceded him five years before, having been attracted by the prospects of prosperity which the multiplied opportunities of republican America offered.

Young Mr Ehret found employment in the brewery of A Hupfel, and by his ability and strict attention to his duties soon rose to the position of foreman of the establishment. After nine years of service, with the generous assistance and hearty good will of his former employer, Mr Ehret established in 1866 what has ever since been known as Hell Gate Brewery.

He erected the first building on the same site where his colossal brewery now stands, then a picturesque rural plateau, affording an unbroken view of the swirling waters in Hell Gate Channel, the protruding rocky barriers in midstream and the wooded shores of Long Island. The dwelling-houses had not begun to crowd one upon another, and only the old Fanshaw mansion had any pretensions to architectural greatness. The second building was erected in 1871, and is still standing as the nucleus of the imposing group of buildings that form a striking feature of the picture of the city as seen from the decks of the great sound steamers that pass up and down the unobstructed channel that is now Hell Gate only in name.

Lager brew a specialty

george-ehret-portraitAlthough the brewing of malt liquors had been practiced almost from the first settlement of Manhattan Island, lager beer had not been brewed in America until the year 1842, and the methods then in vogue were very primitive as compared with the scientifically elaborate processes of today, but as new inventions and improved appliances multiplied, Mr Ehret introduced them, and as the business increased he added building after building.

He drilled an artesian well through 700 feet of solid rock to secure an adequate supply of pure water, and it yields 50,000 gallons a day; he built a pumping station on East River capable of furnishing 1,000,000 gallons of salt water a day for condensing purposes.

He was one of the first brewers in the country to apply the process of artificial ice-making and refrigeration to that business, and in every way has kept fully abreast of the times in the development and conduct of his steadily increasing business. That increase has been in a ratio much more rapid than that of malt liquor production all over the United States, for while in the twenty years from 1871 to 1890, the total production increased a little less than 400 percent, the output of the Hell Gate Brewery increased over 1200 percent. And the prestige thus established seems to be steadily maintained as the years go on.

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A loyal American citizen

George Ehret is a typical representative of that large German-American element in the population of New York, who, while preserving and reverencing the traditions of their native land, are yet thoroughly in sympathy with the republican institutions of the land of their adoption. They are loyal to their citizenship, and in all their municipal relationships are entirely devoted to the good of the Commonwealth.

>> Read more about George Ehret: Finding a piece of the past: PJ Clarke’s in NYC

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