Beer and Boston have lived together longer than our country's been around: The city issued its first brewing license in 1630. And they lived in wedded bliss, more or less, until Prohibition reared its buzz-harshing head in 1920. Before that, the city sported dozens of breweries making all sorts of beer styles under myriad brands, its German and Irish immigrants all too happy to imbibe. These breweries favored certain neighborhoods such as Jamaica Plain (because of the crystal springs then serving as a great water supply) and Roxbury (where the cost of land was cheap following its incorporation into Boston in 1868). Today, these production facilities have generally evolved from breweries to bedrooms, with some surviving as artists' lofts and offices as well (and at least one as a brewery). Happy St. Patrick's Day.Read More
Mapping 21 of Boston's Lost Breweries and Their Second Acts
A.J. Houghton and Co. Ale and Porter House
From 1870 to 1918, the "Vienna" brewery churned. It took over the site of the old Christian Jutz brewery, built in 1857. Their Vienna lager, concocted from a German recipe, came into favor in the 1850s and '60s and displaced the heavier English and Irish ales. This is the ONLY landmark brewery in Boston that's protected by the Boston Landmarks Commission.
Active from 1850 to 1919, the Burkhardt Brewery was one of the largest and most well-known local breweries, making both lager and ale. During the dry period, they produced cereal and other grain products. The Wentworth Institute currently owns the building.
Park Brewery Co.
Active from 1881 to 1918, they produced only Irish ales. Today, Frank's Auto Body Shop remains on the ghost of the property.
Union Brewing Co.
From 1893 to 1911, this brewery produced only German lager beer. It now houses offices.
Highland Spring Brewery
From 1867 to 1885, wonderful processes ruled this brewery, which had a little arched refrigeration building and a bottling building. The name changed to Rueter & Company, which operated as the largest ale and pottery brewery until Prohibition closed its doors in 1919. But its story continued: it became a warehouse for the Oliver Ditson Company, the music publisher. Croft Company made Croft Ale there from 1934 to 1953. One building was converted into the Rosoff Pickle factory. The Oliver Lofts Apartments stand there today.
John R. Alley Brewery
From 1886 to 1918, this brewery continued the work of Mr. Alley when he parted ways from Rueter and Alley. Chicago architect Otto Wolf designed it. It was also known as the "Eblana" brewery, because it produced the "Eblana" Irish ale. (Eblana is the Greek word for Dublin.) After Prohibition, it continued life as a Canada Dry Ginger Ale bottling plant.
American Brewing Co.
This operation had two active periods: 1891 to 1918 and 1933 to 1934. James W. Kenney owned it, and the brewmasters were all from Jamaica Plain. Architect Frederick Footman of Cambridge established it in three phases. During Prohibition, it was used as, um, a laundry. The site is currently home to housing units.
In the 1880s, J. K. Souther owned this establishment that produced Burton Ale, Bull’s Head and Special Porter. During Prohibition, it kept producing product--just of the nonalcoholic variety. They bottled a peculiar-tasting soft drink called Moxie, which even outsold Coca-Cola. The Bromley-Heath public housing development lives at the site now.
From 1895 to 1899, William G. Titcomb of Providence ran this small brewery that was also built by Frederik Footman. It closed early because of under-capitalization. Rueter & Company bought it and produced over 125,000 barrels a year. A nonprofit called Family Service of Greater Boston stands there today.
Active from 1874 to 1902, Habich “Norfolk” Brewery occupied the site of the college with the same name. Habich was the first Boston brewery to make lager beer, starting in the 1850s. Homes stand there today.
H&J Pfaff Brewery
Active from 1857 to 1918, the Pfaff Brewery was located at the present site of Roxbury Community College.
Active from 1846 to 1918 and from 1933 to 1951. Roxbury Community College stands on the grounds of this brewery as well.
Active from 1884 to 1902, the ever-present James W. Kenney bought the Robinson “Rockland” Brewery from Mr. Robinson himself. They produced Elmo Ale, named for Robinson’s son. The building later became Trimount Tool Company. Today, the building and smokestack stand, and it is now a futon factory with residential artists' lofts.
From 1912 to 1988, the architecturally beautiful brewery building was hidden from casual public view by the elevated railway obscured. (The brewery itself operated from 1894 to 1918.) On the fourth floor of the six-story building, the initials 'FPC' can be seen. Chicago architect Charles Kaestner fooled the eye with arches designed to make the building look symmetrical. They produced 40,000 barrels of ale per year, including the Triple X (XXX) Ale and Stock labels. After 1918, it became Larkin and Sons Storage Warehouse, and it’s now an Extra Space Storage facility.
We're talking to you, Sam Adams. Long before part of the site was occupied in the late 1980s by the Boston Beer Co., it was occupied by the Haffenreffer Brewery. Active from 1870 to 1964, it was the king of breweries. The 14-building complex was the last operating brewery in Boston. Haffenreffer lived next door at 21 Germania Street. After closing in 1964, it was a storage warehouse with housing for artists. Now owned by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, its tenants include several food operations—and, as of 1988, Boston Beer, maker of Sam Adams, which holds regular tours.
Bay State Brewery and Jones/Cook Brewery
In 1875, Frank Jones and partners bought the Henry Souther & Co. brewery in South Boston for $150,000. Its rate of production was over 650 barrels a day, which included an India pale ale, a pale ale, and a Porter. After a partner sold out, the brewery was renamed the Bay State brewery in 1905 and sold to the Felton family, who were major distillers of rum. In 1984, the site was converted into a major community for artists, artisans, and small businesses.
Bunker Hill Breweries Brewery
Founded in 1821 in Charlestown by John Cooper and Thomas Gould, they made Boston Club Lager, Bunker Hill Lager, Old Musty Ale, Owl Musty, Van Nostrand's Porter and PB Ale. PB stands for "purest and best, of course." And, yes, the name is really Bunker Hill Breweries Brewery. They closed in 1918, had a one year resurgence in 1933, and then the bottles ran dry. During Prohibition, they likely made "near beer" with miniscule alcohol content. (And what's the point of that?) There were bottling and production facilities around Charlestown.
West Boston Brewery
This brewery is the oldest known in Boston, operating from 1796 to 1814. Opened by Andrew Dunlop (no known relation to the tires). The address is not well-documented. Think of it as a point on the map of Boston's spirit.
Suffolk Brewing Co.
Though they were incorporated in 1875, they bottled ale and porter from 1861 to 1890. Homes sit there today.
Boston Beer Company
This brewery was chartered in 1828, making it significantly older than many other 19th century brewers. It exported barrels of its pale ale and porter to markets as far as New Orleans. It shut its doors in about 1836, and, like many operations, you will find apartment homes. But the name got a new lease on life some 150 years later: the modern-day Boston Beer, unrelated to the earlier incarnation, makes the omnipresent Samuel Adams.
J.M. Smith & Co. Brewery
This short-lived brewery operated for three scant years from 1874 to 1877. Today, you will find homes that run along nearby Malcolm X Boulevard.