A long-gone brewery in Staten Island

When you think of New York’s beer-brewing past, Bushwick—the once German neighborhood home to a dozen breweries in the 19th century—probably comes to mind. 

But Staten Island? Yep, the borough had a beer-making industry of its own, thanks to the fresh springs there.

One was the Rubsam & Horrmann Brewing Company, in the town of Stapleton (photo from the NYPL).

Was R&H beer-ale any good? I haven’t found anyone who recalls trying it.

But I did find some history. Launched in 1870 by two German immigrants, R&H switched to near-beer during prohibition before going back to the good stuff in the 1930s.

By 1953, R&H was bought out by the Piels company, which had its own brewery in East New York. Piels closed the R&H plant and the brand entirely a decade later.

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70 Responses to “A long-gone brewery in Staten Island”

  1. Josie Says:

    I remember looking down on the remains of these buildings from the old 103 Hylan Boulevard bus in the early 1960s. About 15 minutes into its 45 minute trek from St. George to Tottenville at the southern tip of Staten Island, the bus would pull up out of Stapleton onto Hylan Boulevard and on to a slightly elevated vantage point that afforded a good view of the old brewery.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I wish I had a better photo. I imagine the brewery buildings were bulldozed decades ago.

  3. Taryn Says:

    The buildings were demolished sometime in the early 2000′s to make way for townhouses.
    They sat at the intersection of Broad St. and Vanduzer St. For many years, a bar called The Caves operated out of the old brewery. Fun place, crazy times.

    • romanhead Says:

      I bet these were the beer caves behind Demyan’s Hofbrau. when i was in the delta nu fraternity at wagner in the 1960′s we opened these caves up as the owners were honorary brothers and fond of we young lunatics and we had some of the greatest parties ever in them.

  4. New Long Candle Forex Trading. | ForexPublic.com Says:

    [...] A long-gone brewery in Staten Island « Ephemeral New York [...]

  5. Guinness and St. Patrick's Day: The perfect marriage | GDS Publishing | Daily Etrend News Says:

    [...] A long-gone brewery in Staten Island « Ephemeral New York [...]

  6. Joan LaHara Says:

    Hi, I appreciate your time for answering my question. I found a bottle on the beach and I was wondering if you could tell me how old it is. It is a 12 1/2 oz green bottle. It has the letters R & H on one side and on the other it has an emblem with a crown. Around the bottom rim it says Rubsam & Horrmann Brewing Co New York.

    I tried to research it myself but had no luck. I really appreciate your time.

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    I really don’t know, especially without looking at it . . . all I can say is it dates between 1870 and 1963.

  8. L. Court Says:

    Hi, I too have a beer bottle. Green, maybe 10/12 oz., wire holding a cermamic top. Bottle and top have Rubsam and Horrmann Brewing Co. Staten Island NY. Top also has RH, one on top of the other, in the middle. Back has This Bottle Not to be Sold. There are no chips or cuts, wire holding top is 100% in tact. I can’t find any infomation about value. If needed, I can sent photos. Thank you.

  9. ken Says:

    i was digging up a foundation wall at my home dated from 1954 and found a beer can inside the wall, the name was easy to read. Rubsam & Horrmann Brewing co. Internal Revenue Tax Paid. I thought it was funny.

  10. Len Maltese Says:

    I have a wooden case with bottles. Not R&H but the names spelled out on the case. Rubsam & Horrmann brewing co. with their logo on the side

  11. Ginger Okiec Says:

    Can you tell me if Piels Beer was sold in small glass barrel shaped brown bottles? My husband and I remember that but others say no…Piels was only made and sold in cans. I appreciate your help in this.

    • Hop Singh Says:

      Yes indeed, I can say that Piels was sold in those brown glass barrel shaped bottles. Being a native of Staten Island, N.Y., I can remember seeing those bottles on a regular basis.

  12. Tony Bennett Says:

    I purchased the house opposite the brewery at the bottom of the hill @ Gordon St. in 2000. The builder/owner of the house made his fortune repairing the brewery trucks and I have a 5-Truck garage on my property!

  13. Daniel Says:

    Hello,

    I was digging where they built some new homes. I dug up a few bottles bearing “Rubsam & Horrmann” Brewing Company Stapleton SI…Registered 1889. Actually, I dug up alot of other bottles as well from other Brewerys. All the bottles are intact. I am interested in selling some and donating some to a historical society of some kind. Can you give any suggestions?
    Thanks
    Dan

  14. donald Says:

    I just dug up a beer bottle marked STATEN ISLAND LARGER BIER ADOLPH ANTHES.The bottle has (this bottle not to be sold) and is green cast with a knob top. Any info???

  15. dave Says:

    I remember the foul smell from the R & H and later Piels brewery from the playground of PS 14 on Tompkins Ave. The brewery closed in the early 1960s. I am now living in Texas used to live on Targee St near Laurel Ave

    • Rosalie Donnelly Bernstein Says:

      I lived on Broad Street near the Firehouse and next to P.S. 14..I, too, have a R&H (green) bottle..says “registered” on it..my name is rosalie donnelly bernstein..left there in 1960.

    • Valerie DiGiacomo Says:

      I have fond memories of the strong smell of the Piels beer walking by the brewery on the way “downtown” in the 1950′s. There was a turkey farm opposite P.S. 14. I also lived on Targee at Young Street. There was an animal feed store opposite the brewery.

  16. Nick Preziosa Says:

    Wow! Dave, I can still smell the foul stench. I lived just around the corner from the brewery. Grove and Hygia. Played in the truck parking lot where the old ice house used to be, next to the old playground. Went to Immaculate Conception, late 50′s early 60′s. Played “hot beans are ready” at the courthouse. Climbed Hormann’s Hill, great view of Piels.

    • Barbara Zino Says:

      Dominick Presiosa! My mother still talks about you! Magdalen Knauer, she lived at 108 Targee Street, SI. I am her daughter, Barbara. We’d love to hear from you!
      Thanks,
      Barbara

    • Barbara Zino Says:

      Nick, I’m just realizing that you may be Dominick’s son if you played in the playground 1950s-1960s. We are about the same age. Wow! I got go excited when I saw your name. A real blast from the past.

    • Barbara Zino Says:

      Nick, I talked to my Mom last night and she said it was Joey that she dated in the 7th grade! That was in 1944. She was 14. Is Joey your Dad or maybe your uncle?

      • Nick Preziosa Says:

        Hi Barbara, happy you saw my post. Dominick was my grandfather. Joey was my uncle. How is your mom doing? Hope all is well.
        My mom lived on Targee also. Do not know the address. Between the courthouse and Frean street. Had some lion statues out front of the house. Maybe your mom remembers the Iannatto family. Hope you see this response soon. Perhaps I can find you on facebook. Love to talk with you.

  17. Mark Pfarrer Says:

    I just received some things of my grandfather, who used to live on Staten Island, and one of them is a shiny metal beer bottle opener, engraved with “R&H BEER-ALE”. Does someone know when they made these? I know this opener goes back at least to 1940.

  18. Frank Says:

    I have a metal serviing tray advertising R & H BEER -ALE in superfine condition– any idea of value also have several Rhinegold and schafear trays as well would enjoy hearing from someone

    • Michelle Harrington Says:

      My grandfather ran the R and H brewery in the thirties and I am interested in any memorabilia from it. Do you still have the tray?

      • Gloria Says:

        My grandfather was a salesman for the R & H Brewery back in the 50′s. I have many promo items from the Brewey
        , which I would be interested in selling…contact me at caddyglo@aol.com….

  19. Piels: one of the last Brooklyn breweries « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] When the company dropped the campaign, the beer’s popularity plunged too. After taking over a few other local breweries, Piel’s sold itself to a Michigan brewer and bid Brooklyn good-bye in 1973. Advertisement [...]

  20. Michael Strashinsky Says:

    I have three brown bottles with a R & H Bock beer label all of which are sealed and full of beer. From the other comments posted who expressed an interest in the value of such bottles, was anyone able to determine a value?

    • Daniel Kusrow Says:

      I live in St. George, S.I. and might be interested in the 3 bottles, especially if they still have beer in them. Wonder if it is any good?

      • Michael Strashinsky Says:

        Yes, they still have the beer in them with no evaporation which is hard to believe after all this time. Doubt it is good to drink. If you are interested in purchasing make an offer.

    • Mike Dondero Says:

      Hi I was wondering if the R&H bock bottles are still available. My father worked at a firehouse near the brewery (just after Piels bought it out) and I collect items from R&H, Thanks Mike

      • Daniel Kusrow Says:

        You can try Victorian Brothers Antique Shop on Staten Island on Manor Road and Victory Blvd., they have a lot of R&H material, including bottles. There are always R&H bottles and Piels cans on Ebay.

      • Michael Strashinsky Says:

        Yes, still available. Would you like to make an offer on them?

  21. fhsi Says:

    There is an interesting story that mixes fact and fiction about the brewers role in the creation of Stapleton if anyone would like to take a look.

    http://fhsi.wordpress.com/the-founding-of-stapleton-as-a-religious-community/

  22. Daniel Kusrow Says:

    There is also a good photo history book of Stapleton, with lots of photos of all the Breweries. It is put out by Arcadia Press last year.

  23. Mike Dondero Says:

    Hi Michael. Thanks for the reply. Can you send me a picture of the full r&h bottles? I am curious about the condition of the labels. I believe they date to the late 1940s

  24. Paul R. Steffen Says:

    Paul Steffen, Plattsburgh, NY
    April 10, 2012
    R & H really got around. While in Casablanca, Morocco in 1954, I drank a can of R&H beer at the American Bar. I knew that the brewery was closed since I lived on Staten Island until 1952. When underage, I remember drinking R&H several times, thought it tasted pretty good.
    Not the end of the story. I got stationed in Plattsburgh in 1975. While fly- fishing in the Saranac River in Morrisonville, I found a green R&H bottle partially buried in the sand. My father had never seen a bottle like this and he lived on the island since 1928.
    Does anyone have any more information other that that which I have just read?
    teepee@primelink1.net

  25. Paul Edelstein Says:

    It was owned by my relatives

    • Kate Says:

      WOW!! I’m sure you can provide a lot of information that can not be found on the internet.. Are you related to the Rubsam or Horrmann side?

  26. philip guastavino Says:

    My dad used to tell stories about working at a food store next to the brewery…..maybe an A&P…seems the guys on night shift would bring sandwich makings and the guys from the brewery fresh beer…they’d meet in the ally & eat…

  27. eadlex@yahoo.com Says:

    I have some coasters from my Grandmother. In great shape. Never used. my Mom is 77 so you know how old they are.

  28. frank Says:

    My father in law worked for an advertising agency (commercial artist) and we just came across an advertisement poster he did the art work on for R&H breweries which prompted me into looking up the name. Poster is in great shape.

    • Mike Dondero Says:

      Hi Frank – that’s really neat that a family member did some artwork for R&H. I would enjoy seeing a picture of the advertisiment poster to see if I have seen it before (I collect R&H beer stuff). I can provide my email address… Thanks Mike

      • Gloria Says:

        My grandfather was. Salesman for R&H back in the 50′s. I’ve got a lot of unusual promo stuff from the brewery. If you’re interested in buying, I’d sell..
        Contact me at caddyglo@aol.com

  29. Otto Mazzilli Says:

    Coming from Bayonne starting in the late ’40s the beer taste was rather musty and strange. We called it Rotten and Horrible. I remember the Log Cabin and Lily Lamont

  30. Bart A. Solenthaler Says:

    The Friendliest Beer In Town

  31. Carl Raichle Says:

    My grandfather was a supervising brewer at the R&H brewery. I visited the brewery often as a kid. Grandpa would put a pair of giant rubber boots on me and let me tag along as he would check on the fermentation of the brew in huge vats. The employees had a small bar in the heart of the plant and I was seated on the bar and was always given a small glass of beer to drink with the guys. My favorite place of the brewery was the bottling area where empty bottles rattled along a conveyor, were filled, capped and dropped in cases- really noisy. At the rear of the brewery was their electrical generating facility. This building was immaculate; you could eat from the floor! I recall the racket of the shiny red generators producing electricity for the plant. The executives of the brewery had a beautiful private bar painted with typical German hunting murals and there was also lots of hand carved woodwork. I hope the backbar and handcarved swinging door to the men’s room were saved during demolition. My grandfather drank one bottle of R&H weekly at Sunday dinner. I remember that it had a skunky odor and was a strong beer. It was called Rotten and Horrible by lots of people, but was still drunk with gusto.
    My folks and grandparents lived on the side of the hill above Stapleton just below August Horrmann’s beautiful castle. I guess I’m one of the few people around who can say that I was actually in the castle for a Christmas open house in the forties.
    There’s a bar in Tottenville with loads of R&H memorabalia. I gave them some trays and coasters years ago.
    The pungent smell in Stapleton was a normal product of fermentation – I liked it! If you ever brew your own beer, this yeasty smell will fill your basement.
    The R&H brewery provided work for many men in Stapleton beacause it was in operation round the clock. Even bigger than R&H was the Bechtel brewery, whose last remainining brick building had an inscription at the top and was on Broad Street at Van Duzer. I now live in S.C. so I’m not sure if it’s still there. I was a class of ’54 graduate of Immaculate and have millions of memories of pre-projects Stapleton.

  32. Jim Says:

    My Grandfather was the Brewmaster at Piels in Stapleton until 1971. I wish I had a good photo of that building. If anyone has one please post a link.

  33. Mike Romer Says:

    I remember going to a park with swings, it might have been a school yard and seeing the old brewery that was abandoned at the time (1967). I lived in the projects at 212 Broad street and often walked past the vacant building while walking with my mother to the stores in Stapleton. My last memory of the building was running past it in 1986 when I was running the Stapleton Steeple chase and came in second place. I was amazed that the building was still standing. I left Staten Island in 1981 when I joined the USMC and live in SD CA. My mother gave me a Coster with the brewery logo a few years ago and it is displayed in my bar inside my home along with other vintage beer signs.

  34. Jim Says:

    My grandfather was supervisor of the shipping end of the business. I remember my parents saying they had their wedding reception in a hall at the brewery that the owners allowed employees family to utilize for such events. They were married in 1943 just before my dad shipped out with the navy during WWII. My mom lived on Hudson Street, my Dad lived on Hylan when they met. Moved to Levittown on Long Island in 1947. I still have a boatload of relatives living on Staten Island. Sounded like simpler times and workjers that were appreciated, how times have changed.

  35. Ernie Kilfoy Says:

    I found an R & H glass bottle. I was wondering how old it is

  36. Bart Solenthaler Says:

    Came across this recently!

    R&H Pilsner Style Beer

  37. Paul R. Steffen Says:

    An update on my previous letter. Hopefully someone could give me some information on the green glass R&H bottle. I still hae the bottle and thus far found on one who has a replica. The can of R&H beer I drank in Casablanca in 1954 had to be several years old. It still tasted pretty good. After I retired, I was ofice manager of a beer distributor. I was with a regional rep when I first had a bottle of icy cold unpasteurized beer. It was a treat, tasted much better than the final product. I’m speaking of Stroh’s beer, at this time brewed in Pennsylvania.
    My new E mail address is paulsteffen1934@yahoo.com

  38. Bart A. Solenthaler Says:

    another R&H coaster

    R&H Beer-Ale

  39. Wayne Says:

    Rubsam & Horrmann Brewery in Stapleton was our playground growing up in Stapleton 1960s & 70s. We knew every nook and cranny of those buildings. Before R&H it was Atlantic and of course Piels bought it in the 50s. I loved that clock I used to see it everyday from My House. I too remember the foul stench when they used to brew. Stapleton was one of the greatest neighborhoods on Staten island in the 60s and early 70s before it’s demise.

  40. Bart A. Solenthaler Says:

    Recent addition R&H beer coaster collection

    Ask for R&H Premium Beer

  41. David D'Agostino Says:

    The crown on the r&h bottle might indicate Crown Premium which was brewed late in the life of the company.

  42. matthew iacovelli Says:

    I grew up in rosebank,but stapleton was my hang out in 50 and 60s.i had my car serviced at billottis service station on Tompkins ave.i hung out with guys named bobby prestal,jackie ryan,ronnie scron,ed gerkens,who would be my best man at my wedding in 58.that is just a few of the names I remember,i live in florida now,but the 50s I will never forget.working setting pins at park row bowling alley for joe dondyand madalones.also working in the paper factory in rosebank.well I just hit the age of 77,hope some of the guys are still around,had some good drinkers theni went under the name of [fafo]real name matt iacovelli.if there is anyone that remembers me from bowling or hanging out in park let me no thanks

    • Rosalie Donnelly Bernstein Says:

      My maiden name was Rosalie Donnelly..I will be 73 in August..Jackie Ryan, I believe had a cousin named Barbara Armstrong. We both lived on Broad St., I lived near PS 14; she over Mackauers Garage. My brothers were Dennis, Micky and Terry and John.. I also live in Florida…in Ormond Beach, near Daytona.. I went to Curtis HS..did you know Edie Strofield?
      Rosalie Donnelly Bernstein

  43. matthew iacovelli Says:

    matty iacovelli says:yes your right Jackie did live on broad st.i live in st pete for over 30 yrs now.i may no you.do you remember bobby Prestel,he had a sister named Barbara.jackie I believe live near firhouse and remember miss petes grocery store right next to firehouse?i remember mackauers garage,i went around the corner to sams service station,i also worked at dejongs on Tompkins ave,it was a big paper factory near train tracks.well it was nice to hear from you.keep in touch……………matty iacovelli

  44. Ed Gerkens Says:

    Hello Fafo remember Moe I was your best man.I live in Citrus co. Fl. near you.

  45. Ed Gerkens Says:

    give a call 352 208 1522

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