The Standard Brewing Company

What ever happened to Erin Brew beer?

When the Standard Brewing Company sponsored the TV and radio broadcasts of Cleveland Indians games in 1948 (the year the Tribe last won the World Series), the company's Erin Brew beer, for decades a favorite in the city's Irish-American community, suddenly became one of the most popular beers in all of Cleveland.

Train Avenue on the west side of Cleveland is undoubtedly so named because it follows the tracks of the Big Four Railroad in a northeasterly direction from the old Stockyards near Clark Avenue and West 61st Street almost all the way to the Cuyahoga River. If you travel to Train Avenue's western end today, you'll see on the south side of the street—just before you get to the West 61st Street intersection—several old red brick buildings. Near the top of one are two granite stones, one carved with the word "Bottle" and the other with "Works." On the building next to that, you'll see another granite stone, this one carved with the year "1913." Whether you're a beer lover or not, give yourself a pat on the back, for you have just arrived at the place where the Standard Brewing Company once manufactured Erin Brew beer—one of the most popular beers in the history of Cleveland.

The Standard Brewing Company had its origins in the founding of the Kress-Weiss Brewing Company in 1902. In that year, Stephen S. Creadon, a west side saloonkeeper and second generation Irish-American, entered into an agreement with German immigrant brewer Andrew Kress and several investors to produce a weiss (light wheat) beer out of an old butcher shop located on the corner of Sackett and Louis (West 32nd) Streets, in today's Clark-Fulton neighborhood. Unfortunately, the venture faltered, and Creadon and Kress soon parted ways. In 1904, Creadon, who retained the lease to the brewery building, brought in new investors and Jaroslav Pavlik, a Czech immigrant brewer, and incorporated anew under the name of the Standard Brewing Company. Pavlik brewed lager beer—darker and heavier than weiss beer—and sales quickly took off. The following year, the growing firm recapitalized and moved to a larger facility, an old flour mill located on the north side of Train Avenue near the West 61st street intersection.

Just one year after moving to its new location, the young company faced a serious challenge to its continued existence. In November 1906, J. P. Kraus, a banker with First National Bank which had financed the new venture and controlled most of the company's stock, proposed that its directors approve a sale of their business to Cleveland and Sandusky Brewing Company. The latter was a large regional brewery which had been gobbling up local independent breweries in the Cleveland and Sandusky areas since 1897. Standard Brewing's directors—led by Creadon, whose experiences as a saloon keeper had perhaps persuaded him to stay away from conglomerates—voted to stay independent and rejected the proposed sale. However, Creadon now had to find new financing for his company and find it quickly. His search ended with John T. Feighan, a Forest City Savings and Trust Company banker, who, like Creadon, was a member of the west side Irish community. Feighan's bank, which since 1903 had been located in a new building on the southwest corner of Pearl (West 25th) Street and Detroit Avenue, was right across the street from Creadon's other business—his neighborhood saloon. Soon Feighan became not only a lender and director of Standard Brewing, but also an officer of the company, serving first as its treasurer and then later as its president after Creadon's death in 1921.

Creadon's savvy in the saloon business, Feighan's business acumen, and Pavlik's brewing skills: They were a winning combination. By 1913, new brewery buildings had gone up on both the north and south sides of Train Avenue and the company was now marketing Pavlik's lager under the name of Erin Brew, making it a favorite among Cleveland's west side Irish-American community. According to the company's 1914 corporate report, between the years 1906 and 1913 it almost doubled production, increasing annual output from 40,000 barrels to 75,000 in that period. As it approached the end of that decade, Standard Brewing Company had become one of Cleveland's largest and most successful independent breweries. Then, in 1919, the State of Ohio banned the sale and manufacture of liquor within the state, and one year after that the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, ushering in the era of national Prohibition. Standard Brewing Company, like several other Cleveland breweries that survived Prohibition, converted its manufacturing facilities to the production of ginger ale and other soft drinks. When Prohibition ended in 1933, those breweries were able to quickly shift production back to beer. By May of that year, Standard Brewing Company was once again producing Erin Brew beer for a very thirsty consumer public.

In the 1940s, just after the end of World War II, Standard Brewing Company, under the leadership of John T. Feighan and George Creadon, son of founder Stephen Creadon, entered into a series of annual agreements to sponsor radio and TV broadcasts of Cleveland Indians baseball games. When the Indians won the World Series in 1948, Erin Brew beer went from being the favorite beer of Cleveland's Irish community to being one of the most loved beers in all of Cleveland. Responding to this increased demand, in 1950 the company built an extensive new bottling and canning facility just west of its earlier twentieth-century buildings on Train Avenue. Sadly, this would be the peak of Standard Brewing Company's successful operations in Cleveland.

The decade of the 1950s marked the beginning of the end for Cleveland's brewing industry, as a changing consumer public and improved transportation facilities promoted the success of large national breweries at the expense of smaller local breweries. Standard Brewing Company was one of the last of Cleveland's independent breweries to succumb, selling its brewery facilities to the F & M Schaefer Brewing Company of New York in 1961. Three years after that, Schaefer sold the facilities to C. Schmidt & Sons Inc., a large Philadelphia brewery, which after a time stopped manufacturing Standard Brewing's popular beer. By 1973, Erin Brew beer was just a memory in Cleveland.

Images

Delivering Neighborhood Beer

Delivering Neighborhood Beer

Standard Brewing Company drivers deliver beer to a saloon in an unidentified neighborhood of Cleveland. While the information accompanying this photo states that it was taken in 1927, that is unlikely as the company did not manufacture or sell beer from 1920 to 1933, the Prohibition Era. It is more likely that the photo dates back to before 1920. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Photo Collection View File Details Page

Finally Back

Finally Back

This ad appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in July 1933, just two months after Standard Brewing Company once again began manufacturing Erin Brew beer following the end of the National Prohibition Era (1920-1933). | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

Bottling Operation

Bottling Operation

In this 1940 photograph, employees of Standard Brewing Company inspect bottles of Erin Brew beer at the bottling plant on Train Avenue on the west side of Cleveland. Erin Brew was a popular beer in Cleveland's Irish community, and became a city-wide popular beer when the Company sponsored radio and TV broadcasts of Cleveland Indians games in the 1948 championship year. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

Supporting the War Effort

Supporting the War Effort

In this 1945 photograph, cases of Erin Brew beer are stacked in preparation of their shipment to American troops oversees. The federal government required breweries during World War II to set aside fifteen percent of their beer production for consumption by the military. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

Like Old Times

Like Old Times

By the 1930s, beer was typically transported around the city by truck. However, in 1942, Standard Brewing Company had this beer wagon built and driven around Cleveland to promote their product. The employees on the wagon are Elmer Day of Train Avenue and Dan Laux of Tillman Avenue. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Photo Collection View File Details Page

Delivery Truck

Delivery Truck

In 1950, a delivery truck exits a garage at the Standard Brewing Company on Train Avenue on the west side of Cleveland. The garage was part of the new bottling plant built by the company in 1950. Today this building is home to a UHaul moving and storage facility. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

Flat-top Cans

Flat-top Cans

In this 1950 photograph, an employee of Standard Brewing Company operates a can sealing machine at the new bottling and canning facility on Train Avenue. The company contended that it was the first brewery in Ohio to introduce flat-top cans. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

Beer of Champions

Beer of Champions

In 1946, under the leadership of George Creadon, son of founder Stephen S. Creadon, the Standard Brewing Company began sponsoring the TV and radio broadcasts of Cleveland Indians baseball games. When the Tribe won the World Series in 1948, Erin Brew beer became one of the most popular beers in all of Cleveland. This ad appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on April 15, 1950. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

A Tavern Favorite

A Tavern Favorite

A sign advertising that it serves Standard Brewing Beer is seen on the window of Avenue Tavern at 3021 Woodland Avenue in 1950. While at one time, Erin Brew was popular only on Cleveland's west side, its popularity spread across town after the company began sponsoring the broadcasts of Indians games in 1946. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

Standard Brewing Company in 1951

Standard Brewing Company in 1951

This section of the Ohio Sanborn Map for the year 1951 shows the locations of the various buildings in the Standard Brewing Company's Train Avenue complex in that year. The building on the left is now a UHaul moving and storage facility. The buildings on the north side of Train Avenue were torn down in the 1970s. The buildings on the south side are now home to Metro Hardwoods, an urban sawmill and lumber supplier. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map Collection View File Details Page

Going Down

Going Down

This 1974 photograph shows one of the former buildings of the Standard Brewing Company located on the north side of Train Avenue in the process of being razed. Note the fermentation tank on one of the upper floors of the building. The year prior, C. Schmidt & Sons, which was the last brewery to manufacture beer here, abandoned the site and moved its operations to the former Carling Brewery plant at 9300 Quincy Avenue. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

Aerial View 2016

Aerial View 2016

This Google map presents a view of the portion of Train Avenue on the west side of Cleveland where the Standard Brewing Company once produced its famous Erin Brew beer. While the brewery building on the north side of Train were torn down in 1974 and the land now used in part as a parking lot and in part for open storage, the other buildings near West 61st and on the south side of Train Avenue remain standing and are fully occupied by local businesses as of the summer of 2017. | Source: Google Maps View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Jim Dubelko, “The Standard Brewing Company,” Cleveland Historical, accessed July 20, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/809.

Subjects

comments powered by Disqus

Share this Story