Could a brewery be brewing in Harrison for first time since ‘40s?

HARRISON —

Is the art of beer-making about to make a return to Harrison?

Seems there is one prospective brewmaster actively exploring whether to test those waters.

Mayor James Fife said he recently fielded inquiries from an outside entity about a Bergen St. industrial building that could be converted into a microbrewery.

That property happens to be for sale, according to a real estate notice posted on the front of the building.

However, before any particularly thirsty consumers start lining up to sample product, they should know that plans are far from finalized.

In fact, no formal overtures have yet been made to the owner of the targeted property for possible acquisition, the mayor cautioned.

And the prospective operator would have to get a state license for the enterprise, he added.

Still, the outfit pitching the idea has done a bit more than just talk about it.

Fife produced a large-sized rendering of what the proposed business might look like, accompanied by a mini-history of the brewing industry in Harrison dating from the 19thcentury.

Both, he said, were presented by Bernie Gutherz, listed as vice president of development for Green Tree Investment Group.

In a phone interview, Gutherz said: “We are in discussions. We do like the location. We do like the town of Harrison … because of the redevelopment ongoing.”

However, he continued, “We’re in a very preliminary stage of planning.” To that end, he said, “we’ve had useful discussions with the mayor and the HRA (Harrison Redevelopment Agency).”

And although the local brewing industry dried up in the late 1940s, “back in the day,” said Gutherz, Harrison – like its neighbor Newark – was a singular presence for that enterprise.

A 1900 history of the Peter Hauck Brewery in Harrison – edited by GET NJ – the document Gutherz gave to the mayor – recounted that Adam Hauck (Peter’s father) established the business in Harrison – after relocating from downtown New York – in 1869. It was then known as Kaufmann & Hauck.

A decade later, a fire destroyed the brewery but it was replaced in 1881 by a new facility with a 250-foot frontage on Harrison Ave., between Fifth and Washington Sts., with a 400-foot depth onto Cleveland Ave. This business was run by Peter Hauck.

When the company was still in New York it brewed 300 barrels annually in 1844; by 1869, after the move across the Hudson, output had grown to more than 76,000 barrels, reaching a peak of 71,589 barrels in 1889.

After the business was reorganized that year as part of the United States Brewing Co. – with Peter Hauck as a director and manager of the Harrison plant – its inventory soared again, attaining a production recorded as 100,000 per year in 1900.

It is noted by the history’s editor, Cornelius Burnham Harvey, that Peter Hauck was politically active, having served on the New Jersey State Democratic Committee, Hudson County Board of Freeholders and member of the Harrison governing body.

The history, citing other sources, reported that during Prohibition, the brewery was owned and operated by the Camden Holding Co. and produced “near beer,” containing “no more than one-half of 1%” alcohol, although the owners reportedly did not always dilute the product, which led to some unsavory activities.

After Prohibition went off the books in 1934, the brewery returned officially to making regular beer under the names Harrison Beverage Co., Harrison Brewing Co. and West Hudson Brewery.

The new beer failed to sell, however, and in 1936 the brewery was leased to the Peter Doelger Co., a New York City brewer, and produced a lager, ale and bock beer, along with a pilsner for New York’s Lion Brewing Co.

In 1946, the brewery produced its last batch of beer and, the next year, it was sold to Camden County Beverage Co., which used the building mostly for storage.

In 1951, Harrison took over the property and in 1952, a fire gutted the building. In 1957, the remains were bulldozed to clear the way for a high school.

Should the new venture happen on Bergen St., it would tentatively be called Seven Sons Brewing Co., would be open for tours, samples and retail sales, according to Fife.

The prospective operator runs similar enterprises in New Brunswick and Cherry Hill, the mayor added.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.