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From the book, "Brewing Beer In The Buckeye State, Volume I" by Dr. Robert A. Musson.

Schuster Brewing Co., Massillon, Ohio

James H. McLain was born in Massillon in November 1842, and had become involved with several local business ventures before purchasing an old flour mill in 1876. This mill was located four miles north of Massillon in Millport, now known as Crystal Springs. Millport was little more than a crossroads, but it was located along the Ohio & Erie Canal, which was still an important artery of transportation for the region at that time. Calling his new business James H. McLain & Company, McLain operated the flour mill for seven years before converting the mill into a brewery in 1883. Also involved in the business by then were Christian Schott and Julius Wittman, the latter being a local saloonist who had briefly run the small Empire brewery on the west side of Massillon. By 1885, the plant had been renamed as the Massillon Brewing Co.

The plant itself was built on seventeen acres of land and consisted of six separate buildings: the main brewhouse, 50 x 100 feet in size; an ice machine house, 50 x 40 feet; an ice storage house, 50 x 80 feet; boiler house, 24 x 30 feet; office building, 15 x 20 feet; and a dwelling house, 20 x 30 feet. All buildings were of stone foundation with wood frame or brick construction. Three large steam boilers powered the plant with 500-horsepower capacity. Two ice machines were used, with 25- and 15-ton capacity. The plant's annual capacity was 25,000 barrels, consisting of two types of lager beer, Standard and Export. Once the beer was produced in barrels, it was loaded onto a specially constructed canal boat, to be shipped along the canal into Massillon for bottling and sale. The main bottling house, built in 1893, was at the corner of Exchange and Charles Streets, and was four floors high, each having 4,000 square feet of space. Sales of products were throughout the western and southern portions of Stark County, mainly along the canal, and also into Canton and Wayne County as well.

McLain sold the brewery in December 1887 to Carl F. Erhard & Robert Schimke, two Austrian immigrants who had previously worked at the Schmidt & Hoffman brewery in Cleveland. McLain continued to be involved with his other business ventures in Massillon and Canton until his death in 1894.

In December 1888, Erhard sold his share of the brewery to Schimke, although the former remained the brewery's manager for two more years. The entire plant was sold again in May 1894 to Anton Kopp, a Bavarian immigrant, born in September 1840 in Augsburg. He had come to the United States in 1868, and Canton twenty years later. He had previously worked in the Leisy and August Burckhardt breweries in Cleveland and more recently had been the foreman at the Canton Brewing Co. He ran the plant at somewhat below capacity, producing just over 10,000 barrels in the first year, until selling it to John W. Schuster in June 1898, for $45,500. After this, Kopp retired from brewing. He died in February 1903, from complications of diabetes.

Schuster was a native Bavarian, born in the city of Kallstadt in 1852. He came to America in 1870, and worked several jobs before coming to Cleveland four years later, where he became a wholesale wine dealer. He continued in this profession until coming to Massillon in 1898 and purchasing the brewery. He operated it for two years before building an entirely new plant in Massillon and abandoning the old one in July 1901. The original plant burned in 1913, the same year that a flood severely damaged the Ohio & Erie Canal, essentially ending Ohio's canal era. Today, Erie Avenue (formerly U.S. Route 21) runs through the middle of the brewery site, and nothing remains of the original plant.

Schuster had formed a stock company, known as the Schuster Brewing Co., for his brewery in Millport on July 1, 1900, with a capital stock of $200,000. At that time, work commenced on a new state-of-the-art plant in the city of Massillon. This would consist of a four-story brick brewhouse and stockhouse, with bottling works and modern mechanical refrigeration. The new plant opened in July 1901. The plant's address was 33-49 N. West Street, although this later became 209 N. West St. when streets were renumbered, and by 1933, the street name had changed, making the plant's new address 227 3rd St. NW.

Upon moving into the new plant, the company's president was John W. Schuster, with Fred Kuefer as vice-president and Frank H. Schuster, John's eldest son, as secretary. This arrangement continued until 1905, when the company merged with the Canton, Stark, New Philadelphia, and Canal Dover Breweries to form the Stark-Tuscarawas Breweries Co. The new combine paid $400,000 for the Schuster plant, and John Schuster was its first president, until his retirement the following year. Frank Schuster remained on as a bookkeeper, while his younger brother William A. Schuster became the manager of the plant. William had been born in 1884, schooled in Cleveland, and apprenticed in the brewing trade at the age of eighteen.

Production at the plant continued largely unchanged over the next thirteen years, with the plant's primary product being Schuster's Zest Lager Beer. The Schusters were also officers of the City Ice & Coal Co. in Massillon, which utilized the brewery's ice plant as its own. With the onset of Prohibition in 1919, the Schuster plant withdrew from the Stark-Tuscarawas Co., renaming itself Schuster & Co., bottlers and distributors of carbonated beverages, including Apella, a sparkling apple juice. This would later evolve into the local NeHi and Chero-Cola Bottling Co., after the Schuster family left the business (they would later be briefly involved with the post-Prohibition Zoar Brewery and Canton Brewing Co., however). By 1927, the plant became the Peoples Coal & Beverage Co., and later would gain the local contract for bottling Royal Crown Cola in addition to NeHi.

After Prohibition's end in 1933, a brief attempt was made to begin brewing again at the plant, as the Massillon Brewing Co. Even in the 1933 city directory, the company is listed as producing Green Seal Beer, although there is no evidence that any beer production actually took place. Production of soft drinks continued until approximately 1960, when the company went out of business. The remaining buildings were vacant for several years before being razed in the early 1970s, at a time when much of the nearby Tuscarawas River and local roads were being rerouted as part of a flood control project. There is no trace of the brewery today.

Copyright 2005 by Zepp Publications

» Read more about this and other Ohio breweries in Dr. Robert A. Musson's book, "Brewing Beer In The Buckeye State, Volume I: A History of the Brewing Industry in Eastern Ohio from 1808 to 2004."


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