Credit: Patrick Treece

Made in Maryland: Maryland’s Brewing History

04/07/2022
By Preservation Maryland

It’s National Beer Day, and we’ll drink to that! If you’re from Maryland, you know that Baltimore’s National Bohemian beer holds a special place in the hearts of Marylanders – nearly 90% of Natty Boh sales are still made in Baltimore. Today we’re looking at the history of this Baltimore-born brewing company, a former Baltimore bottling plant, and some of our favorite local spots operating around the state today. 

History of the National Brewing Company

The National Brewing Company made its first beer in 1885. Ever since, Natty Boh has been a staple of Maryland. The National Brewing Company made its logo in the 1930s: a one-eyed man with a mustache. This image very quickly became widely associated with the beer. In the 1940s, the National Brewing Company sold six-pack cans of the beer, making it the first company in the United States to do so.

Additionally, during WWII, the company started incorporating cap puzzles into their bottle designs. The caps had a series of pictograms that, when all put together, created a common phrase. This type of puzzle is called a rebus and in 2019 Baltimore resident Kevin Petrikas developed a skill for Amazon’s Alexa that shares the answers once a user says the puzzle number. 

The beer’s slogan, “From the Land of Pleasant Living,” originated in the 1950s. In the 1960s, the president of National Brewing Company, Jerold Hoffberger, was also the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He ensured that Natty Boh was the only liquor sold at Memorial Stadium, thereby increasing the beer’s popularity. In 1965, National Bohemian became the official beer of Baltimore.

However, in 1975, the company merged with a Canadian brewer: Carling. Over the next few years, the Carling-National company was bought and sold by other brewers. Since 1996, the beer has not been brewed in Baltimore. The Pabst Company bought Natty Boh in 2000. Now, the beer is made in Ohio and Georgia, but it still remains an iconic part of Maryland culture.

 

 

Did you know? Maryland’s first brewery was established in the Annapolis area in 1703.

Pabst Castle

In the 1890s, a bottling plant for the Pabst Company was constructed in South Baltimore. The bottling plant, named Pabst Castle, got its design from other Germanic brewing companies of the late nineteenth century: a castle-like appearance with a tower in the corner. The building was strategically placed on South Charles Street and Wells Street, as the location was adjacent to the B&O Locust Point line. This placement gave the brewing company a connection to the railroads and allowed it to receive the beer from the Midwest in bulk and bottle it for local sales. When Prohibition began in 1920, the plant closed. In 1922, the Maryland Glass and Mirror Company moved into the space, staying there until the 21st century. The building now houses ZeroFOX, a cybersecurity company.

 

Independent Breweries in Maryland

You can also celebrate National Beer Day today by visiting current independent breweries in Maryland. Consider supporting the following local businesses that make some excellent beer!

Antietam Brewery – Hagerstown

Chesepiooc Real Ale Brewing – Crofton

Black Flag Brewing Company – Columbia

Burley Oak Brewing Company – Berlin

The Brewer’s Art – Baltimore

Frey’s Brewing Company – Mt. Airy

Independent Brewing Company – Bel Air

Manor Hill Brewing – Ellicott City

Flying Dog – Frederick

Fin City Brewery – Ocean city

Content for this blog was researched and compiled by Allyn Lawrence, Preservation Maryland’s Spring 2022 Public History and Communications Intern. Working through the Waxter Intern Program, Allyn composes articles on topics relating to Maryland’s history and culture. She is a recent graduate of Towson University.

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Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

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