Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cleveland's Love Affair With Beer

My treasured beer bottle bank cap

The other day while sifting through a box of items I’d had packed away years ago, I found a giant beer bottle cap. It came from a giant glass beer bottle bank that belong to my grandparents that they used to save money for their grandchildren. They would start saving loose change, and then whatever was in the bank at the time one of their grandchildren was born, they would put all that money into a bank account. Since my parents had 6 kids, it seemed like my grandparents were always saving change. When my mother stopped having kids, my grandparents allowed me to have the bank, and I began saving my change in it as well. The day before my wedding – almost 33 years ago – as I was getting ready to pack up the bank, it tipped and I broke that beer bottle into a million billion pieces. After getting very upset about it, I decided to at least hang on to the bottle cap. When I found that bank bottle cap today, it made me think of the deep history of beer in Cleveland.

The giant beer bottle was for none other than P.O.C. Beer, produced by the Pilsener Brewing Company, located at Clark Ave. and W. 65th St. It was founded by Bohemian brewer Wenzel Medlin in 1892. The name Pilsener comes from the Czech city of Pilsen, where the light Bohemian lager beer was first made. The P.O.C. stood for many things, such as “Pilsener On Call,“ “ Pilsener of Cleveland,” and “Pleasure on Call”, but many Clevelanders, most of them probably growing up with beer in their veins, called the beer “Pride of Cleveland.” Since I grew up in a Bohemian family, beer was a huge part of the their heritage, in some cases, to their detriment!

The beer boom for Cleveland took place in the early 1900s. According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

The industry in Cleveland reached its zenith in 1910, when 26 breweries were operating in the city. In addition to Bohemian, Cleveland, Columbia, Gehring, Schlather, Star, and Fishel (all in the Cleveland & Sandusky fold), there were the Beltz, CLEVELAND HOME BREWING COMPANY, DIEBOLT BREWING CO., Excelsior, Forest City, Gund, Leisy, Pabst, PILSENER BREWING CO., Schlitz, STANDARD BREWING CO., and Stroh breweries. Leisy, Pilsener, and Standard, all located on the near west side, were the most formidable independents. (The full history of Cleveland brewing can be found at the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History’s web site, here.)

Then, dark days for breweries in 1920 when prohibition happened, changing the focus of some local breweries, and putting some out of business. After prohibition was repealed, some breweries restarted and continued to flourish in the city. While over time the number of breweries decreased, their overall output increased. Over the next 30 years, smaller breweries closed and some merged with larger companies. Later on, national companies would soon grab up the bulk of the Cleveland market share and the last Cleveland Brewery (Schmidt) closed in 1984.

Since it’s been said that nature abhors a vacuum, it wasn’t long before Cleveland got another brewery of its own. In 1988, Patrick and Daniel Conway established the microbrewery Great Lakes Brewing Company on the west side of Cleveland, producing Dortmunder and Vienna-style beers. The company has quite the following, especially with their seasonal beers such as Christmas Ale, plus favorite brew Burning River Pale Ale, gaining them widespread popularity. They are also very involved in the community, sponsoring, for example, the Burning River Fest this August.

So while there may be fewer breweries in Cleveland than there were 100 years ago, Cleveland can still be proud of its beer heritage, and that Great Lakes Brewing Company has continued the tradition. Sadly, I haven’t had a beer in years, it gives me terrible migraines. But, if I can just find a giant Great Lakes Beer Bottle Bank…. I'd be happy.

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, here.


74WIXYgrad said...

By the time I had moved to the west side in 1977, that POC building had closed, but I do remember seeing the building. As I don't live in town and work on the east side now, I get no chance to go anywhere near the Detroit Shoreway area, so I don't know if it still stands.

But on another note, I do remember another name for P.O.C. but I never drank it.

Oh and by the way, you do a good job with this blog.

All Things Cleveland said...

I may try to check it out on Google maps - street view - to see if it's still there, because I'm also not sure it still stands. Sad to say I don't get to that area much any more.

I tried not to think about some of the "off-color" names for POC! (wink)

Thanks for stopping by!


74WIXYgrad said...

If I recall correctly, the building also had a very unfortunate event tied to it, the murder of a young lady in about 1975.

And on my blog, WIXY's Gone Bananas-)seeing you have a presence on the television board on, I know you know about me), I have run a series of photos and some stories about the traveling Vietnam Wall in Wadsworth last weekend. Come on by.

74WIXYgrad said...

Oh, and I just made this blog my featured blog at WIXY's Gone Bananas. Stop by and introduce yourself to my readers if you wish.

Monday through Sunday said...

Came over from Wixy...enjoyed my visit!

cathouse teri said...

Here by way of WIXY. What a neat blog! Very interesting. :)

Frasypoo said...

Hi there
Came here from Cliff(74wixy) blog.
I dont live in Ohio but this was very interesting.
Its good to read the history behind things!

Anonymous said...

What did the number 51 mean to the company?

All Things Cleveland said...

According to the book "Brewing in Cleveland" by Robert Musson, the number 51 relates to POC's "Genuine 51 flavor" tag line, which was based on the beer's recipe from 5o years prior. That's all I could find on the subject - I hope it helps.

leesattic said...

Thanks for all the info on POC--I was quite curious about it....
because... I have a giant POC beer bottle (to put under your giant beer bottle cap ?!)
Things would be complete again!

All Things Cleveland said...

leesttic - wow, you are lucky to have that bottle! Who knows, you may have the last one left!

Anonymous said...

I too have 2 POC bottles with caps. They were never designed to have a hole in the top and used for a bank. I had three but lost one due to a party foul

Anonymous said...

I Still have a Giant Glass POC Beer Bottle Bank in excellent condition probably one of few left in the world.

Anonymous said...

holiday greetings to all!
my giant POC beer bottle is looking for a good home for the "holidaze"-- it's way cool, but I cannot keep it any longer---anyone out there who would really appreciate this fun and memorable collectible?!
I might put it on craigslist,but would like to offer it first to "enthusiasts".... enjoy !