Lion Brewery, Inc.

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Lion Brewery, Inc.
LocationWilkes-Barre, PA, USA
Coordinates41°15′20″N 75°51′28″W / 41.25556°N 75.85778°W / 41.25556; -75.85778Coordinates: 41°15′20″N 75°51′28″W / 41.25556°N 75.85778°W / 41.25556; -75.85778
Opened1905 (1905) as Luzerne County Brewing Company
Annual production volume55,000 US beer barrels (65,000 hL) of Lionshead[1]
Owned byPrivately Owned
Active beers
Name Type
Lionshead American lager
Lionshead Light American lager
Stegmaier Grand Hoppa Double IPA India pale ale
Stegmaier India Pale Ale American IPA
Stegmaier Gold Medal American lager
Stegmaier Liebotschaner Cream Ale Cream ale
Seasonal beers
Name Type
Stegmaier High Dive Belgian-style wheat ale
Stegmaier Oktoberfest Märzen
Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale
Stegmaier Winter Warmer Ale
Stegmaier Porter Porter

Lion Brewery, Inc, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is one of the oldest breweries still in operation within Pennsylvania. Its beers and sodas are sold in Pennsylvania and neighboring states.[citation needed]


The Lion Brewery traces its origins to 1905 when the Luzerne County Brewing Company was organized and ground was broken on its four story brick brewery located at 700 North Pennsylvania Avenue, Wilkes Barre. [2] The brewery was built on land acquired from Delaware and Hudson Company in 1905.[3][4] The land was purchased for one dollar on the terms that the company would build a brewery capable of producing 100,000 barrels per year in just the first year and sell each barrel for no less than a dollar a piece. If the terms were not met, the land would return to the Delaware and Hudson Company.[5]

The brewery formally opened May 25, 1906, and was especially designed to brew Bohemian and Bavarian Beers. [6] Its beers included a pilsner and a porter brewed under the Edelbrau name, and Munchner Bock Beer. Luzerne County Brewing Company went into bankruptcy in May 1908 but continued to operate under a receiver. [7]

In 1911, the company was reorganized as Lion Brewing Company. [8] In 1912, it began marketing Lion Beer, [9] which included a pilsner and a bock.

After the arrival of Prohibition in 1919, the Lion Brewing Company produced near-beers called Buck-O and Gold Label. The company struggled to survive, and after its president was charged in 1923 with violation of prohibition laws, [10] went into receivership. The brewery was then purchased by the Malt Beverage Company, the president of which was Charles Gibbons. [11] The brewery operated until 1928, when it was raided by Federal agents and was again closed for making high-alcohol beer. [12]

The brewery remained closed until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, when it was purchased by The Lion, Inc., a company owned by brothers Henry, Ted, Morris and Louis (Laffe) Smulowitz. Members of the Smulowitz family owned the brewery for the next 60 years. When the brewery resumed operations in the summer of 1933, Charles A. Gibbons was plant manager as well as Secretary Treasurer of the company. [13]The brewery had an annual capacity of 200,000 barrels at that time. The beer it initially produced was marketed as Lion Beer. In 1936, in order to avoid confusion with other similarly named brands, it changed the name of its beer to Gibbons beer (named for Charles Gibbons) [14] [15], which became its flagship brand, and included lager, ale and porter varieties. For most of the next 40 years, the brewery traded as Gibbons Brewing Co.

The Lion Brewing Company underwent many changes during the sixty-year Smulowitz ownership. In the 1940s, brewery officials sensed changing tastes and successfully introduced the first lighter bodied beer in Northeast Pennsylvania.[16] Post-Prohibition, the beer brewing industry as a whole grew by leaps and bounds until around 1960, when the big breweries began to take control of the market. In 1957, William Smulowitz, Ted's son, started with the brewery. He became president of The Lion in 1969 and ran it until 1993, when he sold it.

In 1967, The Lion acquired the labels and recipes of Bartels Brewing Company, which was founded in nearby Edwardsville, Pennsylvania in 1889. [17] Bartels was a traditional darker beer in contrast to Gibbons, which was a lighter modern style. [18] The Bartels label continued to feature “The Old Professor”, a highly regarded symbol when Bartels was the biggest selling brand in the region, who had dispensed words of wisdom in Bartels advertising.

In October 1974, it was announced that The Lion’s cross-town rival Stegmaier Brewing Company was closing and that The Lion was acquiring Stegmaiers’ labels and recipes[19] (including its yeast[20]). Founded in 1857 by Charles Stegmaier, the Stegmaier Brewery had been the dominant area brewery and was much larger than The Lion, having previously produced 800,000 barrels a year. Stegmaier had trouble competing, however, because of antiquated equipment, [21] a large brewery building with high overhead costs, [22] the encroachment of national breweries, and 1973-74 price shocks that increased the cost of many commodities needed to produce beer. [23] Many of Stegmaier’s employees, including members of its executive team, moved to The Lion, where they were part of a newly formed Stegmaier Brewing division of the company. [24] Charles Stegmaier’s great-great-grandson, Charles Maier, who had been an Executive Vice President in Stegmaier Brewing Company, became an Executive Vice President in The Lion. Consumers were assured that Stegmaier was being brewed by The Lion to the exact same formula as it had been previously and that it tasted the same. [25] [26] Although Stegmaier Gold Medal Beer became The Lion’s largest selling brand, there was a loss of brand loyalty, and sales slipped with time.[27]

In 1983 Lionshead beer was introduced. [28] It has since become the flagship brand of the brewery.

The 1980s were a period of diversification for The Lion. In 1981, it began brewing Malta, a non-alcoholic malt beverage, for Goya Foods. In 1986 it first produced malt-based wine coolers, and in 1987 began brewing natural soda. [29]

In 1987, The Lion also began contract brewing for craft brewers. Its first contract brewed craft beer was Manhattan Gold, which was brewed for Manhattan Brewing Company. [30] It has since contract brewed numerous beers for many companies.

Stegmaier 1857, an all-malt lager brewed in accordance with the Reinheitsbot, was introduced in 1988.[31] It would go on to win many awards, including a gold medal at the 1994 Great American Beer Festival. [32]

In 1993, the Lion Brewing Company was purchased from the Smulowitz Family by the Quincy Partners. In 1996, the Quincy Partners took the Lion Brewing Company public by selling shares on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange.

Under the supervision of head brewmaster Leo Orlandini, the Brewery Hill line of craft beers was introduced in the 1990s.[33] In 1999 Orlandini was named Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewmaster of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival. [34]

In 1999 Chuck Lawson spearheaded the purchase of the Lion Brewery for 18.5 million dollars, thereby transferring the company back into private hands.[35]

Events Since 2000[edit]

The Brewery Hill line of craft beers was rebranded under the Pocono label in 2002.

The Lion Brewery hosted its first Oktoberfest celebration in 2005. This festival is designed to promote the brewery and German culture and to give people the chance to learn how beer is made, sample German food, and celebrate. Stegmaier Oktoberfest was brewed to be the official beer of the festival. Brewery tours are given on Saturday during the festival. Entertainment includes live bands, rides, games, wiener dog races and a fireworks display.

On November 1, 2007, Chuck Lawson and Pat Belardi sold The Lion Brewery to private equity investors who continued to operate the brewery as a private company.[36]

In late 2009 production of beer in 16oz. returnable bottles ended in order to make room for a new canning line, which began operating in 2010. The Gibbons and Bartels brands were also discontinued in the process.

Between 2007 and 2017 the Lion Brewery invested $20 million in updating brewery capabilities. Among these additions are a Krones Top Modul Labeller with Paper and PSL label capabilities, a Dual Deck Krones Pasteurizer, and two Alvey Palletizers. The company has also invested in various quality control measures such as a Quality Lab and on-staff Microbiologists.



Lionshead is an economy brand 4.5% abv deluxe pilsner introduced in 1983 and made with American malts, corn and hops. It is primarily available in Pennsylvania, with limited distribution in other states.[37] Lionshead bottle caps display rebus puzzles originally created by the Falstaff Brewing Corporation.[38] The answer to 20 Lionshead's puzzles can be found here:[39] and maybe here:[40] The top of the Lionshead cap has a gold lion's paw on a maroon background and the words "claw off" on it. There is a Lionshead Light version[41] and it has recently become available in cans.


Lionshead bottle

Stegmaier products include Stegmaier Gold, Amber Lager, Midsummer White, Oktoberfest, Holiday Warmer, IPA, Porter and Liebotschaner Cream Ale. They also do contract brewing for Pabst Brewing Company brands. Their non-alcoholic brands include Lion Brewery Root Beer and Olde Philadelphia Gourmet Sodas.

Contract Brewing[edit]

The Lion Brewery is also a contract brewing partner for various Beer and non-alcoholic beverage brands.

Brewery Capabilities[edit]

  • IDD Super King Racking Line Capable of producing ½,¼ & ⅙ Keg (with or without flash pasteurization)
  • 7, 9.3, 12, 16 oz Bottles in 4/6 Pack, 6/8/10/12 Pack Wrap and 24 Count Loose (brew and Batch)
  • Any size can with a 202 lid, any packaging from a 4 pack to a 24 pack including shrink wrap loose.
  • Filter and Centrifuge Capable
  • Ale and Lager Yeast propagation
  • 75,000 sq ft facility has the capacity for 4x1,500 BBL, 12 x 600 BBL(storage and fermentation) and 10 x 350 BBL

The Stegmaier building[edit]

Stegmaier Brewery
Steigmier Brewery PA.jpg
Lion Brewery, Inc. is located in Pennsylvania
Lion Brewery, Inc.
Lion Brewery, Inc. is located in the United States
Lion Brewery, Inc.
LocationRoughly bounded by Coal, Welles, Market, Lincoln and Baltimore Sts., Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Area4.6 acres (1.9 ha)
Built1894 (1894)
ArchitectWagner & Caper; Frey, McCormich & French
Architectural styleRomanesque
NRHP reference #79002292[42]
Added to NRHPMay 30, 1979

The 19th century Stegmaier Brewery building in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a mammoth structure, has been reclaimed for productive use. Now, as the Stegmaier Federal Building, it offers office space for federal workers, keeping the federal presence centrally located in Wilkes-Barre's downtown area.

The Wilkes-Barre Information Systems Support Center is an information technology development facility for the United States Postal Service that is located in the Stegmaier Building. The Internal Revenue Service also maintains a satellite office within the building.


  1. ^ "Lion Brewery About Us". n.d. Retrieved 2015-10-29. Lionshead is the flagship brand of the Brewery, selling over 750,000 cases annually.
  2. ^ "Ground was Broken for New Brewery", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, April 29, 1905, p.1
  3. ^ "WebAccess:". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  4. ^ "Stegmaier Brewing Company (The Lion Brewery) - Stegmaier IPA". Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  5. ^ "History « The Lion Brewery". Archived from the original on 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  6. ^ "New Brewery", The Wilkes-Barre News, May 25, 1906, p.1
  7. ^ "In Capable Hands", The Wilkes-Barre Record, October 7, 1908, p.7
  8. ^ "Luzerne Co Brewery is Now Reorganized", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, May 30, 1911, p.1
  9. ^ "Lion Beer Will Be Placed on Market Here Next Friday", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, July 23, 1912, p.12
  10. ^ "Brewery President Arrested", The Wilkes-Barre Record, Feb. 5, 1923, p.4
  11. ^ "New Owners of Brewery are Restrained from Operating by Witmer", The Scranton Times, April 5, 1924, p.3
  12. ^ "Brewery Raided Here – Six Men Under Arrest", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Aug. 28, 1928, p.1
  13. ^ "Lion Brewery Improvements Total $100,000", The Wilkes-Barre Evening News, July 29, 1933, p.3
  14. ^ "Smulowitz Beer? Brewery Brothers opted for Gibbons", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 17, 1983, p. 5C
  15. ^ "Barreling Along – The Scrappy Lion Brewery Survives in the Tough World of Making Beer", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, March 5, 1988
  16. ^ "At 50 Years, Lion is No. 18 in U.S.", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 17, 1983, p. 5C
  17. ^ "The Lion, Inc. to Brew Bartels", Wilkes-Barre Record, March 1, 1967, p. 1
  18. ^ "’Is Good’ Brews More Business", The Scranton Sunday Times, March 19, 1967, p. B8
  19. ^ "Emotions Are Mixed as Workers Prepare for Shutdown of Plant", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Oct. 23, 1974, p. 3
  20. ^ "Distinctive Flavor Starts Here", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Feb. 6, 1975, p. 25
  21. ^ "Stegmaier Tapped Out After Sale to Lion", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 16, 1996, p. B1
  22. ^ "Not Biggest, But Still OK", The Scranton Times, Sept. 9, 1977, p. 13
  23. ^ "Emotions Are Mixed as Workers Prepare for Shutdown of Plant", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Oct. 23, 1974, p. 3
  24. ^ "Stegmaier Executive Staff Directs Own Division at Lion, Inc.", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Feb. 6, 1975, p. 25
  25. ^ "Executive V.P. Comments on Recent Brewery Merger", The Wilkes-Barre Sunday Independent', Nov. 10, 1974, p. C-4
  26. ^ "228 Local Beer Workers Break production Records at America’s Biggest Little Brewery", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, April 17, 1975, p. 27
  27. ^ "Stegmaier Tapped Out After Sale to Lion", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 16, 1996, p. B1
  28. ^ "At 50 Years, Lion is No. 18 in U.S.", The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 17, 1983, p. 5C
  29. ^ "It’s a Jungle out There but the Lion Still Roars", “Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, May 14, 1987, p. 48
  30. ^ "It’s a Jungle out There but the Lion Still Roars", “Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, May 14, 1987, p. 48
  31. ^ "'Stegmaier 1857' beer unveiled", “Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, October 14, 1988, p. 2
  32. ^ "Lion Inc. Rolls Out New Brand", “Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, Nov. 20, 1996, p. 5
  33. ^ "Lion Inc. Rolls Out New Brand", “Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, Nov. 20, 1996, p. 5
  34. ^ "Lion Brewery Receives 2 Awards", “Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Oct. 14, 1999, p. 9B
  35. ^ "WebAccess:". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  36. ^ "WebAccess:". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  37. ^ "Map of where Lion Brewery products are available". Archived from the original on 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  38. ^ Alan Switzer. "Images of the different beers that use the Falstaff puzzle caps". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  39. ^ "Lionshead Puzzle Cap Answers". Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  40. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-12-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)[unreliable source?]
  41. ^ "Brewer's website on Lionshead light". Archived from the original on 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  42. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.

External links[edit]