Out of the Attic: Stale beer: Alexandria’s sudsy history


Before Port City Brewing, Alexandria was home to several breweries, including Shuter’s Hill Brewery established in the mid-19th century in what was then known as the West End.

In 1858, Alexander Strausz and John Klein leased a building, obscured by trees in this Civil War-era image, on the south side of Duke Street and built their lager beer brewery there. By year’s end, they advertised that their product was “fully equal to that made in Philadelphia” and they were “prepared to furnish in kegs or barrels that popular and wholesome beverage in such quantities as may be desired.”

In 1860 Strausz sold his interest in the business to Klein who continued operate the Shuter’s Hill Brewery during the Civil War. Near the end of the war, Klein advertised that he had “by considerable expense enlarged his old establishment,” but he died in the summer of 1865.

Francis Denmead acquired the property and employed Henry Englehardt as brewmaster. In 1868, Englehardt operated a biergarten on King Street at the foot of Shuter’s Hill which did not last, and by 1870, Engelhardt had opened a saloon on Duke Street, likely in or near the brewery building.

In 1872 Denmead conveyed the brewery to Engelhardt, who experienced financial difficulties and failed to pay Denmead, but continued operating his saloon and brewery for many years.

In 1893, a year after the business was sold, a fire destroyed the brewery. Its exact location remained unknown until a shaft to the cellar was discovered in 1979 during a construction project. Archaeologists excavated the site and recovered thousands of artifacts before the vault under the southwest corner of Duke and Dulany streets was filled and covered.

To learn more about historic brewing and beer, visit www.AlexandriaArchaeology.org or attend the Historic Beer Dinner at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum on Friday, January 20.

Out of the Attic is provided by the Office of Historical Alexandria.