Collections Corner: A Hop into the History of the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co

By Kimberly Totten, Collections Manager

"Did the Brewery close during Prohibition?"

This is one of our most common questions about the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. The short answer is: No, the company operated for eighty-three uninterrupted years from 1873 until 1956. So it only makes sense that a common follow up question is:


In D.C., Prohibition had been in place since 1917, three years longer than nationwide Prohibition which began in 1920. But the brewery did not close in those years. On the eve of Prohibition, Heurich pivoted from brewing beer to brewing "Liberty Apple Champagne" a non-alcoholic apple cider made with Stayman Winesap apples and hops. 

Bottle label for Liberty Apple Champagne, on display at the "Home/Brewed" exhibit

This plan turned sour, literally, when the cider fermented, making its alcohol by volume ratio too high (about 6% ABV) to sell under the newly established 18th Amendment. Heurich was granted permission to sell as much as he could before January 1920, when the nationwide Prohibition would be in effect. He only sold one-third of his product, storing the rest with the hopes that he would be able to sell it one day.

Although we now know that Prohibition would end thirteen years later, Heurich, at the time, did not have that hindsight. The uncertainty of the future weighed heavily on not just himself, but also his wife, Amelia. In a diary entry from December 1918, about a year after Prohibition began in the District, she wrote that Christian had gone to see a medium, who had left him feeling hopeful about Prohibition.

Amelia Heurich's Diary from December 2, 1918. "Christian went to see Mrs. Warneke a medium. Christian came home very much pleased [...] They all told him that beer will soon be brewed again which we so sincerely hope."

If Liberty Apple Champagne was not the answer to Heurich's Prohibition problem, what was? Heurich's brewery, located in Foggy Bottom, was composed of several structures, including a brew house, an office, and an ice plant. Heurich pivoted again, this time looking to his ice plant, where he would produce up to 150 tons of ice per day.

Block plan of the Chr. Heurich Brewery located in Foggy Bottom

Pictured are a pair of ice block tongs used in the brewery's ice plant, originally owned by Parker Jones, who worked for the brewery for over 20 years. Jones started in the ice plant, but would eventually work in the brewery's office as the comptroller. Although Jones started working at the brewery in the mid-1930s, after Prohibition, these tongs are a great example of the type that would have been an essential tool in the Brewery during Prohibition. 

Ice Block Tongs, Gifted by Bill Jones


Photo of Parker Jones in the Brewery offices, Loaned by Bill Jones

In 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing Prohibition and thus allowing brewers around the country to begin brewing once again. As for Heurich's apple cider, unfortunately, in the thirteen years that the Liberty Apple Champagne had been stored away just for this occasion, it had further fermented into vinegar. Heurich, too proud to sell his cider as vinegar, dumped the rest of his stock. Regardless, the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. was one of the few breweries to survive Prohibition and ninety years ago, on March 1, 1934, the brewery was allowed to brew its beer once again.

March 1, 2024 marks the end of Prohibition in DC. After a 7 year hiatus, we’re reviving our fan-favorite series, History & Hops, a regular after-hours event series where guests can tour the Heurich House, hang out with their favorite DC beverage producers, and taste their creations. This program is currently sold out , but we plan to host more evenings this summer and fall. 

To learn more about the history of the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. and the modern craft beer industry in DC, visit our weekly biergarten, 1921, which opens on Leap Day!

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