Many drive by the enormous brick building on South Broadway on their way to the Interstate, but few know of the successful brewery it once was.
The Akron Brewing Company began with a group of 50 Akron saloonkeepers and a capital of $200,000. Thinking prices from existing breweries were too high, these local men banded together to create their own company with a guaranteed supply of beer at a reasonable cost.
The company began construction of the brewery in September 1903 for $150,000 at the current location. The Victorian style building was primarily made of steel, which has allowed it to hold up well over the years. The initial annual capacity of the five-story brewhouse was 30,000 barrels per year, but could be enlarged to 100,000 barrels if necessary.
White Rock Export Beer made its debut in 1904. It was sold in many local saloons and also bottled and marketed heavily for home consumption. This was an emerging trend with the increasing threat of temperance groups.
Even with prohibition looking inevitable, the company undertook a $45,000 expansion in late 1916. They built a large four-story brewhouse, which remains the prominent feature of the south Akron skyline today.
After statewide prohibition became effective in 1919, it’s believed that a large speakeasy was created in the basement of the brewery. Here prominent Akronites could come to get alcohol if they knew the entrance password. The company also reincorporated as The Akron Beverage and Cold Storage Company, and produced a White Rock cereal beverage with less the 0.5 percent alcohol—the legal limit.
Late in 1924, the production of cereal beverages ended for good and The People’s Dairy Company purchased the entire company. After this moved to a new location, the plant remained vacant for two years until the Sumner Dairy Company purchased part of the plant and continues to operate there today.
Some of the smaller buildings on the south side of the plant were razed in the 1950’s for construction of the South Expressway, which later became Interstate 76/77. Today the top of the stock house front wall easily reads “THE AKRON BREWING CO.,” a reminder of one of Akron’s first great breweries.