Oldest brewery west of the Hudson River

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


Royal Brewing Company of Weston, Mo., was founded in 1842 by John Georgian. Upon his death in 1857, the operation was purchased by August Kunz of Leavenworth, Kan.


A fire in 1860 nearly destroyed the business, but Kunz rebuilt and continued producing beer until rocky financial times led to Kunz shuttering the business in 1872.


The operation remained dormant until 1875, when new owners restarted operations, through 1885 when John Walruff acquired the operation.
Walruff was the owner of a “near beer” known as Walruff’s Celebrated Stomach Invigorator that he brewed in his Lawrence, Kan., plant. A statewide alcohol prohibition in Kansas in 1881 essentially shuttered his Lawrence operation. He moved to Weston to take over operations of the Weston Brewing Company.


Located a block east of Weston’s business center on two acres, from 1887 through 1901 it was producing over 12,000 barrels annually. The brewing plant consisted of a large brick brewing building and five underground cellars for lagering the beer. Its flagship product was Royal Pilsner, made from “carefully selected materials of high standards of excellence.” Primary markets were both Leavenworth and Kansas City.


By 1898, the company was again in financial straits and was in receivership. In 1901, however, a new ownership group formed the Royal Brewing Company with capital of over $50,000 with Benjamin Joffee of the McCormick Distilling Company being a primary partner.


Business rebounded and by year’s end the Royal Brewing Company was private label branding Royal Pilsner in St. Louis, Mo., under a partnership with Klausman Brewing Company. Thirty-eight rail cars full of beer were sold under the agreement when the parties got into a dispute over roughly 40,000 dozen empty bottles being returned and the agreement terminated.


As was standard practice at the time, breweries became involved with the saloons selling their beer, sometimes going so far as to own the actual saloon – standard practice by most breweries leading up to Prohibition.


In 1904 a lawsuit was filed in Kansas City alleging that Royal had guaranteed the lease of a building for a saloon from John H. Rieger, a prominent local distiller, to John Tripp. When Tripp was unable to pay, Rieger sued Royal on the guarantee and collected the back rent.


In 1907 Royal changed hands again, the last time before the passage of the Volstead Act in 1918, ushering in Prohibition. New capital was listed at $200,000 by the three Danciger brothers, Abe, Jack and Dan, and the brewery was moved to 308-10, West Sixth St. in Kansas City.


When Prohibition took effect on October 28, 1919, Royal Brewery was listed at its Sixth Street location with a brewery in Weston, Mo.


In 2005, Michael Coakley and Corey Weinfurt purchased the 3.2-acre complex, and today operate O’Malley’s Pub, America Bowman Restaurant and Weston Brewing Company at the original brewing site at Welt and Short in Weston.


The underground cellars are still in use today as part of the underground portion of the pub and brewery where Royal Lager is still produced to this day.

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