Portsmouth Brewery bottles classic light beer

July 29, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

Portsmouth Brewing Company on Second Street in Portsmouth offers a taste of history with their house-brewed beers. Several are available in stores now, and beginning Aug. 1, the brewery will begin bottling its historic Crystal Gold Light Lager for retail sale.

According to its website (www.portsmouthohbrewing.com), the Portsmouth Brewing Company was established in 1843, and is the oldest brewery in the state of Ohio. The brewery started by crafting English style ales, porters, and steam ales, without much success, until it was purchased by Julius Esselborn in 1889. He remodeled the building and moved the Brew House from the basement to its current location; reaching the height of its production, making around 20,000 beer barrels a year.

After Esselborn passed away in 1900, the brewery was passed to his son Paul Esselborn, and closed down twice. The first closure was in 1909 due to anti-saloon laws. The brewery reopened when the laws were repealed in 1911, but was forced closed again in 1920 following National Prohibition. All of the brew house equipment was sold to a Canadian brewery, and the brewery did not produce beer again until 1997 after Steve Mault bought and remodeled the building.

Hoping to recapture its history, the Portsmouth Brewing Company today serves beers reminiscent of the German style lagers brewed under the ownership of the Esselborns. The brewery started bottling beer in October 2011 for the first time since Prohibition, offering their Portsmouth Pilsner, Red Bird Ale, and Peerless Pale Ale at regional retailers for customers to enjoy at home.

On Aug. 1, the brewery will roll out its fourth bottled beer to retailers. Crystal Gold Light Lager is named after the original Crystal Gold beer brewed and served in Portsmouth in the early 1900s. The original beer was described as light and effervescent with aromatic hops, but its recipe was lost to time. Two years ago the Portsmouth brewery created a new light beer with a similar taste, and named it Crystal Gold Light Lager after their original brew.

The light lager has been on tap at the brewery ever since, and Emily Eldridge of the Portsmouth Brewing Company said it’s a very popular item.

“We took it off tap last winter because light beer seems to be more of a summer brew, and people were demanding it everyday so we had to go ahead and make it again on tap before the winter was over. We’re going to try to keep it on year-round,” Eldridge said.

Beginning Aug. 1, customers can take the flavor home with them, as the Portsmouth Brewing Company begins selling Crystal Gold Light Lager in bottles at local retailers in Portsmouth, Waverly, Chillicothe, Athens, Columbus and Cincinnati.

“At least in the Portsmouth market, I think it’s going to sell really well. Especially in the summertime. People want a beer that they can sit and drink when it’s hot out. It’s refreshing and it goes down really easy. The other thing is the alcohol content isn’t quite as high as some of our other beers. In the craft industry they call this being very sessionable. So you can sit and drink beer with your friends all night at the bar and have a really good time. This is definitely a more social kind of beer,” Eldridge said.

To help promote the brew and remember its part in Portsmouth history, the brewery has found some old ads for Crystal Gold Light Lager from 1916 that they’ll hang around the bar. They’ll also be selling prints of the vintage ads at the brewery. After launching Crystal Gold Light Lager in bottles this summer, Eldridge said the Portsmouth Brewing Company hopes to release Golden Dark Lager in bottles this winter.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.