Gammel’s Beer Bonanza, Utica

The following is based on search of archival information in various sources including, Google Books, and Fulton Historical Newspapers. In the late 1800s and at least until 1910 George Gammel operated a restaurant and off-license business at 17-19 Liberty Street, Utica, NY.

The restaurant had been started by George’s German-born father Robert, a son of ’48, the fighters for liberty who fled Central European states seeking freer lands.

The hull of a building stands today that is likely the site of Gammel’s business, see details here, via Google Maps. Very different the site was c.1900 when Utica was a manufacturing and commercial hub in the Empire State.

George Gammel bottled beer in no. 17, probably the smaller structure on the left, and ran the restaurant at no. 19, likely the structure to the right.

He was clever in his advertising strategies, sometimes placing short banner ads in local papers that mentioned different beer brands. These were the pop-ups or rotating panel ads of their time.

Sometimes advertisers chose other strategies, especially around the concept of the advertorial, which is hardly new in America.

An amusing ad of this type appeared in the January 10, 1897 issue of The Journal in Utica. It attests floridly to Gammel’s expertise in the beer arts. 27 men were assembled in their club telling jokes and seeming tall tales, the fireside aglow. They were persuaded on a bet to troop to a local restaurant, Gammel’s, to see if they could order as many (different) beers as their number.

The promoter of the proposition had to pay if he lost, and if he won, a doubter had to ante. Both were probably put up by Gammel who likely repaid the “loser”.

Below are the beers, a “world of beers” of their day in a small but prosperous American city. Even well outside New York City or a Chicago, beer expertise of this sort was not lacking, evidently.

Now, I counted 26 beers in the story. One of the clubmen is described as a long-haired scribe. I’d think he didn’t order a beer – he wrote the story.

  1. Schlitz Export.
  2. Pabst Export
  3. Pabst Bohemian
  4. Rochester Rienzi
  5. Consumer’s
  6. Rochester Bohemian
  7. Culmbacher (imported)
  8. Rochester Bavarian
  9. Ralph’s Cream Ale
  10. Ralph’s Old Ale
  11. Ralph’s India Pale Ale
  12. Ralph’s Old Stock Ale
  13. Munich Augustiner
  14. Kaiser Beer (imported)
  15. Coburger Bock
  16. Guinness Stout
  17. Greenway’s India Pale Ale
  18. Bass Imperial Stout
  19. Younger’s Scotch Ale
  20. Evan’s Cream Ale
  21. Allsopp’s India Pale Ale
  22. Eagle Bohemian
  23. Smith’s India Pale Ale
  24. Bass Pale Ale
  25. Smith’s Philadelphia Stout
  26. Philadelphia Weiss Beer

I have discussed beer bars in different pre-craft periods, as well as beer festivals offering an enticing range of beers. To these we must add busy Utica, NY of the Gilded Age, as Gammel offered beers from (at least) Utica, Rochester, then a reputed brewing centre, Syracuse, Milwaukee, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and England.* Moreover, he ensured representation of around a dozen styles.

The equivalents today would make a fine palette of beers, for anyone, anytime who cares about the genre.


* See my earlier post where I discuss the innovative advertising of a different kind by Oneida Brewing in Utica. Oneida was successor, even by 1897, to the earlier Ralph’s Brewery but the Ralph’s name was still being used clearly to describe beers from this source.