A Journalist Looks at Beer
Will It Be Trash or Tribute?
Bottle Stands on the Edge
By JOHN HOLL
New Jersey has never let go of its quirky landmarks easily.
Tillie, the clown face that graced the front of Palace Amusements in Asbury
Park for nearly 50 years, was preserved in June before the rest of the
building was torn down.
Lucy, the 65-foot tall, century-old wooden elephant in Margate, was saved
from demolition and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in
1976. In 1995, the Colgate Clock in Jersey City, which overlooks Manhattan,
was rescued when the rest of the Colgate-Palmolive Company complex was
Now, residents have begun efforts to save the bottle.
The 60-foot tall, 70-year-old rusted red bottle that stands on top of the old
Pabst Brewery in Newark is familiar to drivers on the Garden State Parkway
and a symbol of the city's proud brewing past. It has been seen in episodes of
''The Sopranos'' and is the subject of an old song, ''The Big Pabst Bottle.''
But, as developers begin to tear down the brewery to make way for a $33
million shopping and residential complex that straddles Newark and
Irvington, the bottle's fate remains unclear.
It is not a question of whether people want to save the bottle, but whether
rust has damaged the relic beyond saving.
''It is a delicate situation because we want to save the bottle, but it is in bad
shape,'' said Pedro Ortiz Jr. of New West Developers, a Newark company
overseeing the construction. ''We have people looking at the bottle's
integrity, and they tell us that it could come down just fine or that it could
crumble into a million pieces if we try to move it. We are waiting for some
more surveys and hoping for the best.''
The bottle was built in the 1930's as a landmark for Hoffman Pale Dry Ginger
Ale, and once served as a 55,000-gallon water tower. The company, which
began brewing beer at the 10-acre complex in 1934, was purchased by
Pabst in 1945. The bottle was then painted blue in honor of the company's
Blue Ribbon brand.
The bottle eventually faded back to red, and the brewery closed in 1986.
''Officially, the city is weighing all options for moving it to a proper location,''
said Donna Purnell, a spokeswoman for the city of Newark. ''Personally, I
would like to see it moved to the Newark Bears stadium, because beer and
baseball go together.''
But, Ms. Purnell said, paying for it has become an issue. A conservative
estimate to save and relocate the bottle is about $200,000, so the city is
looking for bottle benefactors.
One group of current and former residents, led by Nick DeBenedetto of
Woodbridge, has already begun to raise money for the bottle, but declined to
say how much has been donated so far.
''The bottle is part of a proud Newark history,'' he said. ''The bottle has
outlived so many people and important events in the city's history. We hope
to save it so that future generations can experience the same joy and
wonderment that the bottle mysteriously provides.''
Mr. Ortiz said his development company, which bought the brewery from
Pabst in 2003 and owns the bottle, is also interested in incorporating the
bottle into the new complex, which is tentatively called Pabst Plaza.
''We understand the history of it, we know how important it is,'' Mr. Ortiz
said. ''If no one else can afford to take it, and it can be saved, then we want
to keep it here.''
|The Beer Briefing
by John Holl