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Arlington Brewing 1890-1916


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Consumers/Arlington Brewery

In 1890 a new brewery was founded in Rosslyn in Arlington (then Alexandria) County. Originally named the Consumers Brewing Company, the brewery was built on the banks of the Potomac, where the Rosslyn Marriott now stands. A new brewery building was built in 1897. It was designed by local architect Albert Goenner.  Goenner also designed other local building, including the original Arlington County Courthouse built in 1898.  The brewery was made with bricks from the local brickyards that lined the Potomac on the Virginia side where National Airport now stands.  The bricklayers placed several horseshoes and a mule shoe at the top of the brewery smokestack for luck.  The brewery was a large red brick building, with turrets at each end, a clock tower in the center, and the large smokestack.  The building must have stood out along the riverfront near the old aqueduct bridge.

The brewery made light lager, a dark lager, ale and a porter, much of which it sold locally to the many saloons which dotted Rosslyn at the time. It advertised that it would deliver its products within the local area for free, deliveries made with an unmarked wagon.

Arlington Brewing 1906 ad.

A newspaper ad from March 1906.

Local Reforms

In 1902 the brewery was sold and renamed the Arlington Brewing Company.  In 1903 Arlington voters eager for reform elected a new county attorney, Crandal Mackey.  Mackey won with the promise to clean up the local community.  Rosslyn and Jackson City (both in Arlington) were red light districts serving the vices of Washington, DC. Filled with saloons that illegally operated on Sundays along with gambling halls and brothels, the area embarrassed many Arlingtonians. There were even two race tracks, including St. Asaph's located in what is now Alexandria City.

Rosslyn 1906.

Rosslyn, circa 1906

In early 1904 Mackey instructed the county sheriff to begin closing the illegal gambling houses. By the end of May the sheriff still had taken no action, so Mackey obtained warrants to raid the establishments himself. He gathered a small group of citizens he trusted and deputized them. On the afternoon of May 30 Mackey and his deputies began raiding the illegal gambling houses and saloons, destroying gaming equipment, furniture, smashing bottles of booze and glasses and gathering enough evidence to prosecute the owners of the illegal businesses.   While there are no surviving records showing what beer the local saloons sold, these raids almost certainly had an effect on the Arlington Brewery.

Mackey's raids didn't end the brewery's local problems.  In January 1910 a fire destroyed the stables next to the brewery causing $20,000 damage.  Arlington fireman saved the main building.  A small fire had started in the same spot in the stable's hayloft two weeks before.  Since no lamps were in the area it was thought that a former employee may have started the fires.  Forty horse were released from the stables when the fire was discovered by a watchman.  They ran free until corralled by locals.   Fire companies from Virginia and DC fought the blaze.  Fire hoses were routed through the brewery to reach the fire as firemen fought to save surrounding buildings.  

Prohibition sentiment was growing stronger in Virginia in the 1910s and the few breweries still operating in Virginia bore the dry force's attention.  In June 1910 Mackey tried to close the brewery for violating local prohibition laws.  He apparently failed because the brewery stayed open.  In 1911 the brewing company was charged with illegally delivering its products via their own wagon.  In 1912 a local police court ruled that such deliveries were legal. 


The End and After

Virginia went dry in the autumn of 1916 finally closing the brewery.  During Prohibition the facility produced Cherry Smash soda. The brewery did not reopen after Prohibition ended in 1933 and was used as a warehouse. It was torn down in 1958 to make room for a new hotel.







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