Piels Brewery

124-128 Sheffield Avenue
c. 1900

Considering East New York’s thriving German immigrant population in the second half of the 19th century, it is no surprise that the neighborhood was once home to a significant brewing complex, the Piels Brewery. In 1883, Gottfried, Wilhelm and Michael Piel – three brothers from Düsseldorf, Germany – purchased a small brewery at Georgia and Liberty Avenues and slowly expanded the complex. Its success was largely due to the ingenuity and skill of the youngest brother, Michael, who incorporated traditional brewing techniques with the new science of refrigeration. As expected with any large brewery at that time, the location included a traditional, open-air beer garden for its patrons. In 1912, due to the brand’s growing popularity, the brothers closed the garden in order to expand the brewery itself. After surviving Prohibition by producing “near beer,” the brand installed the world’s largest beer sign, featuring neon lights, atop the complex in 1936. The Piels brewing legacy lasted for ninety years until September 1973, when it closed its doors. At that time, much of the complex was demolished, though this structure still stands as a reminder of the once thriving local business and East New York’s German heritage. Also surviving at 315 Liberty Avenue is the company’s 1959 Administration Building, whose original Modern style has unfortunately been altered beyond recognition.