Summit City Brewery by Jeff Johnson
In 1853, Carl Penning partnered with George Mayer to build a brewery in downtown Fort Wayne, on the east side of Harrison St., lot 491, Hanna’s Addition. George Mayer had several business interests in town including the Mayer House Hotel, but there is little known about brewer Carl Penning. When production started in early 1854, the Penning Brewery becomes one of the earliest known production brewery to be established in Fort Wayne. Herman Hartman started his brewery earlier in 1853. Unfortunately, before the brewery could become well established, Carl Penning passed away.
Without a brewer in 1860, Mayer leased the brewery to George Hornung. For many years prior, Hornung had operated a small brewery in the back of his Beer House Saloon on Wayne St. The move to Harrison Street gave Hornung room to grow, and he renamed his new business, George Hornung Brewery & Beer House. The brewery and saloon began to prosper, and in 1862 Hornung bought out George Mayer, and renamed the business Summit City Brewery. No connection to the current Summit City Brewerks on Fort Wayne’s East Berry Street.
In 1866 Hornung purchased several lots on west Main Street, and constructed an ice house and cellar, to ferment lager beer. Lager yeasts ferment best at temperatures between 45⁰-55⁰. Most bacteria that can cause off flavors in the beer can’t grow at these low temps. With the new cellar, the brewery could produce a more consistent, quality beer, but it was inconvenient to haul the wort several city blocks from the brewery to the cellar.
In 1874 Hornung moved his brewery into a new larger brick building on the site of the ice house and cellar, 232 West Main St. At this time annual production was about 2100 BBL a year, and Anthony Bott was the brewery Foreman.
Hornung continued to operate the Beer House Saloon at his residence on Harrison St.
Frederick Kley, a well known Fort Wayne cooper, acquired ownership of Summit City Brewery in 1875. Frederick Jr. was the Brew Master, and Frederick senior started a cooperage business next to the brewery. This venture didn’t last long, and by 1879 ownership returned to Hornung. At this time he renamed the brewery, George Hornung Brewery, and a saloon was added in the front.
In 1882, brewery Forman Albert Eckerle leased the West Main St. saloon from Hornung, renaming it Eckerle’s Saloon.
In early January of 1883 George’s wife passed away at the age of 60, and two months later John George Hornung passed at the age of 63. The Harrison St. Beer House Saloon closed. August Hey of Linker, Hey & Co., Washington St. Brewery bought the brewery and saloon on Main Street. The saloon was renamed Hey Saloon, and Albert Eckerle moved his saloon to 223 Calhoun Street. The brewery equipment was moved to the Washington St. Brewery, and Hey started a beer and soda bottling business in the old Summit City Brewery building, making good use of the ice house and cellar.
(Fort Wayne City Directory)
(Fort Wayne Newspapers)
(Register of United States Breweries)
(History of Allen County, Indiana; Kingman Brothers, 1880)