Dating back to the late 19th century, the Gunther and Natty Boh breweries represent the long evolution of a once burgeoning industry that was closely linked with Baltimore’s dominant German population. Gunther Brewery George Gunther, Sr. began his brewing career in Baltimore with the Gehl Brewery and took it over in 1880. After a fire in the brewery, Gunther built a new brick brewery in 1887 and continued the firm until 1899 when he sold his operation to the Maryland Brewing Company, the brewing trust.
Because he agreed not to brew under his name, Gunther’s reentry into the industry with a new brewery required him to use his son’s name when he established a new firm. The George Gunther, Jr. Brewing Company was erected in 1900. Predicting the end of legal alcohol, the company formed the George Gunther, Jr. Manufacturing Co. in 1919 to produce near beer. Upon the end of Prohibition, Gunther got back to brewing and proceeded to expand his operation all along O’Donnell and Conkling Streets. Gunther Brewing Company, while outwardly successful, became one of the breweries to be swallowed up by a larger firm, Hamm’s Brewing Company, in 1960. Consolidation continued as F.& M. Schaefer Brewing Company bought Hamm’s in 1963. Schaefer preserved both Hamm’s and Gunther’s main brands until the brewery was closed in 1978.
One of many local breweries before Prohibition, the National Brewing Company grew to dominate Baltimore’s brewing industry after the end of World War II with its best-selling “National Bohemian” brand. It was during the period after World War II that the National Brewing Company, its advertising, and its products became part of Baltimore’s folk culture. During the 1940s the brewing company added a first to their corporation, the introduction of the nation’s first six-pack. This lightweight, portable, six-pack changed retail distribution patterns and facilitated home consumption. Also contributing to its regional success was the famed one-eyed mascot, “Mr. Boh” who first appeared on bottle labels in the 1930s. Although National remained the largest brewery in Baltimore, its capacity was less than a quarter of that of the large Midwestern breweries. Due to this, National had to succumb to larger competitors and closed its doors in 1978.