History: John Bradley

Forest City Brewery advertisement, 1861
Advertisement for Forest City Brewery in Cape Elizabeth, Daily Eastern Argus, 1861

John Bradley’s first foray into commercial brewing was with the Forest City Brewery, which he opened with James and Patrick McGlinchy in South Portland in 1858. Around that time, he also opened a depot to sell Forest City’s cream, pale, and amber ales on 17 York Street (53 York by today’s numbering). After the Cape Elizabeth brewery closed in the early 1870s, Bradley continued to brew on York Street until ca. 1875.

Bradley was originally from County Derry, Ireland; he was born in 1815 and arrived in New York City in 1841. By 1850, he was living in Portland’s Fourth Ward, working as a grocer, and the owner of $1500 in real estate. By 1858, he had moved to 17 York, where he was listed in the city directory as a “trader.” A couple years later, he had embraced the term “Master Brewer”; census records indicate his economic stature had grown to $14,000 in real estate and $5,000 in his personal estate.

Like other brewers, Bradley suffered occasional seizures and fines. In November of 1864, police seized eighteen barrels of ale and a small amount of liquor from Bradley’s place at 17 York. Two years later, they confiscated took fourteen barrels and three half barrels.

Bradley was charged with the “illegal manufacture of malt liquors” in 1869. At issue was if the ale he brewed was illegal. Bradley claimed it wasn’t because he used syrup with the malt. The prosecutor argued that it didn’t matter if syrup was used if the ale was intoxicating. During the court proceedings, “Employees upon the stand swore that they drank from one to two gallons a day, drank it free as water, without injury to their health and without intoxication.” (Note: it would have been typical for brewery workers to drink on the job, to compensate for its physical challenges. It’s also likely that beer at work was part of their wages.) The jury conferred for over an hour, couldn’t agree, and “the papers were taken from them and the case continued to the next sitting of the court.” It’s unclear how Bradley fared then, though he continued to brew for at least another half decade.

Coverage of the case in the Daily Eastern Argus provides some insight into Bradley’s operation. It notes that Bradley kept a “large brewery” in Cape Elizabeth, paid $100 for a U.S. license, “employs a large capital and many workmen,” and brewed once or twice a week, making between 28 to 30 barrels of ale using fifty bushels of malt and between sixty-five and one hundred pounds of hops.

Bradley continued to brew in Cape Elizabeth until ca. 1872. Two Irishmen, James Kaillhiher and George Hainey, lived with Bradley and his wife, Margaret (also native to Ireland), and worked in the brewery. Bradley continued to brew and sell his beers on York Street until 1875 at the earliest, though he may have persisted longer than that—he was operating a saloon at that address in 1882, while living in the South Portland neighborhood of Knightville. Bradley died there in 1888, from stomach cancer.

John Bradley's Brewery and Saloon at Maple and York Streets, on a map of Portland, Maine in 1871
John Bradley’s Brewery and Saloon at Maple and York Streets, on a map of Portland, Maine in 1871. from Atlas of Cumberland County, Maine (New York City: F.W. Beers & Co., 1871)



Will Anderson, The Great State of Maine Beer Book (Portland: Anderson & Sons’ Publishing Co., 1996), 13-6.

Portland City Directory, 1858, 1873, and 1882

“Seizures,” Daily Eastern Argus, 12 Nov 1864.

“Seizures,” Daily Eastern Argus, 4 Oct 1866.

“Superior Court,” Daily Eastern Argus, Portland, 28 Jan 1869.

U.S. Census, 1860 and 1870