The Sternewirth Privilege

Brewery workers in an unspecified Pittsburgh brewery, 1949,
ABOVE - A pre-Prohibition brewery worker grabs a free work-time beer from a special employee tap.
    Beer the workmen have  practically  ad   libitum.  Before 7 o’clock in the morning,   every  one   may  drink  as  much  as  he       pleases. After that hour, also, in some of     the breweries  as in the Oriental - J. Hoff-  man’s - there  is  no  restriction,  but  in      Schaefer’s, Ringler’s,  Ruppert’s ,  Ehret’s, and other large concerns, there  is  a room set  apart in each, called  the“sternwirth.” where  beer  is  kept constantly on  tap  for the workmen, who  exchange  tickets -- 20 of which are given to each man daily -- for an equal number of glasses of beer.  Some of the men do not drink so many and  give their  surplus  to  those  whose  wants  are greater.  Others  do most of their drinking in the early morning, before the tickets are given out and  when the  beer  is free,  and they give what tickets they  do  not want to their more thirsty friends.   Where  a  man really wants  more  than  20  he  generally gets them, provided he is always sober.  It is rather expected that a new man going to work in a  brewery  will  get drunk  once or twice,  until  he  gets  accustomed  to  the strength of the beer and has measured his own power of resistance, but after that he must  keep  sober  or  be discharged.  “A   brewery,” say an old brewer severely, “ is not  a place  drunkards. ”   Probably  the     average daily consumption is about 40 to 45 glasses per man, through all the force of employes.  Moderate as this may seem, to some people,  it mounts  up  to  a total that  is a  severe tax  on the brewers.  The men  in  Ruppert’s  brewery  drank  800 barrels of beer last year at the expense of the proprietors.  They all drink what they please in the cellars up to 9 or 10 o’clock daily,  but  after  that  hour  the  cleaners, drivers, and stablemen -- 36 in all --  get tickets and have to take their beer in the “sternewirth” (or star. saloon.)  Those 36 men get away with an average of 10 barrels per week between the hours of 9 A.M. and 6 P.M. daily on six days of the each week.  Nearly every brewer points with pride to some employe capable of drinking a hun- dred glasses per diem. 

---from "The Million’s Beverage: Gambrinus’ Legacy to Posterity.  How Lager Was Introduced to America ...Life in a Brewery"

The New York Times, May 20, 1877