Peter Ballantine was born in Scotland on November 16, 1791 and came to seek his fortune in America in 1820. He found work at a brewery in Albany, NY and being clever and thrifty opened his own brewery there in 1833. He took his wife and three children to Newark, NJ in 1840 to be closer to the growing New York City beer market. In the beginning he leased a brewery founded by Gen. John N. Cumming but around 1850 built his own ale brewery nearby. By 1877, P. Ballantine & Sons was the fourth largest brewery in the USA and the only one brewing ales exclusively in the top 20. The famous Ballantine three ring symbol (“Purity, Body, Flavor”) was inspired by the wet rings left on a table as Peter Ballantine consumed his beer and was first used by the brewery in 1879. By the 1880s, Ballantine Brewing plants covered 12 acres and were the sixth largest brewer in America. In January of 1883 at the age of 91, Peter Ballantine passed away. The running of the brewery was passed to John H. Ballantine, and later Robert F. Ballantine.
After the death of Robert’s last son, the company was headed up by non-family members. By 1895, Ballantine was the 5th largest brewer in the country. The original ale brewery was eventually closed and all activities moved to the lager brewery site in 1912. Ballantine’s management was forward thinking and saw the coming of Prohibition. In order to allow the company to survive, they produced malt syrup and diversified into insurance and real estate. Many of the family members left to join John Ballantine at the Neptune Meter Co. Following the lifting of the Volstead Act, German brewing equipment salesman Carl Badenhausen and his brother Otto approached Ballantine to purchase the brewery. The management of Ballantine did not want to return to brewing as so many in-house skills had been lost during Prohibition. The brothers purchased the brewery and imported a brewmaster, Archibald MacKenchnie, from Scotland. Ballantine beers and ales quickly returned to their original popularity in the greater New York City area.
Ballantine had a close association with local sports. They sponsored the New York Yankees in the 1940s and 50s. N.Y. Yankee announcer Mel Allen’s called every Yankee home run a “Ballantine Blast” on his radio and later television coverage.