When brewing reached Wisconsin in the 1840s and 50s it was concurrent with a significant change in technology. And taste. Lager beer was becoming popular, replacing the ales and assorted birch and ginger beers that had previously held sway. Lager beer requires considerable time to age, and has to do so at cool temperatures. In a day before mechanical refrigeration this meant you had to store it in a cave.*
Most early breweries had such storage caves. A few such as Miller Caves have persisted and even become attractions. But most of the small breweries died off, and the few that survived went over to refrigeration units long ago.
So, mostly because they fascinate me, I will be taking the occasional peek into forgotten brewery caves from the 19th century.
First up is Chippewa Falls. Go to Irvine Park and look for this sign:
There is a story that later on the cave was used to house bears, as Irvine Park has long had a little municipal zoo. It seems pretty dark and gloomy, not so great for visitors to see the critters. So I suspect this tale is a tall one. I see no traces of bars anywhere, and the modern concrete is probably from later use by Leinenkugels who seem to have had some arrangement to use it after Schmidmeyer went out of business.
For sure a more modern, but already abandoned, bear cage sits right next door to the cave;
*Not 100% true, if you had a local lake to harvest in winter you could have an ice house above ground.
** Actually Schmidmayer got started circa 1857. I revisit him in several later posts.