Monday, October 8, 2012

Forgotten Brewery Caves-Minneapolis "The Famous East Side Cave"

"Young Ones of the Tribe....Gather!  The Ancient shall speak once more of Days Past!"

"Yes, I mean you too, Glogeena, I see you texting with your new-fangled opposible thumbs!"

Sorry, something about Brewery Cave posts has this odd effect on me, and in this case for a very good reason.  Part of this story is new, but part is very old indeed.

Way, way back in 1986, a younger version of myself helped write an honest to goodness dead tree book (two volumes no less) called The Bottles, Breweriana and Advertising Jugs of Minnesota 1850-1920.  While a long ways from the Times Best Seller List it has held up pretty well as the definitive source on artifacts left behind by breweries, patent medicine companies, liquor stores and pharmacies of that era. 

I wrote a brief history of a brewery on the river banks below down town Minneapolis.

It got its start early, Minneapolis was a growing, thirsty town full of lumbermen and millers.  The fledgling city was centered around St. Anthony Falls, but river boats could not ascend that far, so they put in at a landing 2 miles downstream at the foot of modern day 4th Street.  And it was here that two young Germans, John Kraenzlein and John Miller established a brewery in 1857.  It was initially a frame structure, and of course they needed storage.  So a very early contemporary account mentions that they had dug "the famous east side cave". 

As was common in that day there were various ownership changes, so it was the partnership of Mueller (the German form of Miller) and Heinrich which expanded the brewery in the mid 1870s, among other things expanding the cooling cellars.  Supposedly they were 400 feet long and 22 feet wide, with smaller branches adding up to a half a mile of tunnels!

By the late 1870s this was the largest brewery in the city, although the reported annual output of 8,000 barrels seems implausibly small.

But eventually the founders of the enterprise passed from the scene, and the next generation of management opted to merge with three other breweries in an 1890 mega deal that created the behemoth Minneapolis Brewing Company.

My final paragraph in the story is worth quoting verbatim:

"The site formerly occupied by Kraenzlein and Miller's Brewery now has some fuel storage tanks on it,  just below West River Road.  The river, of course, is still there, catering to barges instead of stern-wheelers.  Most likely the tunnels are still back there under the River Road somewhere-sort of makes you wonder if there isn't some breweriana stashed in there....."

As it happens, river front renewal projects have since removed the oil tanks, and the limestone cliffs have returned to something like their original appearance.

And the long forgotten entrance to the Heinrich Brewery cave can now be seen, if you look for it very hard.

Road work has covered over two entrances entirely, and the remaining one is a barely visible niche in the rock.  It and a good part of the cave proper have filled in over the years from scree tumbling off the cliff and off the roof of the tunnels.  The entrance is secured by a gate designed to allow bats in and out  It was securely locked when I visited.  And I am fine with that, there have been too many needless tragedies involving caves and youthful folly.

But I do happen to know that intrepid "urban explorers" have been in there, and clandestine images exist...

They look to be having fun, and I would not be honest if I did not admit to being a kindred spirit.  But please, do not go off exploring in dangerous places.  I am quite intentionally not mentioning some other very fascinating places of which I know....

(Note: the photos from inside the Heinrich cave are credited to a fellow I know only by his nom-de-subterre of Max Action.  He is part of an urban explorer band.  For a really horrific tale of their exploration of another brewery cave complex go here.  But only go there virtually, the places I am not telling you how to get to are interesting, but too often bad news.)

1 comment:

ScottH said...

Exploring them virtually is fine by me;-)

Here's a link to my favorite mine ruin in the Scranton PA area: