Monday, March 16, 2015

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Frozen in Time.

Today an in depth photo survey of a marvelous 19th century brewery.  Alas, I shall have to invoke the infrequently required "ambiguity rule" regards its location.  My rationale for this is at the bottom of the post.

The basics are a familiar tale.  A brewery was established on this site in 1860.  It burned in the late 1860s and was re-established in 1871.  It lasted almost up until Prohibition but apparently in a declining state for its later years.  When it went out of business the brewery must have just been abandoned.  To my eye it shows scant evidence of later use and indeed it is in a rather rural location where few commercial alternative uses suggest themselves.

It makes a very interesting time capsule....

A photo I have seen circa 1900 shows the brewery as three connected buildings. Here you can see the surviving walls from all of them.  The central building was a three story, mostly brick structure that extended back onto the bluff to the left of us.

Of course by now your keen eyes quiclkly spotted the cave entrance which we shall return to presently.

Here the central brick and stone main building adjoins a rather shoddy looking structure to its north. I think this was the coopers shop, where they make barrels for the brewery.

Notice how much of the cave entrance is silted in.  The metal fence probably had been placed over the entrance at one point to slightly deter visitors.  This cave extends back from the southernmost of the three brewery buildings.

It appears to line up with a doorway in the front of the building.  Oddly the photo puts a smaller door and a window here.  I think the doorway was later enlarged.  On into the cave...

This is a fairly big structure.  I wonder if the reported capacity of the brewery in its prime, 1500 barrels a year, might be an underestimate.  There are some interesting features to this cave.  It did not seem, well, rock solid, so exploring all the way to the back seemed imprudent.  But the dark rectangle on the light patch at the far end is probably a doorway into another silted in chamber.  And off to each side about half way back there was this sort of thing:

Certainly side passages.  Probably for beer and more than half silted in.  In theory they could also be smaller chambers for ice.  This is a clear archway so it is not simply a cave in.  But the most interesting feature of the cave was up above....

Here a passage allows beer kegs to be lowered down from above.  Some sort of elevator system must have been used, perhaps that slab of 140 year old wood was part of it.  There is even a rusty metal fitting on the board.  A section of roof has fallen in on the other side.  The upper end of the shaft connects to the back part of the central brewery building...

Oh yes, there were a few signs here and there.

The brewery also had some outbuildings.  What do you make of this one?

I think this was the malt house.  You can't brew with plain old barley.  It has to first be "malted" heated slowly over many hours to activate enzymes and make the sugars available for fermentation. The area on the left looks to have niches for furnaces.  The area on the right, behind the rusty grate, was probably grain storage.  It certainly is newer than the cave and brewery structures..

Notice again just how much dirt and debris fills in underground spaces over time.  Being on a hillside accelerates this process.  Down the hill a bit farther, next to a pleasant little creek, we find one last building.

Beer does not deliver itself!  So most breweries had wagons and teams of horses.  This looks like a barn to me.  I understand that this brewery did try bottling for a while but this appears to be a larger structure than would be needed for that.

So there you have it.  The preserved remains of a brewery from circa 1870 (likely parts of it used the framework of the earlier, 1860 brewery).  The only thing missing would be the brew master's house which I expect was somewhere on the hill up above.

So why a "no locations" post?  Well I do not want people to get into trouble.  Not legal trouble, sure, but even more emphatically, not into physical danger.  This site was easily accessible but there were unambiguous No Trespassing signs all about.  If you were asked to explain your business there it would be difficult to claim ignorance.  And something about the tunnels bothered me.  This is clearly a rather large cave system with much of it filled in over time.  If somebody got the bright idea to excavate it I think cave ins would be a distinct possibility.  So just take this as a brief time travelling experience, back to a brewery locked up around the time of  Prohibition and slumbering on for almost a century in a quiet patch of woods.

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