Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Best Brewery Cave Ever? Part One

Today's historic brewery is "somewhere in the Midwest".  Sorry about a no-locations post but the reasons will become clear in a bit.

Although there is some reason to suspect an earlier date, local histories say this brewery was started in 1871.  Initially a two story 40 x 24 structure it had several subsequent additions in the early 1870s. A photo of about that vintage looks like this:

Before I give the later history of the brewery, a picture of the same site, and from about the same angle today:

Clearly the site has changed a little!

The brewery enjoyed a fair amount of local success and seems to have been in the 500 barrel per year class.  (Breweries with a capacity larger than that payed taxes at a higher rate....was a bit of fudging in capacity estimates common?).  It went through a series of owners in its later years and was destroyed by a fire in 1908.

In the first picture you can see a bridge in the foreground.  It crosses a picturesque little creek. A later owner diverted the creek and excavated the front half of the brewery ruins.  This created a charming trout pond...and makes the cave accessible only by canoe!  Note the water pipe on the right.

A few more exterior views:

Probably the cave entrance corresponds to the wider open door in the historic photo. You wanted to be able to trundle kegs of beer in and out without too much bother.

Note the pinkish tinge to the stone foundation walls.  This is not the natural rock color.  It is a tint that limestone acquires when it gets heated up, and likely an effect of the 1908 fire.  We could tell that we were near the boiler section of the brewery because as our canoe nosed into the partially flooded cave I picked up this:

Laclede was a St. Louis company that specialized in fire bricks, a type used in boilers, kilns etc. They got started in 1844 and were consolidated into a larger firm in 1907.

As we nose our way into the cave, the passing trout waving us in with their tails, I can tell you are eager to see what lies within.  Come back next posting, I promise it will be worth the wait....

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