Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Mantorville Minnesota

The brewery in Mantorville was a rather large operation for such a rural location, and there are many nice images of it extant.

Technically this was the second brewery in town, a man named Hirchi built the first one in 1858 on Fifth street.  As this was quite nearby the assertion in Land of Amber Waters that the caves for the first enterprise were incorporated into the circa 1861 structure are likely.

The Dodge County Brewery eventually grew into a four story structure built entirely from stone quarried out of the bluff behind it.  It somehow avoided the frequent fires that damaged so many early breweries, and by the late 1800s had a capacity of 7,000 barrels per year.

But Prohibition killed it off, notwithstanding a degree of bootleg activity during those dry and unhappy years.  After a brief and unsuccessful venture post Prohibition the brewery was partially demolished in 1942.  Much valuable metal was recovered for the war effort.

As to what survives today:

Impressive hill side ruins.  Note the towering wall atop the hill.  This is part of the expansion of the brewery after the 1870s engraving shown earlier.

Gated entrances to a surviving section of basement.  The roof looks unstable and you should not go in there.

A very large ageing cellar stands open in the ruins.

A view of the inside.  I note a pipe coming down from above.  It is possible that this was a direct feed from the vats, and that they kegged the beer down here.

A nice view of the ruins from the road.

I have some advice on this site.  Firstly it is posted no trespassing.  But a fall or spring visit would give you a great view either from 5th Street East, where the above picture was taken, or from Bluff Street which runs in front of the brewery.

But more importantly.....the big vault I am showing you is the only cave you should look for/at.  If you look on the internet you will find pictures of other, deeper caves which I assume exit out the back of the surviving basement.  I did not go in there and neither should you.  History is fun.  Caves are fun.  Being clobbered by falling rocks is not only un-fun it would be a stupid, stupid way to go.

On a cheerier note I can tell you that beer is still being brewed in Mantorville.  A new venture is operating within site of the old ruins.  Look up the Mantorville Brewing Company, also known as the Stage Coach Brewing Company.  You will find them at 101 East Fifth Street.  I can't tell from their web site if they have a tap room but you might contact them and ask.  You can for sure sample their wares at the Stage Coach Saloon, located in the nearby Hubbell House.  This place is ancient by Minnesota standards, predating statehood.  So the saloon is not named after some fake wild west kitsch, it has in fact been around since stage coaches were the primary means of transportation.

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