Monday, September 14, 2015

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Spring Grove Minnesota

19th Century breweries came in all sizes.  When on the hunt for Forgotten Brewery Caves it is usually not productive to spend time on the bigger outfits.  The location of their caves is usually known, but efforts to seal them off have almost always been successful.  (Miller Caves in Milwaukee is a delightful exception!).  There were of course many tiny breweries, ones that were little much more than ambitious home brewers.  I suspect that many escaped the eye of history altogether.  If your neighbor Schmidt made a nice batch of beer every few weeks, and you were one of the beneficiaries, why blab about it.  The Tax Man might hear of it.

So it is the "smallish" breweries that I spend most of my time on.  And today's is a good example.

Spring Grove Minnesota is a sleepy burg down near the Iowa border.  The population is about 1,300, and probably has always been about that much.  Just enough to support a small brewery.

J.P. Murray, or alternatively Myhre, built brewery in 1867 on "The Old Knutsen farm" on the edge of town.  For a while he had a partner named Mueller; after his departure Murray hired a Norwegian immigrant named Elartson to work for him.  Maximum output appears to have been around 300 barrels in 1870, and the establishment went under in the mid 70's.

My brother and I had a nice day on which to hunt this cave down.  And the only real clue we had was that it was "in the park".  Spring Grove is a picturesque little burg that is graced with three parks, and our first inclination was to visit the one east of town where gypsies were once said to have camped. Caves and Gypsies seemed like a natural fit.  But no, to find this one you need to visit Spring Grove City Park off of 3rd Ave. SW.  The cave is in the north east part of the park and will require a bit of tromping about to find.  Lets have a look:

Aha! Here you can see the tell tale "hump" of a vault style storage cave.  The white structures sticking up are vents, clearly not original but doing a good job of keeping air circulating and damaging water run off out.  But what is that square white thing over by the tree line?

I have to say, it would be helpful if more caves were marked clearly!  Around the corner from the sign we have this:

It is securely gated, although I suppose a particularly lithe intruder might be able to slither over the top.  (And then fall on his face, so don't).  A scattering of beer cans could either have been tossed in over the gate or hearken back to a time some years ago when the gate was said to have been unlocked.

I constantly tinker with different ways to get a decent photo of dimly lit caves using a simple digital camera.  Lets face it, I am not going to be hauling lighting equipment up and down ravines.  I think this one turned out rather well thanks to a brilliant shaft of high noon light coming down through one of the vent holes....

Often my photos reveal additional details once I get them home.  The circumferential black areas are probably stains from run down out of a vent hole.  If they were evidence of an earlier wall they would not extend out onto the loose rocks.  The pinkish tint to the stone reflects local geology.  The orange area to the right is just spray paint.

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