Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Brewery Caves - Points of the Compass

In a season where it is difficult to do any real world exploring we have to settle for what we can get. As I wander the internet looking for bits of 19th century brewery history I come across mention of brewery caves in places I am quite unlikely to visit.  Where for instance are the furthest North, South, East and West brewery caves in North America?


It would have to be the Kreische brewery in La Grange Texas.  I was surprised, not that Texans wanted beer in the 1850's, but that somebody was ingenious enough to find a way to keep a brewery cave cold in that climate.  The secret of course was a spring of cool water down in the vault.

Today the Kreische site is part of a State Park, and tours of the ruins are offered.  I think the cave is now sealed off.


Since the east coast had the majority of the US population in the mid 19th Century breweries and their caves were everywhere.  Picking an east coast example is way too easy.  But arbitrarily how about we give the nod to the Crown Finish caves in Brooklyn New York.

The photo is from a nice article in the Wall Street Journal about a young couple using the abandoned 70 foot long tunnel/cave as a place to age Gorgonzola cheese.  I like Gorgonzola.


You can't get much further west than San Francisco.  And tucked in among modern buildings is a curious place called Albion Castle. It was built as the Albion Ale and Porter brewery in 1870 and was reworked as something of a folly castle by a sculptor in the 1930s.  There is a spring cooled cave underneath. There is some good information out there on Albion Castle.  I enjoyed this  article by a Susan Saperstein, and from it got this photo of the caves (credit same to Kaleen Kenning)


So where is the furthest north surviving brewery cave?  That's a tricky question.  There were a few breweries up in Gold Rush era Alaska but what with permafrost and all there would not have been caves dug.  You had plenty of ice, and above ground ice houses were more practical.  So I can toss out a few candidates but can't give a solid answer yet.

How about:  Princeton British Columbia?  although you might argue that this has been destroyed by road work it is often the case that it has not been entirely wiped out.  Being a small brewery the caves seem to have been used longer than usual, and of course that whole Prohibition thing did not hurt them.  One suspects in fact, an increase in production.....

In Duluth Minnesota there is a Brewery Creek, on the banks of which there was a very early brewery. But the rock there is too hard for easy tunneling, and when you have all the ice in Lake Superior to work with, an ice house makes more sense.

The inglorious appearance of Brewery Creek today
Maine is quite far north and was settled early.  But settled by priggish tee-totallers who gave the name "Maine Laws" to a spectrum of spoil sport anti-alcohol legislation.

I am pretty sure that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan had brewery caves...after all, a mining rush always brings the two necessary ingredients together: thirsty men and digging proficiency. Perhaps somebody up that way will report in.

But in the end I suspect that the Furthest North brewery cave will turn out to be Canadian.  I have in fact been chasing down information on a couple of possibilities that will have to wait until another posting...

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