Thursday, March 26, 2015

Texas Throw Back Thursday - Beer

A look into the history of a great Texas tradition - Beer!
...what a lot of beer fans don’t realize is that (San Antonio) has deep brewing roots that go back 160 years and that it dominated the Texas landscape for decades as the state’s beer-brewing capital.

Beer brewing was among the first industries to blossom in San Antonio. It began with the influx of German immigrants to the area in the middle of the 19th century. They brought with them a thirst for suds...

German immigrants started pouring into the state in the mid-1800s. At that time, English settlers along the East Coast were crafting ales, but in Texas, Germans turned to brewing traditional lager beers, which ferment at cooler temperatures and take more time to make.

“All the breweries in Texas opened in communities that had a large German population,” said Jeff Holt, who has chronicled the state’s beer history on his website “It’s like they got here and built all their stuff and then said, 'Oh crap, who brought the beer?’”

Before a unified rail system and refrigeration, towns needed local breweries to ensure that the beer didn’t spoil. Throughout the Hill Country, brewers set up shop...

...Charles Nimitz, the grandfather of Chester Nimitz, a fleet admiral in the Navy during World War II, operated a brewery in the saloon of his hotel in Fredericksburg, starting in 1860. It was short lived, as the Civil War, like it did with many other breweries in Texas, brought an end to beer production because Union blockades made it difficult for brewing ingredients such as hops and grain to flow to the South.
Yet another reason why folks down here aren't too fond of the damnyankees.

In San Antonio, brewing beer on the industrial scale got started with the opening of the Western Brewery next to the Alamo in 1855.
Annually, the brewery produced about 1,600 barrels of beer, which fermented in a large, cold cellar beneath the Menger Hotel. Its beer was sold for 50 cents a gallon and by 1878...the brewery became the largest in the state.
William A. Menger, chief of volunteer fire Company No. 2, gave the city its first steam pumper to fight fires on June 12, 1868. He also established the city’s first brewery next door to the Alamo before going into the hotel business at the Menger Hotel (Courtesy Photo / San Antonio Conservation Society)

The area had a smattering of local breweries through the end of the 19th century. In 1881, when the International Great Northern Railroad, later the Missouri Pacific, connected San Antonio to Austin, larger breweries were able to deliver beer to San Antonio. While local breweries were able to ship their beer to other cities, the competition from larger breweries meant an end to beer making as a cottage industry.

In 1884, Anheuser-Busch started the Lone Star Brewing Company... A couple of years after Lone Star was founded, Pearl beer... started being produced by a group of citizens that formed the San Antonio Brewing Association. The brewery, which later became the Pearl Brewery, grew to become one of the state’s largest breweries by 1916.
A historic photograph of workers at the Lone Star Brewery. (Courtesy Photo / Witte Museum)

The old Pearl Brewery

We'll skip the Prohibition era, which is a sad chapter in our nation's history.
Over the years, consolidation became the name of the game for the U.S. brewing industry. In 1952, Pearl officially adopted the name of its popular lager as the name for its brewery. Nearly a decade later, Missouri-based Goetz Brewing Co. bought the Pearl brewery. The Pearl brand was acquired by Pabst in 1985.

Lone Star had a similar fate. After Prohibition, it was reopened as Champion Brewing Co., which made Sabinas and later Champion beer. In 1940, the formula and name for Lone Star was adopted. The brewery was acquired by Olympia Brewing Co. in 1976, which was bought by Wisconsin’s G. Heileman. Detroit’s Stroh bought Heileman and closed the Lone Star brewery in 1996. Pabst bought the Lone Star brand in 1999 and made it at the Pearl Brewery until it was shuttered in 2001.

The closing of both the Pearl and Lone Star meant the loss of thousands of jobs and the end of major brewing operations in San Antonio.
Not to fear, beer lovers. The rise of microbreweries and craft beer has restored local suds to thirsty San Antonians.
Around the time Lone Star closed, a handful of craft microbreweries started to brew beers...

More than a century and a half after brewing became a local industry, craft brewers continue to inch into the market. Just two years ago, there were roughly a handful of breweries in operation in San Antonio and the surrounding towns. Since then, that number has about tripled...
Because BEER!

Alamo Beer Holster - available here

A few of the craft beers now available in the San Antonio area.


Well Seasoned Fool said...

Being a Colorado lad, you would think I drink Coors. Not so. During the Depression Coors, forecasting the end of Prohibition, built a new brewery using cheap labor. All concrete moved by wheel barrow up scaffolding. The worker was paid anywhere from 5 to 10 cents after he dumped his load. I heard this from the older generation who wouldn't drink Coors if it was free.

Denver had a great beer, Tivoli, that closed in the 1960's. The building now houses the student center for Metro State, or whatever it is called now.

Old NFO said...

What? No mention of Shiners???

Bag Blog said...

We drank a lot of Pearl bear in our San Marcos days, but I was never fond of Lone Star. There was a cheap beer back then called Castle. It had great puzzles on the caps.

Last time we were in San Antonio, my husband thought he would be really good and let me tour some art galleries in an area called Blue Star Art Center. It being Sunday all the art galleries were closed, but the micro brewery and bicycle shop was open. My hubby was in hog heaven.

CenTexTim said...

WSF - I'm not a Coors fan either. Nothing to do with their history, just don't like the taste.

NFO - Shiner is brewed in Shiner, TX (where else?). That's about 100 miles from San Antonio. Since the focus of this story was on SA I didn't include Shiner. If you want info about Shiner you can find it here.

BB - I was just the opposite. I liked Lone Star but didn't like Pearl. And Blue Star is a pretty cool area. Next time you visit let me know.