On May 10, I made this speech at the Founders Day celebration. Since I hate to waste anything, here it is:
There were few breweries in Texas before the Revolution, and few afterwards. Until Texas joined the Union in 1846, the Comanches and other tribes raided the colonies relentlessly. After joining the Union, Texas brewers had the protection to actually invest in building breweries. Combine that with German immigration, and you have all the ingredients for Texas’ first brewing boom.
The Germans arrived in Texas to build their towns. Once they'd finished, they looked at each other and asked “Okay, who brought the beer?” Beer is hard to transport in the days before Pasteurization and bottle caps. Once exposed to air, it spoils. And so every little town has it's own brewery. If a brewer wasn't among the colony, they appointed one.
Captain Charles Nimitz was born in Bremen, Germany on November 9,1826. At age 14 he served in the German Merchant Marine. He arrived in South Carolina in early 1844. His family operated a hotel near Fort Sumter at Charleston. In 1846, he found himself on a wagon train to Fredericksburg.
In 1852, Nimitz began running a hotel in Fredericksburg, though he didn’t own the property until 1855. The original hotel was a four-room building with a fireplace in the center hall. The hotel grew in a few years to over 30 rooms with an attached saloon. By 1860, Charles was operating a brewery in the cellar below his saloon, and the census lists him as a brewer. I believe that the brewery existed a few years before the census, maybe as early at 1855.
The Nimitz Hotel was self-sufficient. The garden behind the hotel produced most of the food for the table, even the wine they served. It is even possible that the hotel even grew its own hops.
Meanwhile, across Main Street, Dr. Assig, owned a house on the bank of Town Creek. In March 1857, he borrowed $850 from Frank van der Stucken to buy equipment for a wheat beer brewery. Van der Stucken was to receive one third of the profits of the brewery. Assig's wheat beer had a reputation for its quality and purity. Members of visiting singing societies who often visited Fredericksburg drank the beer as fast as it could it they could tap it.
In the 1860 census, Assig’s occupation is not listed. It lists Frederick Probst as a cooper, making barrels for Assig’s beer. (Probst had arrived in town a couple of months before Assig started his brewery.)
For some reason, the partnership ended shortly after the census. Probst bought property on Austin Street in 1861, and built three cellars there. Probst moved the brewery from Wasington Street.
The Union blockade of the Southern States made it difficult to get brewing supplies. Supply shortages after the Civil War began forced Nimitz to close the brewery and convert the cellar into a cistern. The copper brew kettles remained in place until 1911, when Charles died, but have since disappeared. Probst continued to make beer during the war but it was not as easy as before the war.
After the Civil War, business improved, and before long the brewery was making Frederick a good living. The Probsts built a two-story limestone house next door to the brewery in 1870, at 312 West Austin.
Henry and John Mauer opened a lager beer brewery in Fredericksburg in 1875, after brewing in Marlin, Texas. In 1877, John Mauer was running the brewery. On the 1880 census only John and his family appear in a home on West Creek Street close to the Kuenemann Home.
Also on the 1880 census is Albert Glock, a 42 year old brewer living with the Pressler family. Albert was a Civil War veteran of Sipley's Brigade which took part in the ill-fated New Mexico campaign. He came to Fredericksburg after his family brewery in Victoria, Glock & Sahn, closed. It is unclear where he worked.
The Mauer brewery closed in 1884, it became an ice factory. It left the Probst brewery as the only brewery in town
Beer from from the breweries in San Antonio started arriving in in the late 1880s. No matter how good Probst’s weissbier was, competition began to take its toll.
At about this time, there were fourteen saloons in Fredericksburg. The Knopp saloon, in the Evers building on the Northeast corner of Main Street and Milam Street, fired the opening salvo in a beer war that went down in history. While Probst beer was selling for ten cents a glass, John Knopp imported beer from San Antonio, and began selling it for a nickel a glass. In the face of the price difference, which was also happening all across the state, Probst couldn't compete. In 1895, Probst closed his brewery.
On January 16, 1919, Prohibition closed the remaining 13 breweries in Texas. The larger breweries survived prohibition by turning to other products. Pearl made ice cream, and ran a sign company. In Galveston, the brewery made soda and near beer. In Shiner, Spoetzel sold ice.
Prohibition lasted fifteen years in Texas. Brewing equipment fell into disrepair. Many smaller brewers sold their tanks as scrap metal. Only the large brewers could afford to upgrade their equipment. The days of corporate brewing in Texas had arrived. And they would last a long time.
Labels: Beer History