You Can Tour Texas Beer History: Western Brewery and Kreische Brewery

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Tony Maples Photography


Beer is a beverage which has joined communities across lands and ethnicities, and it has a special place in Texas history. Two of the first commercial breweries in the Lone Star State began roughly 115 miles from each other: William A. Menger’s Western Brewery of San Antonio and The Kreische Brewery of La Grange. Both opened around 1855 and had to work fast, as early Texas beer could only be brewed in the cooler months due to lack of refrigeration.

If the name Menger is familiar, it’s likely due to the building which came later, the Menger Hotel. William A. Menger’s Western Brewery began in 1855 and was located on Alamo Square. The business expanded greatly, so a large cellar was constructed to store the produced beer. The cellar was cooled by the Alamo Madre ditch that flowed through what is now the patio of the hotel, which came about four years later. Menger died in 1871, and his brewmaster Charles Degen continued the brewery until it closed in 1878. At the time, it was the largest operating brewery in the state.

You Can Tour Texas Beer History: Western Brewery and Kreische Brewery

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The Kreische Brewery is in ruins but can be toured, along with the family home, as part of the Texas Parks system at Monument Hill, which was designated as a memorial to the 58 Texans buried there after their execution during the War with Mexico in the 1830s. German immigrant Heinrich Kreische arrived in Fayette County in 1849. He purchased 172 acres which included the tomb of the fallen soldiers, who he honored by maintaining their tomb his whole life. In 1860, Kreische began building his brewery, utilizing a ravine below his house with gravity-fed spring water, to produce Kreische’s Bluff Beer. When each new batch of beer was ready, a large banner was raised as an invite to the community: “Frisch Auf” (Freshen Up). Sadly, Heinrich Kreische was killed in 1882 in a wagon accident, and unobtainable technology closed the brewery in 1884.

You Can Tour Texas Beer History: Western Brewery and Kreische Brewery

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Texas beer as we know it today began in 1883, when German brewer Adolphus Busch, with local businessmen, built the original Lone Star Brewery in San Antonio. This mechanized, large-scale operation enabled more beer to be sold at a cheaper price. This brewery lasted until Prohibition, after which another San Antonio brewer took up the name in 1940 and produced Lone Star as it’s drunk today. Additionally, the San Antonio Brewing Association bought a small local brewery, launched its own lager, and bought its brand name from a brewer in Germany, who thought the beer bubbles resembled tiny “perlen” or pearls. We know it as Pearl Beer, born in 1886. Enjoy some Texas beer today; you can practically taste the history!