Gallatin Brewing Company History – Bozeman, Montana

Gallatin Brewing Co. Inc. 1897-1939; Bozeman, Montana

Gallatin Brewing Co. Inc. was an offshoot of the Montana beer pioneer Julius Lehrkind’s Bozeman Brewing Company of Bozeman, Montana. Lehrkind had complete a brew master apprenticeship in Germany, and worked for a Philadelphia brewery. He opened his first brewery in Davenport, Iowa with brother Fred. While the business was doing well, the brewery was shut down as Iowa adopted prohbtion laws early which allowed counties to ban alcohol well before federal prohibition. He sold the business and packed up his equipment in three special railcars.

The family legend maintains that every time the train would stop Lehrkind would get off and taste the water, because he believed that the quality of your water really determined the quality of your beer. He found the quality of the water in Bozemna to be just right. Nearby Dutch farmers in Manhattan produced the barley he would need as well.

He purchased the Spieth and Krug Brewery on East Main Street, one of Montana’s first breweries. Eventually he built his brewery on North Wallace Avenue in 1985, a massive four story building which was the largest building in Bozeman until 1957 (the MSU fieldhouse eclipsed it).

The company was very successful before prohibition and at one point produced 40,000 barrels of lager beer a year including their original Bozeman Beer. Business was so good, so Lehrkind opened other breweries, one in Silesia and another in Red Lodge, where the beer was called “Montana Bud” because of the red, white and blue label, similar to Budweiser. Lehrkind also owned saloons and operated an ice company.

The brewery closed during prohibition in Montana during 1919 but continued producing soft drinks. Julius Lehrkind died in 1922 at the age of 79. Many say prohibition literally broke his heart.

Upon the end of prohibition in 1933, son Edwin Lehrhkind revived the brewing business under the name Gallatin Brewing with it’s Old Faithful brand of beer. During these Post-prohibition years, small and medium brewers faced tremendous economic pressure and were at competitive disadvantage to national brewers at that time. Many folded in the years that followed. These factors among many forced Gallatin to close for good a mere 6 years later in 1939. (compiled from various sources)

Kessler Brewing (Helena, Montana; 1865-1957)

From Gold to Beer

Kessler Brewing Company was originally founded by Charles Breeher as the Ten Mile Brewery in 1865. Nick Kessler, a Luxembourg-born entrepreneur who’d turned from gold prospecting to other interests, bought Breeher out a few year after. At it’s height, the brewery brewed over 200 barrels of BEER A DAY and more than 24,000 bottles. The plant operated during various economic conditions, depressions and even the 1935 earthquake (and aftershocks) which heavily damaged the building. The main stack collapsed days after the quake. Sadly two men working on it died. For a time a Northern Pacific Locomotive was used to power the brewery to keep it working.

Innovation

In 1886 Nickolas Kessler directed the construction of an entirely new plant at the brewery, furnished with the first refrigeration machine in Montana and the first carbonic acid gas machine to be used in an American brewery. Kessler installed the first glass-lined storage tanks in the state in 1903, and in 1907 he installed the first bottling pipe line in the Rocky Mountain area. He also established a small brickyard at the brewery in the late 1860s or early 1870s to help fuel his expansion. The brickyard helped build much of early Helena. The brickyard laid the foundation for what’s now the Archie Bray. You can still find these bricks in buildings around town.

The company operated from 1865 until 1957 when Frederick, the last Kessler son, died. (more history and pictures at www.helenahistory.org/kessler_brewing_compnay.htm)

Tom Cook, a historian with the Montana Historical Society summed it up this way:  Really Nicholas Kessler came to Helena at a time that was very critical and he provided and he provided everything a growing city needed to succeed. He provided beer and bricks. [His] brewery at that time was the best brewery, the most scientifically advanced brewery in the whole Pacific NorthWest.

Welcome to the Sublime World of Montana Beer Culture!

MTB full logoHi everyone…we’re here to share the something very special that is the rising and tasty beer culture here in Montana. What’s that you say? You’ve missed out on Montana’s many amazing beers? Not for long…with breweries of all sizes we’re experience a beer revolution here and the word just can not be kept under wraps much longer. And we are here to help.

So we’ve been creating designs, signs and other items of this sort for forever. But we want to come up with custom items to celebrate Montana breweries and beer culture. On top of that, we will try to regularly introduce you to, highlight and discuss our local brews, brewers and breweries.

We will always try to make all of products in Montana foremost and in the US by US workers next. And if we can’t do either of those, we will always strive to let you know up front.

A call out to all: Fellow Montanans….we have a saying here at Montana Beer Gear: Friends don’t serve beer not made in Montana. We need to get the word out to our friends and neighbors, and especially our out of town guests about what they are missing. Sure, there’s a hesitate to share the good things we ‘got’ but our friends at Lewis & Clark, Ten Mile and every other brewery will keep making their great beers and even more new varieties as we help them in their success.

Breweries: We’d love to highlight you so contact us and let us know what you have going on that’s new and exciting. If you’d like to see us produce some custom signage for you or your brewery, and that we might sell here too, let us know. We want to work with you to help promote and sell your brands. And if you’d like help in selling your merchandise here to that end…give us a ring or an email.

To local vendors: Montana’s stock full of craftsmen and entrepreneurs, if you have an idea or a product that might fit with us and our loosely fitted mission to celebrate montana beer (and Montana too). Get in touch and let’s talk.