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)

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