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.

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