Sunday, April 14, 2013

Butte Brewery

By Richard I. Gibson

218-220 N. Wyoming, at Quartz
Business began 1885
Status: lost circa 1965

The Butte Brewery was established by Henry Muntzer in 1885, nine years after Butte’s first brewery, the Centennial. Beginning in the late 1890s, managers expanded production and built or re-built many of the brewery’s buildings on North Wyoming between Granite and Copper Streets. Capacity was expected to grow to 125 barrels per day in 1901, and the new malthouse was to handle 10,000 pounds per day. The brewery initially used water flowing in the stream that came out of Dublin Gulch, but by the early 1890s, that stream was filled and covered, and the brewery was on city water.

The main building in the photo here was constructed in the late 1890s and included beer cellars in the basement of the 2-story section, with the fermenting floor on the ground level and lodge rooms on the second floor. The rear 3-story section held coolers, hop storage, a wash house, and the cooper shop. Multiple additional buildings covered the grounds, ranging from a bottling facility to stables.

The building at left (224-226 N. Wyoming) with the decorative cornice was the Brewery Saloon, with the brewer’s residence above. Later that second-floor space became a hand-ball court.

By 1910, T.J. Nerny was President. He got his start with the Citizens Brewery of Chicago in the 1890s, and came to Butte by about 1905. His home in 1910, when he was President of the Butte Brewery, was at 301 N. Alabama, and John Harrington, the brewery’s Secretary-Treasurer, lived up the block at 318 N Alabama. In 1917, with statewide Prohibition coming in 1919, the brewery promoted its Eureka Beer as “Liquid food for temperate people.” The Butte Brewery was the only one in Butte that survived Prohibition, by producing malted soft drinks and other beverages (using the Checo brand), but it did not survive the economic downturn that affected Butte in the 1960s and 1970s. They were out of business about 1963 and the brewery buildings were demolished soon after. Today the location is occupied by the Rodeway Inn (Capri Motel) (map). For 44 years, Butte did not have a brewery, until Quarry Brewing opened in 2007.

In 2013, a new brewery is under construction on Butte’s east side that will resurrect the Butte Brewery name and brands.

Image sources: scans by Butte-Silver Bow Public Library. Brewery, from A Brief History of Butte, Montana, by Harry C. Freeman, 1901. T.J. Nerny, Vice-President Butte Brewing Company, Butte, MT, image taken from p. 107 of Cartoons and Caricatures of Men in Montana (1907) by E.A. Thomson. Reference: Steve Lozar, "1,000,000 Glasses a Day: Butte's Beer History on Tap," Montana: the Magazine of Western History 56/4 (2006): 46-55. Additional resources: Sanborn maps, city directories.

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