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October 7, 2012

HISTORICAL TREASURE: A city awash in beer

TERRE HAUTE — With the coming revival of Champagne Velvet Beer, I became curious about the part this ancient brew called beer played in Terre Haute history. Here are just a few tidbits to whet your appetite.

By the time Prohibition became law in 1918, Terre Haute had seen 30 breweries open and close. George Hager opened Terre Haute’s first brewery in 1835 at Outlet 23 on Water and Sheets streets near the river. It was destroyed by fire in 1836.  

Chauncey Warren and Demas Deming Sr. started the Terre Haute Brewing Company in 1837 at 8th and Poplar streets. It produced about 2,500 barrels of beer a year. Earnest Bleemel used this site for his brewery until Matthias Mogger bought the business in 1848. Anton Mayer and Andrew Kaufman then bought the brewery from Mogger in 1868.  

With the death of Kaufman in 1869, Anton Mayer became the sole owner. Under his leadership the brewery was improved and enlarged and by 1889 was producing 25,000 barrels of beer a year. Mayer retired in 1889 and sold the business to Crawford Fairbanks, John Beggs, and Deming. Mogger’s Brewery was merged into the Terre Haute Brewing Company. At this time it occupied two blocks at 9th and Poplar streets and produced 30,000 barrels of beer annually. By the turn of the century it was the seventh largest brewery in the U.S.    

Parts of the Terre Haute Brewing Company complex still remain, though the names have changed. There’s the E. Bleemel Flour & Feed Building at 904 Poplar St., Mogger’s Pub/Restaurant at 908 Poplar St., Terre Haute Brewing Company building at 920 Poplar St. (now Evan & Ryan’s Electrical Contractors) and the stables, (now Stables Steakhouse) at 939 Poplar St.

At one time Terre Haute could also lay claim to not one, but two, of the largest distilleries in the world, the six-story Majestic Distillery, (60,000 gallons a day), and the Commercial Distilling Company at Prairieton Avenue and Demorest Street.

Money from breweries funded all aspects of life here, good and bad. Saloons without closing hours and sporting houses helped give rise to Terre Haute’s other name, “Sin City.” Beer also was the basis for other businesses. The greater part of the product of our glass factories was beer bottles.  

And there’s so much more to tell but space does not permit it. Items from the Terre Haute Brewing Company can be found in a display case in the Historical Society’s lower level. Come check out a part of Terre Haute’s colorful past.


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