Mineral Spring Brewery History
The limestone brewery tucked in the hillside on the edge of Mineral Point, Wisconsin, was built by William Terrill sometime in 1850. The construction cost $4,000. A piece in the local paper from February 1851 says that the brewery building is for rent and “ We hope the time comes when Mr. Terrill will find it to his advantage to occupy this building for some better purpose.” William Terrill brewed beer for a short period of time and was suceeded by Jacob Roggy.
In 1854, Charles and Frederick Gillmann purchased the brewery. In 1855, Jacob Spielmann was admitted as a partner. The firm name was Gillmann Bros. & Co., the brewery was called “Wisconsin Brewery”. In 1868, Jacob Spielmann disposed of his interest to the Gillmann brothers. In 1874 Charles Gillmann became the sole owner at which time the production was about 2,500 barrels a year. On May 23, 1878 the brewery was hit by a tornado. The brewery and five surrounding buildings were severely damaged. During the summer and fall the brewery was rebuilt with the most modern equipment. The “Tornado Brewery” had a new capacity of 6,000 barrel per year. It was regarded one of the leading brewing establishments of Iowa County. At the time it employed six workers and distributed beer in Iowa, LaFayette and Grant Counties
In the fall of 1897 Ballo Breutting purchased the brewery. Some changes and enlargements came with his ownership. On April 24, 1902 while Ballo Breutting was attending entertainment at the Masonic lodge a fire broke out at the brewery. Much of the building was burned and the equipment was melted and warped in the fire. A large stash of beer was saved in the cellars. Ballo Breutting had an estimated $50,000 in the brewery and equipment. He had $13,000 insurance.
In March 1903 Otto Lieder and his brother-in-law, Frank Unterholzner bought the brewery. They rebuilt the burned brewery for $20,000. The new brewing capacity was 10,000 barrels a year. The brewery was named the “Mineral Spring Brewing Company”. It was named for the spring that was used to make the beer, the spring still flows through the building today. Otto Lieder, the brewmaster got his brewing experience at the Ruhland Brewery in Baraboo where he worked for 21 years. Frank Unterholzner ran the 268-acre brewery farm where they grew what they needed for brewing the beer. The farm enabled them to continue producing beer during the war when there was rationing. It is said that larger brewing companies bought beer from Mineral Spring during this time, to sell as their own.
In 1921 Mineral Spring formed a corporation. Otto Lieder, Frank Unterholzner, Ray Lieder Sr. and Milton Unterholzner headed it. From 1940 until 1957 Mary Lieder was president. Mary was Otto’s wife and Frank’s sister. In 1957 Ray Lieder Jr. was the president and Milton Unterholzner was the vice president.
On May 23,1961 the Mineral Spring Brewery closed. They needed to either reinvest or stop brewing. With bigger brewing companies coming on strong and many small town breweries closing, closing was the choice they made. It was very hard on Mineral Point to have the brewery close. Before closing most of the beer was sold within a 60-mile radius of Mineral Point. Six trucks delivered beer to Dubuque, Rockford, Kenosha, Racine and Madison. At the time of closing the board of directors consisted of two Lieder daughters, Mrs. Stella Lieder Simpson and Mrs. Cecelia Lieder Leahy along with Dr. Lawerence Unterholzner. The officers were; president, Ray Lieder Jr.; vice president Charles Bolan; treasurer, Charles Esch and secretary, Kenneth Ellery.
In a newspaper article about the closing, Ray Lieder Sr. remembered delivering beer to Linden, Mifflin, Rewey, Dodgeville, Hollandale and Blanchardville with a horse drawn wagon. He started working at the brewery at age nine and retired as the brewmaster when he was sixty. Once bishop William P. O’Conner of the catholic diocese of Madison told of receiving a letter from a Chicago bishop asking for the transfer of a young priest from “Mineral Spring parish”. He wrote back “Mineral Spring is the beer and Mineral Point is the town.”
Several years after Mineral Spring Brewery closed, Ken Colwell purchased the building and grounds. Ken lived in the malting tower and used the rest of the top two floors as a weaving museum and workshop, called “The Looms”. In 1990 a winery rented out the bottom floor to make and sell wine. The winery continued to rent out space until 1995.
The eight-acre brewery property includes the 20,000 square foot brewery, a barn used for the brewery draft horses and several other outbuildings used for various purposes during brewing years. There is a vast cistern or spring box that sits across the driveway from the building that was used to hold ice water used for home-made cooling system. There was once an icehouse across the road that supplied the ice for this cistern. The spring that flows through the building fills a four-inch pipe halfway full all year long. The build stays cool from the spring water as well as being set in the hillside. There are 5,000 square feet of caverns tucked in the hillside which were used to keep the beer cool. According to brewery historians this brewery is the oldest occupied brewery in Wisconsin.
Tom and Diana Johnston bought the brewery from Ken Colwell in 1991and by 1992 had moved in with their two children and set up their pottery studio. Making pottery together for almost 40 years the Johnstons have found the brewery a perfect place to pursue their dreams. They live in the malting tower and across the top of the building. Their work space, kiln and gallery are housed on the main floor. The 30 x 40 primary fermentation room provides a wonderful space for a basketball court and a golf driving range. The bottom floor is used as a woodworking space and welding studio. The caverns are used occasionally for potluck suppers. Brewery Pottery Studio gives one an ever-changing view behind the scenes in a working pottery studio. The old brewery is an enchanting setting for the gallery that features the Johnstons’ pottery, mixed media sculpture and paintings as well as an eclectic variety of artwork by artists from throughout the country. There is also a small museum area where visitors can see a collection of Mineral Spring Brewery artifacts. The Johnstons are delighted to make the old brewery their home and workspace and they enjoy sharing it with visitors. Brewery Pottery Studio is open daily April through December (10 a.m.- 5 p.m.) Off season the hours are by chance.