Texas’ Oldest Brewery – La Grange, TX

breweryAlthough it’s just the remains of the structure it’s still possible to visit the oldest brewery in Texas. The ruins of the historic Kriesche Brewery are located in the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites (a state park), in La Grange, Texas.

Founded by German immigrant Heinrich Kreische, the brewery began brewing beer in the 1860’s. Originally a stonemason Kreische built an elaborate system of tunnels for his brewery, which sat on a spring fed creek. This allowed him to cool the fermenting room to temperatures as low as 40 degrees Farenheit. Pretty impressive considering electricity had yet to be invented. Along with the brewery he had his family home, a biergarten, and a dance floor. It must have been quite the place to visit in the 1860’s.

This video from The Daytripper takes a great look at the complex.

You can learn more about the brewery in this post from Beerhistory.com.

We highly recommend a trip to La Grange and the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites.   Admittance to the park is free of charge.


Editor’s Note: The La Grange area along the Colorado River did receive dramatic flooding the week of August 28th, 2017. It may be best to wait until mid-September to visit the area and the park. 



Germans in Texas

This Article from the Texas State Historical Association does a much better job explaining the German population in Texas and how we got here than I could.

With that being said this is a great map from the article.


Source: https://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/atlas_texas/rural_pop_origins.jpg

The map clearly shows the “German Belt” which the articles says stretches from Galveston to Hondo. Also there is also a speckling of German and northern European settlements throughout the state, excluding the border region.

Here are some more of the highlights from the article:

In the late 1830s German immigration to Texas was widely publicized in the Fatherland….

Their organization, variously called the Adelsverein, the Verein zum Schutze Deutscher Einwanderer in Texas, or the German Emigration Company, began work in the early 1840s… Between 1844 and 1847 more than 7,000 Germans reached the new land. Some of the immigrants perished in epidemics, many stayed in cities such as Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio, and others settled in the rugged Texas Hill Country to form the western end of the German Belt. The Adelsverein founded the towns of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg.

Most of the German immigrant clusters came from west central Germany, particularly Nassau, southern Hanover, Brunswick, Hesse, and western Thuringia.

At about the same time, another colonization project was launched. The Frenchman Henri Castro directed a project that moved more than 2,000 German-speaking settlers, mainly from clusters in the Upper Rhine Plain of Alsace, to Medina County, west of San Antonio. Castroville, founded in 1844, became the nucleus of the Alsatian colony, though many of the immigrants settled in San Antonio because of better economic opportunities there….The Germans were ambitious farmers and artisans who believed their futures were cramped by the social and economic system at home. They were not poverty-stricken and oppressed. Indeed, they were able to afford the substantial cash investment required in overseas migration.

By 1850, when the organized projects ended, the German Belt in Texas was well established…After the Civil War ended, ships loaded with German immigrants once again unloaded at the Galveston wharves. From 1865 to the early 1890s, more Germans arrived in Texas than during the thirty years before the war. The number probably reached 40,000. Many of them settled in the rural areas and towns of the German Belt. Interestingly, the postbellum immigrants generally avoided the Hill Country.

…By the 1880s German ethnic-islands dotted north central, northern, and western Texas. Ethnic islands failed to develop in East Texas, the Trans-Pecos, and the Rio Grande valley, however. As early as 1881, Germans founded the colony of Marienfeld (later Stanton) on the High Plains of West Texas. It was one of the first agricultural settlements in that part of the state. There the German settlers planted splendid vineyards, only to see them destroyed by drought. Most of the postbellum German colonies thrived, however…Since 1930 the extent of the German-settled area has changed very little, though a considerable post-World War II German immigration was directed to Texas cities.

The Germans who settled Texas were diverse in many ways. They included peasant farmers and intellectuals; Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and atheists; Prussians, Saxons, Hessians, and Alsatians; abolitionists and slaveowners; farmers and townsfolk; frugal, honest folk and ax murderers…The German settlements in Texas reflected their diversity. Even in the confined area of the Hill Country, each valley offered a different kind of German…The Llano valley had stern, teetotaling German Methodists, who renounced dancing and fraternal organizations; the Pedernales valley had fun-loving, hardworking Lutherans and Catholics who enjoyed drinking and dancing; and the Guadalupe valley had atheist Germans descended from intellectual political refugees…Because of their diversity, Texas Germans had a varied impact in achievements and influence in the state. They distinguished themselves in many professions and activities-Chester W. Nimitzqv in the military, Robert J. Klebergqv in ranching, Gustav Schleicher in politics, and Charles A. Schreiner in retail business. Many German settlements had distinctive architecture, foods, customs, religion, language, politics, and economy. In the Hill Country the settlers built half-timbered and stone houses, miles of rock fences, and grand Gothic churches with jagged towers reaching skyward. They spoke a distinctive German patois in the streets and stores, ate spiced sausage and sauerkraut in cafes, and drank such Texas German beers as Pearl and Shiner (see PEARL BREWING COMPANYand SPOETZL BREWERY). They polkaed in countless dance halls, watched rifle competition at rural Schützenfeste, and witnessed the ancient Germanic custom of Easter Fires at Fredericksburg. Neat, prosperous farms and ranches occupied the countryside.

There’s a lot of great information in this article.
Obviously our German-Texan is rich with history and we will have many historical topics to come from. I didn’t know Kleberg was a German, so that opens up a wealth of stuff we can cover in regards to the King Ranch. It’s also interesting to see how the different river valleys of the hill country had different cultures.

Obviously we will have to do tours of towns like Fredricksburg, New Braunfels, and Castroville, but where else should we go first?

Which part of the state did your German ancestors settle in?
What are some of you favorite German historical sites to visit?

Please comment below.