This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As early as the 1850s, "spirits" — distilled alcoholic liquors — were infused in Utah life and history.

The enigmatic Orrin Porter Rockwell, personal bodyguard to Brigham Young, U.S. deputy marshal and zealous religious enforcer, operated the Hot Springs Hotel and Brewery near Point of the Mountain in 1856.

He also kept company with Valley Tan whiskey, a "potent potable" that late historian and Salt Lake Tribune journalist Harold Schindler described as "invented and manufactured only in Utah."

Spirited ads and editorials led to a liberal read in Salt Lake City's short-lived (1858-1860) Kirk Anderson's Valley Tan newspaper.

Miller, Russel & Co. advertised "outfitting goods, hats, cigars, mushroom catsup and hardware," along with "cognac, brandy, Monongahela whiskey, bourbon, and port wine."

The successful Valley Tan produced by the "Messrs. Mogo and Burr tasted first rate." And for the "accommodation of travelers," dining rooms were offered at the brewery while "an attentive hustler" took care of animals.

Thirty miles south of Cedar City, at "the base of a mountain capped with black lava rock," bejeweled vineyards in Toquerville provided more than enough grapes in the 1860s for master vintner John C. Naegle to produce sacramental wine for LDS Church members.

Naegle built a handsome rock house and winery, taught the colonists the art of winemaking and installed a wine cellar large enough for wagons to turn around in. The fermented juice was stored in 500-gallon casks and transported in 40-gallon barrels to Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) and its branches. Toquerville's wine business was big business.

In 1864, Jewish immigrant and freighter Nicholas Ransohoff, a leader in the territory's only gentile (non-Mormon) political party, advertised "the highest prices for gold and gold dust." He also sold imported liquor at wholesale prices in his Salt Lake Main Street store, and in Corinne and Ogden.

When it comes to the beer brewing process, it all begins with water, hops, yeast and barley and ends with malting, mashing, boiling, fermenting, aging, finishing and, ultimately, kegs and bottled beer.

German immigrant Henry Wagener took beer — ales, porters and stouts — to a new level. In 1864, the 26-year-old built Utah's first major commercial brewery at the mouth of Emigration Canyon.

Originally called the California Brewery, Wagener's enterprise was touted as the "Brewery in the Mountains" with beer "as pure as the breath of spring and as delightful as the rays of the noon day sun."

Located on a 152-acre site at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, the nearby natural spring offered a continuous source of gravity-fed pure brewing water. A contingent of thirsty federal soldiers billeted less than a mile away at Fort Douglas supplied a willing customer base.

When Utah Central Railway made its first run to the brewery, the Oct. 28, 1888, Salt Lake Tribune reported the "first whistle ever blown in Emigration Canyon blows at his brewery at 2:35 p.m." Faster than a team of horses, the railway shipped in carloads of coke, barley, empty kegs and bottles and transported finished beer for export to markets in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada.

As more railroads worked with breweries, icehouses were built along the tracks to supply fresh ice for cooling down beer cars.

In 1874, German-born Jacob Moritz redesigned a small brewery down the road from Wagener's. It soon produced about 6,000 barrels of beer a year. After negotiating with various partnerships and corporate names, Movitz upgraded equipment, increased personnel and invested in new technology. His 1885 in-house ice-making machine — a first in the West, he claimed — daily churned out 100 tons of ice for chilling beer cellars. By 1917, his four-story Salt Lake Brewing Co. was considered the largest as far west as California.

In an anti-liquor movement that very year, Utah, among other states, embraced statewide prohibition. By 1920, the 18th Amendment had been ratified and prohibition was a done deal nationally. Manufacturing, selling and transporting alcohol was illegal.

Speakeasies, bootlegging and illegal home brewing sprouted into society. Respectable breweries turned to producing sodas, selling ice and waiting for signs of repeal.

Oral historian Eileen Hallet Stone may be reached at ehswriter@aol.com.

Additional Sources: Beer in the Beehive by Dal Vance.

comments powered by Disqus