History of Breweries in Leavenworth, Kansas
From: History of Leavenworth County, Kansas
BY: Jesse A. Hall and Leroy T. Hand
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka, Kansas 1921


THE first brewery established in the city was built in the fall of 1855 or spring of 1856 by Fritzlen & Mundee, under the bluff of the South Esplanade about half the distance from the north to the south end of the Esplanade near the river. It was a two story stone building about 30x75 feet, boiler house attached with a large vault for storing the beer in the rear under the hill, cut out of the solid rock, a portion of the vault can still be seen. Previous to the erection of this brewery most of the beer consumed in the town and vicinity was brought here from Georgians' Brewery at Weston, Mo., and large quantities of Weston beer continued to be consumed here up to 1861. Fritzlen & Mundee continued to run their brewery for a number of years, then sold out the machinery and it was turned into Wilhite's Flouring Mill, of which I shall speak at another time.

Kuntz Brewery. The next brewery, if I mistake not, was Kuntz Brewery. This was no doubt the largest in the city, it was erected under the bluff along Three Mile creek on the south side next to what is now Fourth street. The approach to it was from Fifth street along under the bluff where the brewery proper stood. The large square stone house on the hill above was occupied by the family of Mr. Kuntz, who lived in the west side and the east half was used as a malt house. In the five immense stone vaults or cellars blasted out of the solid rock and extending over one hundred feet into the hill to the alley south of the stone building, in which was stored the beer, in immense tubs and tierces ready to be drawn off into barrels and kegs when properly ripe. The vaults are each some 15 to 20 feet in width and 10 to 12 feet in height. They are all connected by tunnels, and living springs of the purest water flow through them.

A beautiful grove stood on the slope of the hill, with seats arranged, and almost every evening an excellent band discoursed sweet and enlivening music from the balcony above. It was a favorite place of resort for many of our best citizens during the warm and sultry evenings of the summer months. Old man Joseph Kuntz died and his widow in time, married his nephew, Charles Kuntz, who lacked the skill to manufacture and the financial ability to manage the business. He sought to branch out too rapidly as the building of the big store and malt house on the north side of Choctaw street between Main street and the Levee, now occupied by the Union Pacific railroad as a freight office, fully showed, expenses were heavy, competition was strong, Charlie carried too much sail for the breeze, debts accumulated and he was driven on a lee shore. The property was seized by creditors and the magnificent business destroyed. Wm. Ferrell, Esq., eventually bought the property. It has the finest and best equipped natural cold storage fruit vaults and cellars in the western country. E. G. and O. W. Rothenberger now occupy the place as a flour and grain store.

I may not give the following breweries in their exact order as they were built and flourished for a time and all passed away. One million of dollars is a very low estimate to place upon the vast amount of money expended in the construction and operation of the several breweries that have been built in this city since the first one was constructed up to the present time. The next brewery was the John Grund Brewery, built on the present site of Chickering Hall on the south side of Delaware street near the corner of Sixth street. Henry Foot, Esq., one of the capitalists and most enterprising citizens of the town joined forces and capital with Mr. Grund in 1857 and erected a large plant at the above location and expended a large amount of money in the enterprise. The brewery proper was of brick 48x125 feet, two stories high with additions, boiler house, etc. Underneath the entire building was a large cellar six feet in depth and still beneath that was a sub cellar of the same size and depth for the storing of beer in reservoirs and huge tanks from which it was drawn off in barrels and kegs as required in trade. Both of these cellars were walled up with heavy masonry floors of concrete and all cemented in the strongest and best possible manner, no expense was spared to perfect this great work. In a few years it was all abandoned and a new location sought, owing it was said, to the fact that the beer did not ripen properly or did not retain its rich bouquet as required when brought to the surface for sale, cellars not of proper and even temperature, or not properly ventilated, or water used not as pure as it should be, causes and effects fully understood and appreciated by brewers, at all events they moved.. They first bought out the little Cannon Brewery as it was called, which had been built by an old German (I forget his name now) about that time, over on the hill on Lawrence avenue, south of Spruce street and west of Washington Garden in what is now Stockton's sub division. He had a little brewery on the west side of the avenue near the ravine with a cellar running under the hill and street. This they purchased with a tract of land on the east side of the avenue opposite, and erected a large stone building some 75x100 feet three stories with basement and a large vault or cellar on the east under the hill for the storage of beer. To procure pure water they laid wooden pipes under ground from the brewery southwest along the streets and highways to springs at the foot of Pilot Knob Hill below where the reservoir of the Water Works company now stands, more than a mile distant from the brewery. All these improvements cost large sums of money. For a time the enterprise was a success, but the hard times of 1859 and the war of 1861 came on, the firm had borrowed money largely of Lucien Scott, president of the First National Bank, they could not pay principal or interest and of course went by the board and the brewery was closed. Grund went to Denver, and Foot to Pagosa Springs, Colorado; both died a few years ago. The brewery was in due course of time abandoned and dismanteled and all that remains to mark the spot, is the four stone walls of the big building and a few tumble down sheds on the opposite side of the street and a tunnel under the same.

Sometime in 1857, Keim & Werhie started a small brewery on or near the northeast corner of Sixth and Choctaw streets where Kelly & Lyle's New Era Flouring Mill now stands. Their capital was limited at first, but as they were both hard working, ndustrious men and practical brewers, they made good beer and prospered for a number of years. The war came on, times were a little dull, and "big Frank Werhie" as he was called, was among the first to enlist in the Second Kansas Vol. Inf. He was a good and brave soldier, served out his time and was honorably discharged at the close of the war and returned to his home. In the meantime his partner had kept the brewery pot; boiling slowly. Frank came to his assistance; times were good after the war for a few years and they pushed the business with increased vigor, both were popular and they made good beer and business was prosperous. But alas poor Frank, although a large and apparently very robust and healthy man, the seeds of a fatal disease were implanted in his system during his four years' service for his country, in marching by day and by night, by exposure in camp and upon the battle field, young, patriotic, brave and vigorous, gave no heed to health or its prudential care, like many other gallant and noble young man who went forth in response to his country's call he returned with his system fully impregnated with the miasma and malaria of the swamps and low grounds of the southland. Time and proper want of care of himself ere long developed the fatal disease and he laid down to rise no more, his old soldier friends and many others gathered to consign his body to the silent tomb. After Frank's death the business did not seem to prosper as well. Mr. Keim sold out and moved the brewery what there was left of it out to block "T. E.," west of Eleventh and adjoining Cherokee street on the south in Central sub division. Part of the block is now used as a "garden." The brewery never amounted to much there and finally entirely collapsed.

In 1858 David Block and John Brandon started a Soda Water Factory on the southeast corner of Second and Kiowa streets. This was a new enterprise and flourished with great success. In 1862 M. Kirmeyer bought out Mr. Block's interest in the above works and they enlarged the plant and turned it into a brewery. A large capital was invested and the company prospered and made money for a number of years, until the "Prohibition folly" supplimented by the "Murray Bill" and the "Metropolitan Police Law" became rampant. They closed down for awhile and suspended further manufacture. A few years ago a fire nearly destroyed the old brewery. Since then John Brandon and George Beal have started a brewery on the north side of Kickapoo street between Main and Second streets. Quite a capital is invested and they are said to be making beer of an. excellent quality and doing a good business. This is the last and only brewery in the city. There are several agencies here for the sale of Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Weston beer, all doing well.

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