Arizona territorial history is intertwined with community and regional breweries. In volume 24 of The Journal of Arizona History pioneer John Spring recounts his arrival in Tucson in April 1866.
Spring’s company of United States Regulars had camped just outside of Tucson as they headed for Fort Bowie. After some unauthorized scouting, Private Lutje, a German immigrant, informed Sergeant Spring that there was a brewery in Tucson. Spring and few trusted allies, under cover of darkness, made their way into town and traded army issue cartridges for six bottles of beer.
Even without the benefits of modern refrigeration, beer was a valued commodity on the Arizona frontier. It was often safer to drink than water, and it was rich in calories.
There was also an economic reason for the establishment of breweries. Migrants and immigrants looking for a way to make money without the hard labor of working on railroads, in mines, or on ranches met the demand for beer that was growing exponentially.
Even in remote mining or logging camps, brewers overcame challenges like unstable supply deliveries and water quality issues. And if the owner could find a way to provide cold beer, their business would attract customers that traveled from great distances. Many a fortune in territorial Arizona was built with a brewery and saloon as the foundation.
Henry Lovin came to the Arizona territory from North Carolina and invested in a diverse array of businesses in northwest Arizona. But one of his most profitable was an icehouse and brewery, and the Palace Saloon, now Sportsman’s in Kingman.
The first recorded commercial brewery in Arizona was established in 1864 by Alex Levin. In the 1880s, he partnered with Columbus Glasmann to manage and expand the Park Brewery. He then set his sights on the boomtown of Quijotoa with plans to establish a brewery and saloon. But he encountered a new challenge for territorial brewers. With establishment of the railroad out-of-state beers began pouring into Arizona.
Corporate breweries dealt a blow to independent brewers in Arizona. Many local breweries struggled and were forced to close. Then on January 16, 1920, the 18th Constitutional Amendment went into effect, and the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages, including beer, was restricted, or prohibited.
The repeal of Prohibition in 1933 was not enough to reignite the independent brewery business as there were still restrictions and associated taxation. That changed on October 14, 1978, when Jimmy Carter signed the bill H.R. 1337. This bill lifted regulations imposed by Prohibition era laws.
That marked the beginning of a craft brewing revolution. Within a decade there were dozens of small independent breweries in Arizona.
A pioneer in Arizona craft beer brewing is Mudshark Brewery & Public House in Lake Havasu City, Arizona on the Colorado River. They are also industry leaders with the use of new technologies.
Mudshark Brewery & Public House is affiliated with Solar United Neighbors. They were recently crowned as America’s number one solar craft brewery.
Written by Jim Hinckley, Author and Historian