As Arizona is well known for its long hot summers it should come as no suprise to learn that folks who call the Grand Canyon State home enjoy beer. But what you might find surprising is that before Arizona became a state in 1912, brweing was a major industry even though it was still a wilderness peppered with rough and tumble, remote towns.
According to legend one of the first breweries in Arizona was established in 1864 by a German immigrant named Adam Schilling. He set up his operation in Prescott, which was then the capital of the Arizona Territory. Fittingly he called it the Pioneer Brewery.
Schilling also ran a saloon and a hotel, ideal for the selling of his beer. His lager proved quite popular with politicians, local miners and ranchers, and soldiers stationed at Fort Whipple. And so his business enterprises boomed.
Competition arrived in 1875. That was the year that another German immigrant named John Raible opened the Cabinet Saloon and Brewery on Montezuma Street. Over the course of the next decade Raible expanded his market by selling beer in Crown King, Ash Fork, and mining camps in the Bradshaw Mountains.
Prescott was not the only pioneering brewing hub in Arizona. According to local legend, Henry Wickenburg opened the Wickenburg Brewery in the town of Wickenburg, which was named after him. Wickenburg was a pioneering prospector who had discovered the fabulously rich gold strike that became the Vulture Mine.
Another important brewing center was Tucson, one of the territories oldest towns that was established in 1775. One of the earliest breweries was the Tucson Brewery established by August Levin in 1879. Levin purportedly had learned the art of brewing from his father in Germany. To keep up with growing demand he built a large brick building on Congress Street that served as a brewery and saloon. As a bit of Arizona brewing trivia, Levin’s beer was awarded a medal at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
In 1881, Philip Bruckmann, another German immigrant, opened the Santa Cruz Brewery on Stone Avenue. Just as he had in San Francisco, Bruckmann also ran a saloon and a restaurant.
These are just some of the Arizona territorial breweries that existed before statehood. There were many more brewers that contributed to the development of Arizona’s beer culture and history.
Tragically, much of that culture as well as many pioneering breweries were swept away with the enactment of statewide prohibition in 1915, and then the Volstead Act which banned the production and sale of alcohol nationally from 1920 to 1933. A few tried to survive by switching to the manufacture of non-alcoholic beverages or other products.
Tangible links, though rare, to territorial era breweries remain. As an example, the Pioneer Brewery building in Prescott is now a museum and a gift shop. And you can also find some old bottles, advertising materials, and signage from these breweries at antique shops or online auctions.
But the most tangible links to this rich history are places like Mudshark Brewery and Public House in beautiful Lake Havasu City. We not only continue the tradition of making great beer in Arizona, we raise the standard for craft beers. Cheers!
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America