I guess you could make the argument that the first famous Lutheran braumeister (brewmaster) was Katharina “Katie” (von Bora) Luther, Martin’s wife.
Martin Luther loved to have a good beer to drink, but he was much too busy with his profession to brew his own. However, his wife was quite good at producing a good beer. Martin on several occasions, includes in his writings his compliments about the quality of his dear Katie’s beer.
Today I will give a brief glimpse of some of the brew-making that has been part of East Perry County’s legacy before focusing on the newest brewery to be found in this area.
In 1854, Frank Brenner began a brewery in Wittenberg. He had a successful business back in the days when paddlewheelers steamed up and down the Mississippi River.
Mr. Brenner died in 1877, and the brewery was eventually sold to George Loebs, who had previously been one of the owners of the Cherokee Brewery in St. Louis.
George Loebs was Gerard Fiehler’s great great grandfather, who happened to find his bride in Perry County. That bride was my great grandfather’s sister. So both Gerard and I share in this connection to a brewery and a brewmaster that was part of this area’s history. George Loebs died in 1885, and after his death, the brewery in Wittenberg went out of business.
Two years after the brewery in Wittenberg began, another brewery was established in 1856 in Old Appleton, just across the Apple Creek in Cape Girardeau County. It was owned by Casper Ludwig.
This brewery operated under different ownership over the years until about the time when World War II came to an end. This brewery even survived Prohibition. For quite a while under Casper Ludwig’s time of ownership, the featured product at this brewery was a beer called Kulenbacher.
That brings us up to the newest beer-making and beer-drinking establishment in East Perry County. Last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, the Saxony Hills Brewery opened for business. Soon they will be celebrating their first anniversary.
Saxony Hills Brewery is housed in the building in Altenburg that used to be the home of one of Citizen Electric’s branch offices. When Citizen Electric built a larger facility elsewhere, they moved out of Altenburg, and their building stood unoccupied for several years. It was purchased by Charles Grebing, and it was not long before local folks were hearing stories about how Charlie was hoping to start a brewery.
Although Charles Grebing has never lived in Perry County, he has his roots here and has always had a love for the German Lutheran history of this area. He is a descendant of the Hartmann Grebing, who was one of the original 1839 immigrants as part of what we call the New York Group. Charles is now an attorney in California, but he is also a fairly regular visitor to our community.
In order to have a brewery, Charles needed to find a brewmaster. He found one in the person of Mike Mills of Cape Girardeau. Mike had previously worked as the brewmaster at Buckner’s Brewery in that city, but that brewery had gone out of business. So Mike Mills brought his beer brewing skills to Altenburg.
Mike hails from Sikeston, Missouri. His original career goal was to become an art teacher. He was studying to become such an educator in Cape Girardeau, but as a married man beginning a family, he knew he had bills to pay, so he started brewing beer. Although he was and is a rather talented artist, Mike ended up pursuing another of his passions. Now his art is exhibited in brewing beer. I happen to think he is outstanding in his craft. Instead of using our eyes to enjoy his works of art, we use our taste buds.
Both Charles and Mike embrace the German heritage of this area. In their own way, they are helping to preserve the same story that our museum attempts to preserve. The walls of the brewery are adorned with several artifacts from our past. The framed poster shown below highlights Charles’s grandfather, who also carried the name, Charles Grebing.
In addition to serving beer, Saxony Hills Brewery also provides a very ample menu of food items that can be enjoyed. That menu has been taking on a definite German character during the brewery’s first year. You can find images of their newest menu on their Facebook page. The links to that page and their official website are shown below.
The brewery also has a game room to entertain its customers. This room probably gets used mostly by children who visit the brewery with their parents.
Although some varieties of beer are regularly offered, there are always some new entries. Mike brews small batches of specialty brews on occasion. There is always a variety of types of beers and ales available. He is always trying something new. These are the offerings that are being offered right now, although Mike says he has a new Scottish ale that is about ready to be served. He has not come up with a name for it yet, but Gerard and I got a sample, and we were both impressed.
If you ever have time to chat with Mike, you are likely to discover his extensive knowledge of how certain types of beers are produced, but he also knows a lot of the history of those brews.
The brewery’s winter hours are as follows:
- Friday – 4:00-9:00 pm
- Saturday – 12:00-9:00 pm
- Sunday – 2:00-8:00 pm
For those of you coming to town looking for the brewery, when you come in Main St. and get to Immanuel Lutheran Church on the right, the next street is Maple St. Turn right where you see the sign below, and it won’t take long before you see their building on the left.
Here are some photos of the exterior of the Saxony Hills Brewery. The thumbnails are clickable.
Here’s another gallery of photos taken inside the brewery.
In preparation for this blog post, Gerard and I visited Mike at the brewery in order to get some of these photos and some information from him. In the course of our visit, despite it being fairly early in the day, Mike insisted that we share a pint with him. As you can tell in the photo below, this put a smile on Gerard’s face.
Mike and I of course joined Gerard in doing what is so often done in a good brewery. We drank some good beer and told some good stories.
Before I bring this post to an end, I want to take some time to tell you about an upcoming special event. It also has to do with telling stories, and it is one of the reasons I chose to do a story on our local brewery at this time. As soon as this post is published today, we will have to post only four more stories to reach the milestone of 1000 blog posts since this blog began a little over three years ago. Gerard and I are planning to celebrate this event, and we have made the necessary arrangements to do our celebrating at the brewery. We would love to have others join us. So if you are in the vicinity and would want to tip a few with the rest of us, please come join the fun. We plan to be there next Friday, March 1 from 6:00 pm to closing. Just bring some money to help support Mike and his staff. I cannot guarantee it, but maybe the braumeister himself will join us.