Saloons in the Old West ~ Beer moves west

Known by such colorful names as “John Barleycorn, purge, hop juice, calobogus, wobbly pop, mancation, let’s mosey, laughing water, mad dog, Jesus juice, pig’s ear, [and] strike-me-dead,” according to, most of the beer in the late 1870s was a dark, tepid, low-quality, low-hop, home brew that was quick to go flat. Eventually, keg beer transported by horse-drawn carts transitioned to bottled beer carried cross country by rail, chilled in ice houses, and served cold — thanks to improved transportation between the east and west coasts, the contribution of German brewers who used better grains, water, yeast, and hops; and refrigeration methods developed by Adolphus Busch in the 1880s.

One of the real-life characters in my Cat’s Cafe is Herman Joseph Berghoff, a native of Prussia (in present-day Germany), who crisscrosses the West, meets Catherine, captivates Fannie Smiles, and encourages Native American Jeremiah to learn the German style of brewing. Berghoff would ultimately become a brewer and restaurateur famously known for creating The Berghoff Restaurant in Chicago’s Loop. The Berghoff Family Cookbook describes young Herman as a boy “captivated by tales of the American ‘Wild West’ [who] fancied that he might share those adventures and strike it rich in the process.”

Fun fact, a virtual tour of the Berghoff & Adams Street Brewery is available with a link on The Berghoff’s home page. For more, visit Berghoff Brewery – FORT WAYNE BEER. There, you’ll find a great collection of photos, including the two pictures above.

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