Gilbert Brewery Bottling Plant

Virginia City Historic District

Henry Gilbert and Christian Richter brought German-style lager beer to thirsty Virginia City miners in 1864 and began bottling it in this stone and brick building in 1875. For much of the nineteenth century, American brewers made a heavier, English-style ale, which was faster and easier to produce. In contrast, lager beer, a light and crisp beer common in Germany, demanded special yeast and precise storage conditions to brew. Richter knew this trickier “lagering” process and perfected it using fresh water from Daylight Creek, imported yeast, and barley from Gilbert’s farm in Madison County. Gilbert bought out Richter in 1872, and expanded the brewery with the introduction of bottling. Stores and saloons now had the option to order smaller quantities of bottled beer in cases, or the traditional, large wooden kegs. Empty bottles were returned to the brewery, sanitized, and used again and again. Gilbert’s lager claimed gold medals at the 1893 and 1904 World’s Fairs. The brewery struggled to sell soda during Prohibition, and closed in 1922. Charles and Sue Bovey renovated the building into a pottery studio in 1946.

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Hamilton Street, Virginia City, Montana ~ Public