November 27, 2022
Local News

Then & Now – Gebhard Brewery in Morris

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Brewing in America dates to the early to mid-17th century with the first English and Dutch settlements. The climate and terrain of the northeast was particularly suited to brewing beer and growing malt and hops.

Between 1650 and the Civil War, the market for beer remained steady, with both production and consumption remaining essentially a local affair. There were many small breweries in America, and many households brewed their own beer.

While there were several hundred small-scale, local breweries in the 1840s and 1850s, beer did not become a mass-produced, mass-consumed beverage in America until the years after the Civil War.

In Morris, Gebhard Brewery was founded by German immigrant Louis Gebhard. In 1866, Louis began his brewery in a wooden building on West Washington near the East Fork branch of Nettle Creek.

Twenty years later, Louis sold the business to his son William, who built the business into one known throughout the state because the finest quality of malt, grit and hops were used in the production process.

William expanded the business to include a malt and bottling house in 1888 and a seven-story brewhouse in 1896. Gebhard made additions to the brewhouse over the years, including the addition of a stock house in 1904, which included a state-of-the-art refrigeration plant.

About 1912, William’s son Fred joined the business and helped with the management and operation of the brewery. Fred worked with his father until the business was closed nearly a decade later.

The process of making beer consisted of malt being elevated to the top floor of the brewhouse, where the beer was taken through several brewing stages by the force of gravity until it reached the stockhouse.

It was there that the beer was packed into kegs and bottled by a filling machine.

With the ratification of Prohibition on Jan. 29, 1919, and officially taking effect the following year, the Gebhard Brewery was forced to close by January 1920.

Within a few months, the brewing equipment was sold, and by 1921, the brewery buildings were sold, and the tall brew house was converted for use into a flour mill. One such company that used the old brew house was the Morris Milling Company, which was in operation from 1935-1958.

The bottling plant building was also converted to other use. In 1946, the Lindsay Light and Mantel Company began producing mantels for lamps and lanterns for nearly 50 years at this location until it closed in the early 1990s.

The Then photograph shows the seven-story brewhouse that housed the vats and kettles that helped produce more than 100 barrels of beer a day.

To the west of the tall brewhouse is the stock house. Just to the south of the brewery buildings is the bottling plant building. The entire brewery complex is located at the west end of Washington Street.

The Now photograph shows a view of the brewery building today. The surviving buildings include the brick bottling plant, the larger brewhouse and the stockhouse.