Footprints of Fayette

A Historical Column From The Fayette County 

Historical Commission and Fayette County Judge’s Office

Saloons on the 

La Grange Square – Part I

By Charles Hebert

“I have opened a beer hall …and am prepared to receive and entertain my friends.

I am now an agent for the celebrated Anheuser Busch Beer on ice! 5 cents a glass …Union Beer Hall” stated the advertisement in The La Grange Journal for Heinrich Kreische’s saloon in 1881.  

Heinrich Louis Kreische immigrated to Texas from his native Saxony, Germany, arriving in Galveston on Dec. 26, 1846. Kreische, along with his brother, Carl Emanuel, were recipients of two individual land grants located in what is now Mason County on the Llano River. The grants were awarded by a group of German noblemen who organized the Adelsverein with the intent to increase German settlement in central Texas by providing agricultural grants to German citizens. Kreische, a stonemason by trade, lacked the agricultural skills needed on the then western frontier and soon arrived in Fayette County sometime during late 1847.

He soon put his stonemason skills to use by doing small projects around the county like building fireplaces and eventually his home on the bluff in 1850. Kreische continued the decade mastering his stonemason skills with the building of the second Fayette County Jail and the county’s third courthouse, as well as some area homes. 

Sometime in the early 1860s, he began the construction of his brewery on the bluff overlooking the City of La Grange. Kreische’s Bluff Beer soon became a reality with the completion of the brewery. Lager beer was being advertised in the San Antonio Reporter as early as 1856. The Menger Brewery in San Antonio, often cited as the earliest commercial brewery in Texas, was making lager beer prior to 1861.  It appeared that wherever Kreische learned the brewing trade, he was exposed to the Bavarian method, and given the popularity of lager beer, especially with German populations, he most likely would have attempted to make it. What is known is that by 1876, Kreische was the third largest commercial brewer in the state. In 1878, he brewed 774 barrels and 780 in 1879. No known formula currently exists for how Kreische brewed his Bluff Beer. Also of importance is the 1870 census which lists him as a brewer, while the census in 1860 still lists him as a stonemason.

In September 1879, Kreische bought a 24½-foot by 163-foot parcel in lot 198, block 21, in La Grange on the west side of the courthouse square, containing the Bismark Saloon at 117 North Main St. that is now the location for the office of Byron M. Neely, M.D.  Kreische’s Union Beer Hall opened in 1881 in the former Bismark Saloon. During 1881-82, he was also building a stone beer hall and ice house at the corner of Travis Street and South Main Street, now occupied by Hart Land Real Estate.  

In 1880, Kreische donated $1,000 to a bonus fund to entice the GH&SA railroad company to complete a line to La Grange. As he made his donation, he predicted “St. Louis and Milwaukee beer would put him out of business when the railroad got here.” On Jan. 1, 1882, the first railroad cars rolled into La Grange, and his premonition about the railroad’s arrival proved true with the onset of the new technology of ice-making. Kreische appears to have accepted the eventual demise of his brewery and was going into the retail beer and ice business instead. His premature death in March 1882 came before the transition was complete. 

(To Be Continued)