At the time of the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, the Lemp Brewing Co of St. Louis was the third largest brewery in America. Founded by a German-American entrepreneur, Adam Lemp, in the city’s south central area, the brewery proved to be an innovator up until the time of Prohibition. Family misfortunes and the Temperance movement took their toll. In response to the outlawing of booze, the Lemp facility attempted to brew a non-alcoholic beverage called Cerva, which flopped. The company could not sustain the factory operations.
In 1922, the family owners sold the complex, covering an entire city block, to the International Shoe Co. for practically nothing. The ISCO in turn finally sold the complex in 1992, leaving it without major tenants. The old brewery and factory site is considered an archtecturally and historically significant site in St. Louis, and the Lemp Hall is still used for catered events.
If you find yourself in St. Louis, a visit to Cherokee Street, which ends at the Brewery’s doorstep, is well worth your time. I lived nearly two decades in St. Louis and knew nothing about this place until I came back recently. Proves to me how ignorant I was as a teen and how wonderful older American cities can be if you bother to spend time exploring.
For the brew historians among you, and there are many I think, here are some interesting anecdotes:
- Lemp brewed the first successful lager beer in the United States.
- Lemp used natural underground caves in St. Louis to allow its beer to ferment and produce a superior product.
- Lemp was the first shipping brewery to establish a national shipping strategy.
- It was the first brewery to run its own railroad, the Western Cable Railway Company, that connected all of the plant’s main buildings to shipping yards near the Mississippi River.
- The mansion of the Lemp Family is included on many haunted homes and buildings lists, if you believe in ghosts.
A wonderful documentary that does not use a distorted fisheye lens, like a GoPro I used here, can be found on the Built St. Louis web site.