By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Sep 14, 2008 at 5:09 AM

It seems like just yesterday we were reporting tiny Potosi, in southwest Wisconsin, had been awarded the National Brewery Museum over St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Of course, that sparked some controversy in Brew City and triggered a debate over whether Potosi could really be considered the nation's Beer Capital. That didn't matter to the folks in Potosi, however, and today the museum is up and running, with an additional sister museum centering on transportation along the Mississippi River.

The National Brewery Museum is a joint venture between the Potosi Brewery Foundation and the American Breweriana Association. These two organizations have teamed up to create a world-class national brewery museum showcasing a collection of beer bottles and cans, glasses, trays, coasters, advertising materials and other breweriana collectibles.

The museum opened in June and is located within the historical setting of the Potosi Brewing Company building that operated from 1852 to 1972.

Founded in 1852 by Gabriel Hail and John Albrecht, the Potosi Brewery began as a small brewery quenching the thirsts of area farmers, fishermen and miners. In 1886 Adam Schumacher bought the brewery and started brewing beer.

In 1906, the Potosi Brewing Company was founded by Adam and his brothers, Nicholas and Henry. At its peak, the Potosi Brewery had grown to be the fifth largest in Wisconsin, shipping a variety of labels including Good Old Potosi, Holiday, Garten Brau, Augsburger and others to destinations throughout the United States. In 1972 the brewery ceased operations and closed its doors.

The restoration of the Potosi Brewery began in 1995 when Gary David bought the ruined Potosi Brewery Bottling buildings. This nearly one square block of buildings had just suffered a major fire and most of the buildings were a total loss.

In 2000, the Potosi Brewery Foundation was founded and some restoration work was started. In 2004, with restoration underway, the Potosi Brewery Foundation was selected by the American Breweriana Association to be the home to its national museum. Restoration cost $7 million and was handled through the two organizations, donations and grants.

According to Len Chylack, president of the American Breweriana Association, Potosi was selected over cities such as Milwaukee and St. Louis because of the community's passion for beer, brewery history and beer-making culture.

This passion is evident in the museum, with great attention to detail. In addition to the beer museum, the facility includes The Great River Road Interpretive Center, Potosi Brewing Company Transportation Museum and Gift Shop, All are completed.

The Transportation Museum tells the story of how an industrial building on the Great River Road made use of the river, the highway and the railway. Through exhibits and interactive displays, the history of the Potosi Brewery is told through various modes of transportation.

Beer is once again being brewed at the facility. The brewmaster has five beers on tap: Good Old Potosi, Potosi Pure Malt Cave Ale, Snake Hollow IPA, Holiday Bock and Potosi Steamer Hefe Weiss. They also brew root beer.

The restaurant has a unique atmosphere, with a flowing spring below the floor and a real feel of a 1850s brewery. A handcrafted bar was designed by local artist Gary David. This unique piece fashioned out of walnut, maple and oak pays homage to the history of the brewery, and community.

The National Brewery Museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The museum also will sponsor various events in the area. Next is the Potosi Brewery Great River Road Bike Tour on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.