I am heading up to spend a weekend in California’s Gold Country, where I have been asked to talk about brewing during the California Gold Rush.
California became part of the United States in 1848 in the settlement of a war with Mexico. There were around 7,000 United States citizens in California at the beginning of the Mexican War, and roughly 100,000 within three years as a result of the Gold Rush. California became a state in 1850.
The overwhelming influx of people seeking their fortunes in such a brief span of time shaped the culture of the state.
Demand for consumer goods was very high. California breweries began almost immediately when the perishable beer from the East spoiled before it arrived. The first brewery in San Francisco was erected in 1850, and there were 38 in the city by 1881.
It took some time for people who set out for the gold fields to travel to California. There were many obstacles on the journey, and those who made their way to California were often disappointed at their prospects when they arrived. Many potential prospectors relied on trades in which they had experience to make their living.
One example was Frederick Walter, a German immigrant to the United States who left Ohio for California. When he eventually arrived safely, he discerned that he was unlikely to make his fortune by mining gold. Frederick had been a brewer and brewery master in Ohio, and put his experience to good use in California. With a partner, he established the Pacific Brewery in Weaverville.
The story of brewing in the California Gold Rush incorporates the stories of people who were a lot like us. They overcame challenges and unforeseen situations with creativity, insight, and the passions that drew them forward. They continue to inspire us today.
[Image by Suzi Rosenberg]