Montana is home to many microbreweries across the state and three right here in the Capital City. But the Kessler family and their namesake company helped put the Treasure State on the map in the beer industry.
Nicholas Kessler moved to Montana from Germany in 1863, and Virginia City became home to the second brewery of the state.
Gold brought Kessler to the state, but he left shortly after arriving when he realized the gold rush was short lived.
But in 1865, Kessler received a letter saying someone found claims with his name on it. He came back to Montana, but the claims proved worthless.
Instead of leaving, this time he focused on brewing beer and invested in a brick making company in a town that was just starting to boom.
“Really Nicholas Kessler came to Helena at a time that was very critical and he provided and he provided everything a growing city needed to succeed. He provided beer and bricks,” said Montana Historical Society Historian Tom Cook.
Kessler moved the brewery to Last Chance Gulch and the company really took off in 1886.
“The brewery at that time was the best brewery, the most scientifically advanced brewery in the whole Pacific NorthWest,” added Cook.
The company operated from 1865 until 1957 when Frederick, the last Kessler son, died. In 1984, an attempt to reopen the Kessler brewing company was made. Despite a valiant effort, they went bankrupt in 1992.
The large building can still be seen on the side of highway 12 on the outskirts of Helena and a reminder of one of the first brewing companies to grace the treasure state.
“So in a tribute to Nicholas and his two sons and to the Kessler label of Helena…here’s to all the beer drinkers in Helena,” said Cook.
Reporter: Mikenzie Frost