From the Ashes: Good Old Potosi

The Potosi Brewery traces its history back to 1852, but when the American Breweriana Association selected Potosi to be the home of the National Brewery Museum, it had at least as much to do with the brewery's recent history as it did with its pre-Civil War past.

Potosi, a village of about 700 people about 90 miles southwest of Madison, was home to a working brewery for 120 years when the Potosi Brewery closed in 1972. The company buildings lay dormant for many years, serving as a constant visual reminder to the people in and around Potosi of the state’s dilapidating status as the nation’s beer state. The metaphor took on new life when, several years after the closing, the buildings caught fire and were mostly destroyed.

In the late ’90s, Gary David, Denis David, Madonna David and Rick Tobin began restoring the brewery to its former glory. With a combination of investment, marketing and community organizing, the foursome helped establish the Potosi Brewery Foundation in 2000, making the brewery a nonprofit operation in which the entire community of Potosi was invested. Restoration was not even completed in 2004 when the American Breweriana Assocation chose Potosi over St. Louis and Milwaukee to be the site of the National Brewery Museum that now stands adjacent to the fully restored Potosi Brewery.

But what about the beer? No less an authority than Capital Brewery brewmaster Kirby Nelson says, “Potosi is making some really good beer.”

Good Old Potosi, Potosi Pure Malt Cave Ale and Snake Hollow India Pale Ale are very drinkable beers that taste more cared for than heavily advertised, mass-market brews. Snake Hollow is especially hoppy, with hops added during kettle boiling and after the initiation of the aging process. The Oatmeal Stout and Pumpkin Ale are high-alcohol beers with a little bit of sweetness and a good amount of character. You couldn’t drink these beers all day long, but with 8 percent alcohol that wouldn’t be a good idea anyway.

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