In 1856, Swiss immigrant Ulrich Oderbolz founded the Oderbolz Brewing Company in Black River Falls on the site of the present Sand Creek Brewing Company. Mr. Oderbolz cut his brewery into the side of a hill, as was the practice in those days, and created thick stone foundation walls to make a brew cellar for keeping the beer fresh -- in the winter, blocks of ice were cut from nearby Spaulding pond.
Today the Sand Creek Brewing Co. operates in Mr. Oderbolz's same brewery building, and the beer is stored in the same 19th century beer cellar. (The original building was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1932, in which it lost its second and third floors.)
Ulrich married Anna, another Swiss immigrant, in 1857, and in 1869 they built the red brick residence which still stands across the street from the brewery. They had eight children -- four boys and four girls -- and the brewery prospered.
Oderbolz Beer label
Oderbolz beer bottle label
Tragedy at the brewery: 1888
But tragedy stalked the family. On Feb. 15, 1888, 18-year-old Charley Oderbolz fell into a vat of boiling malt at the brewery, after losing his balance while standing on the edge. He fell forward full length, but managed to keep his head above water and climbed out. He was terribly scalded, and his clothing was removed, which only made matters worse by pulling skin off, and he lingered only until the following morning, when he died.
When Ulrich died in 1900 at the age of 80, his son Frank continued operating the brewery. Frank had been president of the Jackson County Bank since 1897, and also found time to farm, serve on the common council, be a volunteer firefighter, and was even the supervisor of the committee in charge of building the dam over the Black River.
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