Monday, October 1, 2012

Ciara Gold presents Behind Saloon Doors

Bet you think this is going to be all about those lovely Calico Queens, don't you? Well, sorry to disappoint, but I got to thinking about the basic running of a saloon. Almost all western stories includes at least one scene in which the setting includes a bar. Some of these bars are located in remote towns so how did they come by their beer and liquor? With that question in my mind, I did a bit of research on breweries. To narrow my search I decided to look for historical breweries in Texas.

The first commercial brewery opened its doors in 1845 in La Grange, Texas by Henry Ludwig Kreische. The history of the area is fascinating.  Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site is now open to tourists and it's on my to do list as it's not that far from my home.

There isn't much information regarding beer. Most breweries in the 1840s were small home operations. The Germans brought beer-making recipes and techniques to Texas and the majority of the beer brewed was a lager beer. Most of the breweries were then located in areas heavily populated by the German immigrants.

Most beer was brewed in the winter as back then there was no refrigeration. Artificial ice wasn't manufactured until 1865 when they installed a Carré machine in San Antonio. I did research on real ice for Sarah's Brass Token and discovered they shipped big ice blocks by train from the North. To keep it cold, they used sawdust and rock salt as insulation. The beer industry evolved and in 1884, Lone Star Brewery opened the first mechanized brewery in Texas.

Even my own grandfather brewed beer in his basement. One particularly hot day, the lids on all his beer bottles started to pop off and the loud noise was quite telling. He worried that the sheriff who lived next door might hear and arrest him on the spot. Well, he poked his head outside to see if his neighbor was headed over only to hear the distant popping from the sheriff's home as well. Seems the local sheriff was doing a bit of brewing himself.

Prior to 1873, imported beer was brought in from Europe by way of ship to Galveston, then transported to various towns by wagon. Unfortunately, by the time the beer reached its final destination, the quality was sorely lacking. After 1873, many changes occured that allowed for a better product to be delivered to saloons and restaurants throughout Texas. Mechinary, manufactured ice or refridgeration, better techniques for pastorization, and the train all helped in shaping the making and transporting of beer.

Whiskey was another matter all together. And yes, I had a great uncle who took to moonshining during the prohibition days as well. Anyway, saloons in well-established towns with lots of customers could afford to supply a vast variety of liquor, wine, and beer while saloons in smaller, off-the-beaten-track towns probably had to resort to servings of rotgut.

Interestingly enough, the local option laws of 1876 and 1891 forced many legal saloons to close their doors. I don't usually think of prohibition happening before 1920 but I suppose if you plan to put in a bar scene in your stories, you should be sure and check the liquor laws for that particular town. What you find might surprise you.

So belly on up to the bar and enjoy a cold brew and remember that it wasn't so easy in 1840 to come by the tasty beverage.

Enjoy a scene at the bar with the hero, Kane of Once Jilted:

Kane clinked his empty glass against Brewster’s. "Here’s to women."

"To women."

"So—you were going to tell me why you’re in here drinking. Something aboot a fight with your fiancée."

"Yep." He waved the glass about. "She made me mad. Wanted to accompany Shauna on her escapade, and I wouldn’t let her. Lora Lee still hasn’t forgiven me. I wouldn’t loan Shauna my wagon either. I thought that would be enough to discourage Shauna from going as well. Who’d have thought Miss Spendthrift would part with coins to rent a wagon? Were they any good?"

"What? Oh, the pies?" Kane frowned. "I wouldn’t know. I doon’t much care for pecans, but my men devoured them. Too bad they took ill shortly afterwards."

"Well, it wouldn’t have been Shauna’s baking. She’s one of the best cooks in the county." He leaned closer and put his hand to his mouth. "Don’t tell Lora Lee, but I like Shauna’s cooking more than I like hers. Yep, Shauna might not be the prettiest filly in town, but she’ll make some man’s stomach very happy."

Kane stared at his empty glass and decided he might just need another. He held it out for the barkeeper and admired the stream of golden liquid. Fortification for a guilty conscience. He still didn’t know the full story behind Shauna’s actions, yet already he suffered a severe attack of conscience. He hung his head. "I accused her of poisoning my men."

Brewster shoved his shoulder. "You what?"

"What else was I to think?"

"Well, you can go to the Clevingers’ home and apologize to her tomorrow."

"I could, but she woon’t be there. The Clevingers sent her packing this evening."

Brewster slouched and laid his head on the bar. "Oh no, Lora Lee will never forgive me now. If I’d escorted the women today like they wanted, this might not have happened." He raised his head.
"Do the Clevingers know about the child?"

Kane downed the shot of whiskey. "I thought you said she was noot pregnant." He was very confused, and the whiskey wasn’t helping to straighten things out.


Caroline Clemmons said...

Ciara, What a great post. My grandmother had pneumonia and couldn't gain any weight back. The doctor told her to drink a beer twice a day. My uncle (so not a nice man) showed my grandfather how to make beer. My grandfather was a staunch teetotaller, but he made the beer until my grandmother regained some weight and stamina.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Ciara, I hadn't thought of checking into local option laws, so thanks! Or no thanks, because that's another thing to do. LOL. That's a funny story about your grandfather and the sheriff. :) Great excerpt, too!

Ciara Gold said...

Thanks all. Sorry I'm late in responding. Caroline, I love hearing stories like those. Makes me think deeper on possible scenes for a story. And yeah, Jacquie, I hadn't thought about it either until I did that bit of research. Gosh, there are so many little things to think of but you're right, more work. ack.