I never quite understood what this Monument Hill Kreische Brewery place was. A Monument. A Hill. A Brewery? I did know enough to know that it’s not a working beer-making facility serving fresh frosty ale and Buffalo wings, so what can I say, it kind of slipped down the list of sights to see. Plus it’s a hard place to say.
Turns out the name is pronounced CRY-shee. And the whole thing is fantastic. Great story, great old structures, great welcome center and stone visitors shed and mural and Art Deco tower and view and picnic tables and holiday trail of lights and annual Texas Heroes celebration with cannons and re-enactors and crafts. You can even get married here. And you should! One thing though, you can’t bring beer.
To make things easy, let’s divide the story of Monument Hill Kreische Brewery into four parts.
First, the Black Beans.
Around 1840, as Texas was fighting for its independence, a couple hundred Texas soldiers decided to go down to Mexico to avenge the Dawson Massacre that had taken place over near San Antonio. Things didn’t go well and they were captured. But for various political reasons, Mexican General Santa Anna agreed to send the soldiers back to Texas. With one small catch. Santa Anna was only willing to free 90% of them; the rest would be executed on the spot. So in an exercise just one step above rock/paper/scissors or a Project Runway unconventional materials challenge, each soldier drew a bean from a pot. Lucky white bean, you got to live and go home. Black bean, no. Apparently the event was all very civilized. The doomed black bean soldiers dutifully lined up against the wall and were shot dead so that their brothers could go free.
Part Two of the story is where La Grange comes into the picture. About five years after the lottery incident, folks wanted to honor both the Dawson Massacre victims and the heroic Black Bean soldiers. Remains were collected and since the only officer among the dead was from La Grange, a gorgeous bluff above town was chosen as the final burial site for all.
Part Three is the beer part. Heinrich Kreische was a German immigrant and master stonemason. He bought the land on the bluff, tomb and all, in 1849 and proceeded to build Texas’ first commercial brewery down near a live spring. Bluff Beer was a hit and the locals enjoyed many a lawn kegger at the estate until Mr. Kreische literally fell off his wagon in 1882.
The final, most recent part of the story is that a magnificent full-on Art Deco tower and new granite vault were added to the tomb in the 1930’s, and the whole kit and caboodle from vault to brewery ruins gradually became a State Historic Site and then a park. Frisch Auf!
In this random list of my very favorite things about my very favorite place I’ve tried to capture the area’s special pieces and parts. Some are big deal, some are small gestures, some are legendary and some are just tiny pip and squeak.
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