Brewing ran in Jacob Leinenkugel’s family. His German-born father started a brewery in Sauk City, and his older brother established one in Eau Claire. In 1867, Jacob sought a site for his own brewery in Chippewa Falls. He and business partner John Miller found an unusually pure spring on a bend in Duncan Creek. They put up a springhouse to protect and tap the water source and a brewhouse to transform it into beer, and the Spring Brewery was born. In 1883, Miller left the business and Jacob renamed it after himself. It is a reminder of the days before mechanical refrigeration and truck transportation, when small breweries thrived throughout Wisconsin, brewing lager for local sale. Though still managed by members of the Leinenkugel family, “Leinie’s” became part of Milwaukee’s massive Miller Brewing Company in 1988, and it now produces boutique beers.
The brewery complex has evolved architecturally over the years as it kept pace with changes in technology and scale of production. Many buildings, like the riverside dormitory where male brewery workers once lived, have vanished. But among the historic structures, the oldest is the springhouse of 1867, a small brick cube set into the base of a bluff. The malt house, erected before 1883, is a large but unpretentious three-story structure made of stone, which originally accommodated the entire production process: malting, mashing, and brewing. In a kiln room at its front corner, malted barley was roasted, but the tall smokestack that projected from the pyramidal roof is gone, since malting here ceased with Prohibition.
As the Chippewa Falls lumber economy boomed, so did the brewery. In 1890, Leinenkugel’s moved its mashing and brewing operations into a four-story brick brewhouse opposite the malt house. (The bridge connecting the two buildings houses a conveyor for carrying kiln-dried malt to the mash tuns, where it is boiled with water to make the beginnings of beer.) The building has lost its original hipped roof and belvedere. Adjoining the brewhouse, and erected a year later, a long, brick stock house holds tanks where beer is fermented and lagered. The sprawling single-story complex adjoining the stock house—containing offices, a bottling plant, and other functions—was added incrementally over the course of the twentieth century. One other historic Leinenkugel building is a horse barn, built before 1883 in front of the malt house. The structure is stone on the first story, with a slightly gambreled frame loft above. It stabled the horses that once pulled wagons loaded with beer.