Bohemian-born Wojta Stransky built the Ahnapee Brewery for this community of largely Bohemian and German immigrants. Within six months, his brewmaster was producing 125 barrels of beer per week. A decade later, Henry Schmiling, a Pomeranian immigrant, expanded the brewery’s distribution network, making deliveries as far away as Door County, reached by boat in summer and by sleigh in winter. When railroad connections in the 1890s opened the brewery’s local market to devastating competition from larger breweries in Green Bay, Ahnapee Brewery closed in 1894. For some time after it was constructed, the brewery remained the only large brick building in Algoma. Overlooking rustic fishing shanties along the Ahnapee River, the brewery typified the manufacturing and warehousing architecture of its day. A low-pitched hipped roof with boxed eaves shelters walls of cream brick. Windows are arranged symmetrically around a set of carved wooden double doors (replacements), and segmental arches with prominent drip moldings crown each opening.
The building’s most distinctive features are found inside. In the cavernous subbasement, where the brewer aged the beer in as many as two hundred wooden kegs, fieldstone walls rise up to form barrel-vaulted ceilings. These are fashioned from regularly coursed stones, which become smaller in width as they approach the top. In 1967, Charles Stiehl restored the original roof and its ten small chimneys to create Wisconsin’s first licensed winery. To comply with health codes, Stiehl installed concrete floors and whitewashed the stone walls in the levels below grade. Today, the family-operated business is a popular tourist attraction.