Angela Major

WATCH: Ice Age Trail intersects with beer history

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Thursday, February 9, 2017

JANESVILLE—Buob's Beer is extra stock—no inferior ingredients. It is the purest.

And Buob's ale is something fine.

Here's the best part: Either the ale or the beer can be  “furnished for family use in two-dozen pint cases and delivered to your residence.”

That's according to an ad in the Jan. 22, 1900, Daily Gazette.

On Wednesday, volunteers from the Rock County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance were working to clear brush from the foundation of the brewery were Buob's beer and ale were made.

The intersection of beer and brush-cutting first happened last year, when volunteers from the Ice Age Trail met Robert Bier--that's right, his name is Bier--a brewery aficionado formerly of Janesville.

The Ice Age Trail volunteers were out working around the Kiwanis Trail near Mercy Hospital. That's where the brewery was run by the Buob brothers. At the site, Dennis James, coordinator for the Rock County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, met Bier.

Bier, who now lives in Maryland, has been documenting Janesville's beer brewing history and told James about the Buob brothers and the Croak Brewery that was later on that spot.

In June 2016, Bier had contacted Greg Peck, former Opinion Page editor at The Gazette, asking if he could help with brewery research.

“Since late 2014, I've been slowly but steadily documenting Janesville's beer brewing history,” Bier wrote to Peck. “From the buildings (13 breweries, three depots, and three bottling houses) to the artifacts (bottles, labels, openers, cases and glasses), and most important of all, the people who operated them, I've been trying to document what I consider to be a fascinating and untold part of Janesville's history.”

His fascination with breweries seems to have caught the imagination of Dennis James, volunteer coordinator of the Rock County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

James said his group hopes to “adopt” the foundation of the old brewery.

“We're hoping to work on an interpretive sign,” James said.

The Rock County Historical Society, which is right down the street from the Buob's Brewery sight, is also interested, James said.

For Bier, it's about more than just breweries.

“We're interested in learning more about the brewers, their families, co-workers and descendants,” Bier wrote in his email to Peck.  “For example, where did the brewers (and their workers) come from? Why did they settle in Janesville? And where did they go when their breweries closed? Our goal is to weave their personal stories with the breweries to paint a comprehensive picture of Janesville's brewing history.”

Most Janesville residents know about the storied history of Gray Brewing, which has been a Janesville fixture since 1856. But it was William Hodson who opened Janesville's first brewery in the mid-1840s, according to Bier.

Between that time and until Bower City Beverage closed in 1940, more than two dozen brewers operated at 13 breweries in the city.

Now, Gray's is being joined by Rock County Brewing, which recently opened in downtown Janesville.

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