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ISSUE 119 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/18/2005

Rumor has it: A brewery used to be located on the St. Olaf campus

By Emelie Heltsley
Staff Writer

Friday, November 18, 2005

Adolph Grafmuller owned and operated a brewery behind Ellingson Hall and on the north side of Thorson Hill until 1887, when he sold the land and brewery to Herman Wenner for $9,000. Wenner owned and operated the Herman Wenner Brewery on his private property until 1919.

Wenner’s brewery included a brew house with a malt kiln and brew kettles, a granary, a wagon shed, an ice house and two caves for storage that extended back into Thorson Hill. Wenner and his mother shared ownership.

In front of the caves was a “Beer Garden,” a popular gathering place and a source of the “rowdiness” that characterized Northfield in the early 20th century.

The nearby presence of a brewery caused many problems for administration and faculty who tried to keep students away from the alcohol.

While the beer garden was off-limits to students, students got around the rules by lowering each other down into the caves on ropes through the caves'’ air vents so they would not be seen entering through the front door.

Despite many conflicts between the Wenners, the police, neighbors and St. Olaf, several serious fires in the brewery and many court dates and fines, it is believed that Wenner continued to brew beer until his death in 1916.

When the 18th Amendment passed in 1919, the Wenner Brewery officially closed. In 1957, the land behind Ellingson and Thorson was sold to St. Olaf College.

If you have any rumors you want dispelled, email

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