The stone retaining walls of the winding trail demonstrate the craftmanship of Heinrich Kreische.
From Austin head east on Highway 71. Proceed into La Grange and turn right onto State Highway 77 and head south. Turn right onto Spur 92 and look for the park headquarters and parking area on the right. The guided Brewery Tour begins at the main park headquarters building.
The Hikes: Access to the Kreische Brewery is limited to two guided hikes that are given at 2:00 PM and 3:30 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. The guide costs $2 over and above the price of park admission. The knowledgeable guide makes the extra expense worth it.
The trail shows evidence of some of the rock that Kreische used to build his house, his brewery and other buildings in the area.
The trail begins at the park headquarters at the waypoint marked "Trailhead". The trail leads down to the Kreische family home, which we passed by on the History Trail
. The tour will stop at this point and the guide will provide a bit of history about German immigrant Heinrich Kreische and his family. After opening a locked gate that guards the path, the trail leads downhill to the brewery.
Since the slope of the hill leading down to the brewery is so steep, there are several switchbacks to make the going easier. Note the care and craftmanship of the rock walls that support the switchbacks. Although some of the walls have been repaired over the years, much of it is original, having stood the test of time for almost 150 years.
The highlight of the hike is the brewery itself. Although much of it was destroyed by floods and neglect the substantial stone walls largely remain.
The brewery sits in the midst of a small, but steep valley beneath the Kreische Brewery home. Though not far from the high ridge above, the micro climate here can be radically different. During our visit there was a question about whether or not the tour would even occur since they are cancelled when the expected heat index rises too high.
This portion of the trail is actually the remnants of the old Smithville La Grange highway that passed right by the brewery. The park contains one of the few publically accesable spots where the old road remains.
The brewery closed in 1884, not long after Kreische's death, and sat in disrepair. Occassional floods eventually tore down walls. The park has provided several observation platforms from which it is easy to view the different rooms, each of which was dedicated to a different step in the beer making process. A good deal of the time for the hike and tour takes place as the guide describes the manufacturing process and the ingeneous way in which Kreische laid out his brewery to take advantage of the flow of water and the pull of gravity.
Although seemingly out of the way now, the brewery was actually right on the highway in the 1800's. Once the tour finishes the discussion of the brewery, it begins to head uphill on the remains of the old Smithville-La Grange road, sometimes referred to as old Highway 77. It resembles little more than an old jeep trail now, but the retaining walls downhill hint at the importance that this road once held. Kreische, who at one point also served as
Fayette County road commissioner, constructed some of the walls here and the stream overpass a bit more uphill. It is high-quality workmanship.
The trail rejoins the switchbacks that descended into the brewery valley and retraces the path back to the park headquarters. The tour took about one hour and forty five minutes and covered almost three quarters of a mile. Though not a strenuous or difficult hike, this trail was the most difficult of any other trail at the park - and the most educational.