19th Century Beer Cellar Rediscovered in Winterset, Iowa

Madison County may be known for its covered bridges, but a mid-19th century covered beer cellar is generating the latest buzz. The beer cellar, which is an earthen cooler, is just east of Highway 169 on a property that is now a farm equipment supplier. It is close to what was Madison County’s first brewery. A local business directory from 1869 shows that the brewery was already in operation, although the year of its founding is uncertain. While some locals knew of the existence of the beer cellar on the outskirts of town, its existence had been hidden for generations. “We were drilling these power lines underground, and they just ran into rocks,” said Chuck Johnson, the superintendent of electricity. “They started digging into it and thought they had hit a rock shelf.” There was even speculation that they had found part of the Underground Railroad. But closer examination proved it was part of the brewery. “When we put our head inside and saw the vaulted ceiling, there’s no flaw,” Johnson said. “It’s like it’s brand new.” For now, the cave is full of water, and local officials are waiting until the fall, when the water resides, to perform a full digital scan. After that, they will decide how best to preserve and mark the location. “Any time you find something from the 1860s, it’s really exciting,” said Jared McDonald of the Madison County Historical Society. “We’ll do something, either a marker or – I don’t know if we’ll dig it up and do some tours, but we’ll definitely have a mark and a plaque for it.” Other headlines: Hawkeyes player helps woman change tire on side of Interstate 35 Sweet corn stands pop up in Iowa

Madison County may be known for its covered bridges, but a mid-19th century covered beer cellar is generating the latest buzz.

The beer cellar, which is an earthen cooler, is just east of Route 169 on a property that is now a farm equipment supplier.

It is close to what was Madison County’s first brewery.

A local business directory from 1869 shows that the brewery was already in operation, although the year of its founding is uncertain.

While some locals knew of the existence of the beer cellar on the outskirts of town, its existence had been hidden for generations.

“We were drilling these power lines underground, and they just ran into rocks,” said Chuck Johnson, the superintendent of electricity. “They started digging into it and thought they had hit a rock shelf.”

There was even speculation that they had found part of the Underground Railroad. But closer examination proved it was part of the brewery.

“When we put our head inside and saw the vaulted ceiling, there’s no flaw,” Johnson said. “It’s like it’s brand new.”

For now, the cave is full of water, and local officials are waiting until fall, when the water resides, to perform a full digital scan.

After that, they will decide how best to preserve and mark the location.

“Any time you find something from the 1860s, it’s really exciting,” said Jared McDonald of the Madison County Historical Society. “We’ll do something, either a marker or – I don’t know if we’ll dig it up and do some tours, but we’ll definitely have a mark and a plaque for it.”

Other titles:

A Hawkeyes player helps a woman change a tire on the side of Interstate 35

Sweet corn stands appear in Iowa

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