Beehive Archive: The rise/fall/rise of Fisher Brewing Co.
Welcome to the Beehive Archive — your weekly bite-sized look at some of the most pivotal — and peculiar — events in Utah history. With all of the history and none of the dust, the Beehive Archive is a fun way to catch up on Utah’s past. Beehive Archive is a production of Utah Humanities, provided to local papers as a weekly feature article focusing on Utah history topics drawn from our award-winning radio series, which can be heard each week on KCPW and Utah Public Radio.
An impressive mansion on Salt Lake City’s west side serves as a reminder of Utah’s beer history and the prosperous titan who ran the largest brewery in the West. Utah’s strict liquor laws are something of a hilarious nuisance for many visitors to the state.
To the uninitiated, it might seem that Utahns aren’t a particularly alcohol-loving people. However, beer and breweries have a long and vibrant history in the Beehive state. One Utah brewer, Albert Fisher, used his prosperity to leave a mark on Salt Lake City’s west side.
An immigrant from Germany, Fisher opened the A. Fisher Brewing Co. in 1884. German immigrants were embraced for their beer brewing skills, and Fisher quickly became a well-respected leader in the brewing industry. His was one of Utah’s first breweries and it eventually became the largest in the West.
Situated along the banks of the Jordan River, near 200 South and 1200 West, the massive brewery sat on an entire city block. Fisher used state-of-the-art German brewing methods to create his beer. Every aspect of the process — from malting barley, to milling and drying hops, to shipping out the finished bottled product — was completed on-site.
This massive undertaking paid off, and Fisher’s business boomed. By 1905, he had roughly 50 employees and was brewing 75,000 barrels for the many bars he owned in the Salt Lake Valley.
Fisher also commissioned a mansion built about a block away from his brewery. Designed by renowned architect Richard K. A. Kletting, the impressive house on the Jordan River remains a fixture in Salt Lake’s industrial west side.
The building has served many purposes in the last century, first as a beer tycoon’s private residence, and then as a convent for Catholic nuns, and later a substance abuse treatment facility.
Prosperity for Fisher Brewing came to an end in 1920 when Prohibition shut down Utah’s bars and distilleries. The brewery reopened in 1934, but was eventually sold to a California company in the mid-1950s and then finally closed in 1967. Fifty years later, in 2017, the great-great grandson of Albert Fisher resurrected the brewery — this time in an old auto shop in Salt Lake City’s Granary District.
Today, microbreweries and a booming beer culture is once again embraced by many Utahns.
Beehive Archive is a production of Utah Humanities. This Beehive Archive story is part of Think Water Utah, a statewide collaboration and conversation on the critical topic of water presented by Utah Humanities and its partners. Sources consulted in the creation of the Beehive Archive and past episodes may be found at www.utahhumanities.org/stories. © Utah Humanities 2023