Hanson's Pub is a cozy, family owned establishment that is rich in history. It began as a brewery in 1862, at one time housed the village's first post office, was an inn, during prohibition became an ice cream parlor and soda fountain, served as a filling station, and is now a pub and neighborhood gathering place.
Where History Brewed By Ruth Schmidt (article written c. 1970)
History still brews in Hanson Bros. Tavern in North Lake, Wisconsin, when Mrs. Hanson digs among her flowers and comes up with an old clay bottle used by her ancestors in the brewery here, a hundred years ago. Hanson Bros. Tavern is part of the old North Lake Brewery and Angler's Inn Hotel, built shortly after the Civil War by Rasmus Frederickson, great uncle of the Hansons. When Rasmus Frederickson came to North Lake, from Denmark, in 1861, he soon learned that, though farmers in this region had a market for wheat in the neighborhood mills, the closest market for barley was the breweries in Milwaukee. This meant long hauls with horse-drawn wagons. Frederickson decided to create a local market for barley, so in 1867 he built the North Lake Brewery. It had a capacity of 500 barrels of beer a year, and a reputation of making one of the most potent brews in America, being 12% alcohol. At the east end of the building there was an elevator under which farmers could drive to unload their grain to the second floor. Here it was sprouted and mixed with malt. That east end is now the tavern-- its solid oak tables, massive chairs and beautiful wood in the bar testifying to days before synthetics. At the front of the building was a 'tasting room', now used as a game room. In the center of the building is a cellar-like structure of three-foot thick fild stone walls-- a boiler room where the beer was brewed. The west end of the building became Angler's Inn Hotel. At the foot of an open stairway, a large room served as a dining room for family and guests. There were five guest rooms on the second floor of the hotel and rather spacious living quarters for the family on the first floor. A beer garden at the side of the building made this a popular resort for city folks spending their summers in the lake regions of North Lake. A short time after Frederickson built the hotel and brewery, he married Mrs. Ruth Wade, of Sussex, daughter of Elizabeth and William Teague and widow of Wilkinson Wade. Since the Fredericksons had no children, Rasmus wrote a letter to Denmark requesting one of his nephews to come to America to help him with his business. Carl Hanson responded and came to North Lake. "That was our father," said Fred, older of the Hanson brothers now in the tavern. "He bought the brewery from Uncle and ran it from 1913 until Prohibition became a law. We bought the building in 1936, after Dad died, but we never started up the brewery again." Fred went on to explain, "Not much beer was bottled in the early days-- Pasteurization had not been discovered. Home made barrels could stand the pressure of fermentation but capping pottery bottles was a problem." Fred continued, "what beer was bottled could not be bottled in the same building in which it was manufactured. The law read, 'casks of beer used for bottling purposes must be carried over a surface of street or road which is commonly called public'. This was done so all beer produced had to be put into casks or kegs for tax purposes. In 1890, through the efforts of Fred Pabst, the revenue law was changed to allow pipeline from cellar to bottling house, although it still had to be bottled in a separate building. "Clay bottles were used at first, but by the time we were born -- 1911 -- they were using glass bottles. But I remember the big wooden keg with the may spigots around it. We put a bottle on a spigot, pressed it down to fill, each bottle individually filled and capped by hand. My brother and I were too small to take part in the making of beer, but we would lie on our backs under the pipeline, with mouths open, to catch the dripping beer. There were regulations and restrictions, even in the earliest days of the industry, one made it illegal to use spring water for manufacturing beer," Fred said, and continued. "One year the Town of Merton voted to go 'dry', so we could not sell beer at the tavern. We were only a few miles from the town line so we took our beer across the line. The same men who voted Merton dry were waiting there to buy the beer and carry it back into town to drink. "With the coming of the railroad to North Lake, in 1898, more people visited this area. The lake was full of fish and resorts were crowded with summer vacationers. People drank Pure H and Porter beer (manufactured in Frederickson's brewery) and they shipped orders to friends in hospitals and places as far away as Florida. Pure H beer was purported to be 'so pure as to have health benefits for young and old' and its fame spread after the railroad was finished (Before this, beer had to be delivered in beer-wagons, drawn by horses.) "For 34 years the post office was in the tavern at the brewery. Women in town got up a petition to Washington, to have it moved to a different building 'to protect the children from ruination.' Children did come into the tavern to get the mail, but the women were more irate over the fact that it was considered unladylide, in early days, for women to enter taverns, therefore their menfolk went to the tavern (to get the mail, of course.) In the male sanctuary of a saloon, the men forgot about the mail and enjoyed companionship and good beer at the bar while the women fumed outside." According to Fred Hanson, "When the Volstead Act was passed in 1919; national prohibition lowered the boom on all breweries. A few tried making Near-beer by making regular beer, then boiling off the offending alcohol to less than half of one percent. This was such an expensive process most small breweries could not afford to compete. I was about eight years old when my dad closed his business. He emptied all his inventory -- beer, whiskey and everything he stocked, in the river. He had a certain pride in patriotism, for he was a law-abiding citizen and proud of his family name. "Times changed with cars and Prohibition. There were no more summer vacationers at Angler's Inn during the 20's and 30's. The resort clientele of wealthy city people who came for all summer, gave way to local people who just stopped by. The only 'guest' that continued to return for a room at the old hotel, was Congressman Stafford. He was a frequent gues until the time of his death in 1958," Fred said. "We put gas pumps in front of the tavern. Cars were common, but we didn't sell much gas in a day. We tried selling radios which were just becoming popular. We stocked soda water and near-beer and made ice cream to sell in our ice cream parlor. "Depression hit before Prohibition was repealed in 1933. We sold minnows. We trapped. We worked at any job we could find. No matter how bad the depression, we learned a person could always make enough to eat if he didn't care what kind of work he did. After Dad died, we brothers bought the tavern in 1936. A fire, in 1945, burned off the roof and part of the second story. When it was rebuilt, an apartment was made above the tavern, for the 'grain room' was no longer of any use," Fred recalled. There have been many changes in the last thirty years, but the Hanson brothers are still proud of their family name and of the heritage they have preserved through four generations from those early pioneer days. If you visit Hanson Bros. Tavern on Highway VV, you will see some of the heirlooms they exhibit there -- such as the clay bottles Mrs. Hanson found buried behind the old brewery.