short stretch of the river.
Brewery Workers, G. Heileman Brewing Company, c. 1890
Courtesy Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
The local brewing industry, largely driven by the city's significant German population, helped La Crosse absorb the shock of the late 19th century lumber business decline. Brewing became so prosperous that in 1884, the city produced more beer than any other community in Wisconsin. Founded by Gottleib Heileman in 1858 as City Brewery, Heileman's survived Prohibition by producing "near bear" (less than .5 percent alcohol) and went on to become the nation's fourth largest brewery by the 1980s. Advertising for their most popular beer, Old Style, gave rise to the famous slogan, "Brewed in God's Country."
"Here is a town of 12,000 or 13,000 population, with electric lighted streets, and blocks of buildings which are stately enough and also architecturally fine enough to command respect in any city. It is a choice town, and we made satisfactory use of the hour allowed us, in roaming it over . . . "
- Mark Twain, describing his stop in La Crosse on a steamboat trip in 1883, from his Life on the Mississippi.