Reprinted from the American Breweriana Journal.
Written by Kevin Kious and Donald Roussin.
Alton, Illinois is located on limestone bluffs rising above the Mississippi River just five miles from its junction with the Missouri River, and about twenty-five miles north of St. Louis, Missouri. A number of important events in American history occurred there, such as the slaying of abolitionist editor Elijah P. Lovejoy in 1837, and the hosting of the final Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858.
Like many older midwestern cities, Alton's history also includes the loss of much of the industrial base it once had, including its breweries. The demise of the brewing industry in the town makes for a good case study in U. S. brewing, as several breweries didn't survive the nineteenth century, and of the two that did, one was done in by Prohibition, the other by the inexorable rise of the national brewing giants.
THE EARLY YEARS
Undoubtedly beer was shipped into Alton from St. Louis and elsewhere early in the town's history. By the late 1830's, Alton had grown to some 4,000 inhabitants, and with abundant water, and grain from expanding area agriculture, it was a prime location for someone to open a hometown brewery.
As far as can be confirmed by surviving historical information, Alton's first brewery was established in 1842 by Philip Yeakel (also spelled Yakel), at what was then the city's outer edge. Ironically, the site of Alton's first brewery would also prove to be its last.