Actually Etna’s history Brewery is, in fact, the “the oldest brewery on the West Coast.” While some historians think that a San Francisco Brewery is considered the oldest in California, it is rivaled by the Etna Brewery in Siskiyou County, California, established in 1852.
The history of Etna Brewing Company begins with Charles Kappler. A native of the French region of Alsace-Lorraine, and brewer by trade, Kappler left his homeland in 1857 to come to California to try his hand at gold mining. In 1860, he took a job as a brewer in Yreka, CA, where he remained until 1865 when he returned to France to be married in 1867. The couple returned to Yreka, California, later that year. The following year, 1868, the Kapplers purchased the Hartstrand Brewery, which was located three miles east of Etna Mills on the Hartstrand Ranch. The Brewery operated at this location until 1872 when it was moved to a new facility in Etna Mills.
Kappler built his first brewery in Etna Mills in 1872. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1875, but Kappler–in his resilience–immediately rebuilt the brewery. Early maps and plans show that Kappler’s Brewery was ahead of the times for the area. The main brewery building was powered by steam and electricity, with two wood-fired boilers. His facility also had a Kiln, two ice machines, and a Malt mill run by water power. Kappler owned horse teams and wagons that distributed beer all across northern California and southern Oregon. Beer kegs were hauled by mule train over the rugged mountains, even in winter, to Trinity County.
By 1903, Kappler had incorporated the Etna Brewery Company. He also had four sons working the business as well. His son Louis was the head brewer and made trips to Chicago to learn updated brewing methods. Sons Victor, Emil, and Charles Jr, all owned and operated saloons for Etna Brewing in Etna, Yreka, and Montague. Etna Beer won a gold medal in the 1915 World Exposition in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, after 47 years, with passage of the 1919 Volstead Act and the 18th Amendment, Charles and his sons were out of business. Charles Kappler died on his 86th birthday, on March 4, 1920.
In May 1990, an avid home brewer and local rancher, Andrew Hurlimann, along with his family and group of investors, revitalized the brewing tradition in Etna, CA, with the opening of Etna Brewing Company, Inc., which sits on a new site adjacent to the original Etna Brewery location. Since that time, Etna Brewery has won many awards for its various brews, including the Kappler Stout and the Blackberry Blonde.