A Real Bold Character
Only a real bold character would open a roadhouse during prohibition, they don’t get much bolder than Great Grandpa Beauregard, founder of Bearly Legal Brewing.
At forty-eight years old Addison Beauregard was a washed up retailer two years past his second lost fortune and third wife. He was playing at being a doctor in a small no account town in Middle America. We think it was somewhere near St louis, but much of what we know about Grampa’s life then is as mixed and muddled as a rye whiskey nightmare. Doc, as the town took to calling him, was three shots into the making of just such a bad dream when he was summoned to the train to tend to the fifteen-year old son of some well forgotten railroad baron.
The story goes that the boy was catatonic. He hadn’t moved in days. Doc ushered everyone out of the room and asked the boy why he was faking such a thing. In private the boy told him he was tired of being on the train all the time. Doc also figured out that the kid had a massive crush on the woman his Dad had hired to school the boy. Grandpa Doc convinced the baron that the young man had most likely been bitten by a spider and that he could be healed, but he needed to have the boy at the hospital for a while.
The hospital was just several beds crammed into a couple rooms in the drafty belly of the church. Grampa himself lived in a third room and in a fourth he kept the herbs, potions, and apothecary supplies he used to cook up the various snake oils with which he kept the town feeling healthy. It was also a place where almost every woman in town found reason to stay from time to time.
The young man was brought to the hospital where Doc secretly prescribed whiskey and visits from saloon girls for three days. The Baron, impressed with how well Doc’s magic tonic had worked, and at the request of his Son, asked Grampa to join them on the train as the railroad’s company doctor. Grandpa was paid well and given stock in the railroad company. Having nothing to spend his money on, and having a lifelong deep distrust of banks, Doc stashed his money in a steamer trunk in his room.
The Baron’s young wife discovered how charming Addison Beauregard was and the two carried on an affair for more than a year. When the Baron caught the two mid dilly-dally, a misfire of his pistol was all that kept Grandpa and the young lady alive. Grandpa jumped from the train before another pistol could be found and walked in to a mining camp near Butte America, buck naked, bruised up, and as it turned out penniless. The baron had taken back the stock he had given to Grampa.
Grampa found his next part playing the oldest man ever to work a railroad section crew. He was six months into this new gig and still just a dollar and a half shy of dead broke when Grandma Edna took a shine to him. Grampa often said he only ever did two things in his life that he regretted, one was returning Edna Hamilton’s glance that day in the dry goods store.
Edna was a big mean woman, with a big heart, an even bigger temper and a bosom to match. Her sweet dimpled face was framed nicely by bright red hair and set off by her sour disposition. She was passing through with her Dad who was the new Marshall in a different part of Montana. Edna wanted Addison, and she stomped her huge boots until daddy convinced Doc to go with them. On the promise of a large dowry Doc agreed. The next Day Edna became the fourth Mrs. Addison Beauregard, and the last. If that was the second thing Grampa regretted, we don’t know, he never said the second thing.
It turned out Grandma’s Dowry was a hundred and sixty acres of land a few miles outside Orso Montana. The two built a log cabin on the creek. Doc hung out his shingle again in town while Edna scared the cattle and sowed the fields of parsnips, Indian corn, kohlrabi and gourds. She traded these for dry goods, cosmetics, wallpaper and bolts of cloth imported from Butte. It was an idyllic life.
When Edna’s Dad and 14 others were gravely injured in the great accidental cattle stampede of 1912 Doc was unable to save any of them. That is when it was discovered that Doc had never actually studied medicine and he was forced to close his practice.
For the next decade and half Doc helped Edna on the farm where he could, while Edna raised the couples growing brood. Doc was never much for farming and so he took whatever jobs he could get in town including newspaper delivery and sandwich board boy for a sandwich shop.
In 1927, seven years into the long dark national insanity of prohibition, and four years after it finally caught on in Orso – trends are always slow to get to Montana – Doc struck on a loophole in the law and decided to open an alcohol club. The couple sold the imported cloth and wallpaper, which Edna had piled down the halls, stacked in every spare space and crammed into the attic, along with knick-knacks, crockery, their clubfooted forth child and a prized mule in order to raise enough money.
A new beginning
In 1928 Doc and Edna Beauregard began pouring home-brewed beer, moonshine whiskey and rotgut gin to neighbors who braved the rutted road to the rustic cabin on the couple’s property. Doc brewed the beer himself in the dirt walled cellar below the house, while his friend Colby ‘Snake’ Jensen brewed corn mash whiskey and bathtub gin at his home a few hundred yards up the creek.
Grampa Beauregard believed that all this was legal because the drinks were served without cost only to people who paid a membership fee to get into the roadhouse or who, if asked, would swear they were family. We still don’t know if he really did find a loophole, or the if the lawmen looked the other way in exchange for gallons of gramps rye beer, quarts of Snakebite, and Edna’s cookies, we only know that the place bounced and thrived.
The roadhouse didn’t have a name when it opened, mostly people called it the roadhouse or Edna’s. Legend says that Edna asked Doc if the place really was legal “Barely,” he said “it’s barely legal”, the name stuck. Some say the spelling that lives on today had something to do with the couple’s love for the Grizzlies and other bears that roamed the forest around them, it might also have been because Grandpa asked Colby, who had not made it past the fourth grade, to paint the sign.
The way folks tell it, the fire which ended the roadhouse was started by Great Grandma Edna in hopes of collecting on an insurance policy that Doc claimed to have. More likely it was in hope of killing Grampa who often slept in the basement of the roadhouse. Of course we know that Grandpa lived through the fire, but his insurance policy – a large stash of money he had put away during boom times – was burned up.
Grandpa didn’t rebuild the roadhouse, and neither he nor Colby produced alcohol for a time after the fire. When prohibition ended, people began asking for Bearly Legal Beer in bars as far west as Spokane and East as Busby. That, and no doubt no small amount of nagging from Edna convinced Grandpa to begin brewing again. Bearly Legal Brewing company was born on the smoke stained foundation where the roadhouse had been. Strangely the hand painted sign that adorned the roadhouse survived the fire and was put up over the door of the new brewery building. Snake was never able to make a go at legal whiskey and eventually sold his still to Grandpa. Though the whiskey, was also popular, Grampa wanted to concentrate his efforts on the beer and so Bearly Legal Rye Whiskey was short lived.
Although Grampa Francis ran the Brewery. Doc experimented with new styles of beer until his death in 1938.
Grampa Doc instilled in his kids and his grandkids the importance of using only fresh water from the cold mountain creek that flows past the brewery and ingredients that are as local as he could get. It was also Grampa Doc who began giving our beers the unforgettable names they have today. We think Beer should be like Grandpa Doc – Full of life to the end, the right mix of bitter and sweet, complex but not over-complicated.
Bearly Legal Brewing is still owned by the Beauregard family and still brewed in the same place in the mountains near a creek, thirty miles from nowhere. We don’t think good beer can be made any other way.