It is not often that people are encouraged to drink beer in the cemetery, but that is just what is happening Aug. 16 at Lone Fir Cemetery in front of the Bottler Tomb.
The Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery and the Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation have teamed up with the Oregon Brew Crew to hold a free beer tasting to celebrate the lives of pioneering brothers George Michael Bottler and George Frederic Bottler and to raise awareness of the dilapidated half-empty tomb in dire need of repair.
The brothers immigrated to the United States from Schillingsfürst, Germany. After working as barrel makers in Indiana, they moved to the Pacific Northwest and established some of the first breweries in the area.
By 1860, George Frederic was running a brewery in The Dalles and George Michael had established the second brewery in Portland: City Brewery, which was located on Front Street. In 1863, the brewery in The Dalles was sold and both brothers owned City Brewery.
Peri Muhich, volunteer historian and chairman of the Bottler Restoration committee for Friends of Lone Fir, said the story of these brothers has been forgotten despite both being an important part of early Portland brewing history.
"You mention Henry Weinhard, and everyone knows that name," Muhich said, adding that Weinhard bought City Brewery from the Bottlers.
The Bottler brothers' legacy was cut short when both brothers died in the 1860s. George Frederic Bottler died of tuberculosis in 1865, when he was about 31 years old.
He was buried at Lone Fir Cemetery. George Michael bought the lot next to his brother, intending to be buried by his side, and erected the Bottler tomb over both spaces.
But George Michael Bottler never got to be buried next to his brother. In 1868, while travelling in Germany, he died of an infection in his lungs and was buried in his native country.
Neither brother had married nor left behind any known children, which left the tomb to decay over time.
Metro's cemetery program estimates the tomb needs $80,000 to be repaired. The mortar around the brick has deteriorated and the wooden structure that held the roof has damage from moisture. The tomb has been fenced off because the walls are vulnerable and may collapse if leaned on, according to Muhich.
Local descendant Tim Bottler, the great-great-grandchild of cousin Michael Bottler, didn't know the tomb existed until recently. He said he is overwhelmed by all the outside support that has rallied around the tomb.
Support has included a $10,000 donation from Art Larrance, director of the Oregon Brewers Festival, to support the restoration.
The event at Lone Fir will bring together more than a dozen craft beer submissions. All beers submitted to the tasting will be German-style, like hefewiezens. The winning beer will be named Bottler Bier.
Will Minderhout of the Oregon Brew Crew brought together the home-brewers who are supplying the beer. Minderhout said the German-style beers present a special challenge for the brewers.
"They are a little more complicated to make for home brewers because they require a specific temperature for fermentation – they have to be cold fermented," Minderhout said, which also means they will take longer to brew. Undeterred, Minderhout is entering two beers in the competition.
The winning Bottler Bier is likely to be kegged and sold in select pubs. It will also be served at a Bottler tomb restoration fundraising dinner in November.
Bottler, a semi-retired contractor, intends on donating his time to repairing the tomb.
"As soon as we raise enough funds, my services will be free and so will be my sons'," Bottler said.
For Muhich, the event is an opportunity to raise awareness about the history of Portland – an overarching theme for Friends of Lone Fir.
"There are these two men who were such a part of early Portland, and this tomb is just falling apart," Muhich said. "It would be nice to put this thing back and let Lone Fir shine even more."