The story of Sheridan Beer starts like many old American tales.

With a solitary young man stepping off a boat into the bustle of Ellis Island and heading out into the vastness of the west.

Not quite an outlaw, nor strictly speaking, a law-abiding citizen. Peter Demple was a staunch anti-prohibitionist,  bootlegger and gold miner that turned the city of Topeka, Kansas on its head. Spawning newspaper headlines such as “The Much Arrested Demple” and “Old Offender” as well as accruing more than $7,500 in bail. Which amounts to more than $180,000 today. Peter was fiercely opposed to any encroachments on American liberty. He would promptly pay his bail and storm back to the same spot to resume bootlegging. His views are best summed up in an excerpt from a fiery letter he wrote to a newspaper “What crime has not been committed in the name of prohibition? What outrage of liberty has not occurred in the name of this futile fanaticism? We have seen, in two years, more lives sacrificed to prohibition than the open sale of liquors would take in half a century. We have seen the public officials debauched to defeat a form of sumptuary legislation to which mankind has never submitted—and never will submit.”

It was during this tumultuous time in Topeka that Peter met his wife, Franceska Whilemina. Mina to him, she was a formidable woman who had spent four years alone on the western frontier with her three small children. Far away from the support of her family in Missouri, after being widowed by bushwhackers. In 1887, shortly after the birth of their first son Oscar. Peter decided to move his young blended family to Sheridan, Wyoming. Along with his close friends George Paul and Arnold Tschirgi, with the aim of starting a brewery with fresh water off the mountains. To this day, the reason why they picked Sheridan is a mystery.

Going ahead of their families, the three friends faced a formidable challenge. Moving their start-up funds, which amounted to $10,000 in gold bars, from Topeka to Sheridan, without being robbed. The usual route was to take the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage, however, a rash of hold-ups and bandits on the trail posed a significant risk.

The friends settled on a bold workaround. Secreting the gold bars part way via the Northern Pacific Railway as far as Fort Custer Montana.

Where they moved the funds, worth more than $260,000 today, into a horse drawn wagon. Then during the notoriously tense year of the Crow War, journeyed along the foot of the Big Horns, through Crow Country until they reached Sheridan.

The three men quickly invested businesses around town, with Peter beginning a career as a banker. Within three years, the friend’s investments in the community accounted for 40% of the growth of the town’ infrastructure. They quickly built a brewing empire that shipped more than 60,000 barrels of beer annually at its height. A sizable operation even by today’s craft brewery standards. Marketing their business on loyalty to the community and purity of ingredients. It sourced local grain, employed a large portion of the community. Sheridan Beer was a innovator, becoming the first company in the states to put beer in flat top cans.


Peter passed away in 1932, 5 years after Mina. Before he was able to see the end of the various prohibition laws he struggled with throughout his life. Mina and Peter were remembered as an upstanding couple that believed and invested in Sheridan.

The second highest tax payers in the county. Their neighbours likely would have been as shocked as the Demple family was, when they uncovered newspaper clippings covering Peter’s past brushes with the law in Kansas. Though some perhaps less then others. Considering Peter dedication led to one last fierce legal tussle with the county commissioners, when they attempted to shut down his step-son’s halfway house and saloon for soldiers. Sheridan Beer shut down 23 years after Peter death.

Though his legacy in Sheridan was still represented by numerous other businesses and buildings he developed in town. Including a meat market,  Citizen State Bank in 1910, a halfway house and the first city government building on the corner of main and grinnell.

Nearly 130 years after the first beer was poured. Peter’s great-grandchildren are proud to serve a taste of history, with the return of Sheridan Beer.







CARLY Demple