Natchez Brewing Company
A number of steamboats have worn the name Natchez and they have become some of the most famous steamboats in the world. These boats initially traveled along the Mississippi River starting in 1823 and revolutionized the steamboat industry, helping Americans move people and goods during a time of heavy industrial growth. Looking back on American history, few scenes are more quintessentially Southern than a luxurious Natchez steamboat cruising down the “Mighty Mississippi”.
The first Natchez ship had paddlewheels mounted to its sides instead of behind the boat, as was the later trend. The boat mostly operated between New Orleans and Natchez, MS (home of the Natchez Brewing Company) but sometimes went as far north as Vicksburg, MS. It carried the famous French General Marquis de Lafayette while he was touring the Mississippi Valley in 1825 but was destroyed by a fire in 1835.
T. P. Leathers became the chief owner and operator of most of the Natchez ships after 1835. Natchez II ran from 1846 to 1848 and Natchez III from 1848 to 1853. Natchez IV was a much larger and more powerful boat that could hold up to 4,000 bales of cotton but it only ran for six weeks before burning during a wharf fire in New Orleans. Natchez V was similar to IV and ran until 1859.
Natchez VI could hold 5,000 bales of cotton and was used by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Jefferson Davis used the boat often to move from his plantation in Mississippi to points north. It also transported troops to Memphis, TN on many occasions and was burned, possibly intentionally, in 1863.
Natchez VII was built in 1869 and was over 300 feet long. It could hold 5,500 bales of cotton and made over 400 trips without a fatal accident, but the boat became the most famous of the Natchez ships for another reason. In 1870, J.W. Cannon and his steamboat, Robert E. Lee, organized a race against Leathers and the Natchez VII that required the ships to cross 1,210 miles of the Mississippi River, from New Orleans to St. Louis. The two boats were considered powerhouses in the world of steamboats and the race gathered great attention, drawing in bettors from as far as Europe. Captain Cannon and the Robert E. Lee defeated the Natchez ship by removing all cargo, stripping down the ship and running through heavy fog while Captain Leathers and Natchez VII ran the ship with cargo and passengers and instead tied up during heavy fog. The Robert E. Lee finished the race in 3 days, 18 hours and 14 minutes, with the Natchez VII three hours behind. The news that a boat could make the trip from New Orleans to St. Louis in less than four days became renowned worldwide and caused many manufacturing resources like coal, timber, rice and corn that were found in the North to be quickly shipped to the South either for manufacturing or for trade.
Natchez VII was dismantled in 1879, the same year that Natchez VIII, the final boat piloted by Leathers, was launched. It was a massive ship with eight boilers, 13 engines, 47 elegant rooms, stained glass windows and elaborate decorations throughout; however, like most steamboats, its life was short. By the late 1800s the steamboat era was coming to an end and when the ship burned in 1889, Leathers decided to retire.
A few military ships were later named Natchez as well. Currently, a replica Natchez steamboat operates in New Orleans and is primarily used for tours and cruises. All of the Natchez ships were named after the Natchez Indians who were the original occupants of much of present-day Mississippi.
It took a long time for Mississippi’s legislature to embrace the craft brewing movement but the Natchez Brewing Company is proud to now call the town of Natchez their home. The brewery is located in a restored 1800s-era building located in the heart of downtown and pays tribute to the many legendary steamboats that once passed right by their front door.
From the Brewer: 301 Imperial Saison is a special release in celebration of the Natchez’s Birthday. This is a lightly colored, well balanced beer. Reminiscent of a dry white wine, it has a fruity flavor that hits you at the first sip, then quickly vanishes into a dry clean easy drinking 9% ABV beer. IBU 9
Lisa Miller - Founder and Owner, Patrick Miller - Brewmaster
A painting of the famous race between the Robt. E. Lee and Natchez VII steamboats