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A Mason brewery may have dug up a small treasure from the past

BAD Brewing Company owner Brian Rasdale says workers found an old rust-colored jar, pictured here on Friday, April 15, 2022, while digging up the business' backyard.
Sarah Lehr
BAD Brewing Company owner Brian Rasdale says workers found an old rust-colored jar, pictured here on Friday, April 15, 2022, while digging up the business' backyard.

Renovations at a Mason brewery may have unearthed a small treasure from the past.

Workers are digging up BAD Brewing Company's back patio while the business works to add a commercial kitchen.

In the process, they've found plenty of scraps, including broken dishes and bits of pottery.

But the brewery's owner Brian Rasdale says they also hit something more surprising — an intact, earth-colored jar buried 6 feet underground.

BAD Brewing Company owner Brian Rasdale, pictured on Friday, April 15, 2022, says workers unearthed this jar while doing renovations at the Mason business. Rasdale believes it was handmade in England in the late 1800s.
Sarah Lehr
BAD Brewing Company owner Brian Rasdale, pictured on Friday, April 15, 2022, says workers unearthed this jar while doing renovations at the Mason business. Rasdale believes it was handmade in England in the late 1800s.

Based on his online research about the jar's markings, he believes it was manufactured in the late 1800s by the England-based Denby Pottery Company, a business that still makes handmade stoneware today.

Rasdale believes it was used to store ink. After posting a photo of the container on Instagram, he's gotten enthusiastic feedback from community members.

"People are clearly really stoked about it," he said. "And it's nice to be able to hold on to this piece and just have it for other people to check out."

Jon Whitney is a Mason-based potter who designs mugs for BAD Brewing. After examining a picture of the jar, he concluded it was made with a pottery wheel because of the barrel's uniform shape. Although he notes there's a divot at the jar's lip.

“That's done by the potter grabbing the clay and kind of pulling it with their fingers," he said. "You can actually see, you know, the maker's hands, and so I really find that intriguing because you get a little piece of the person that made it that way.”

Whitney says the jar's rich brown color likely reflects the color of clay beds in the region where the object was made.

"(They) would find deposits of clay in areas, and then they would kind of set up their shop and there was like free material," Whitney said.

BAD Brewing Company plans to display the jar in a glass case at the business' downtown bar.

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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