Days Gone By: Judge Casey was a brewmeister before he took to the bench

By Nilda Rego | August 18, 2011 at 3:45 p.m.

Part 2 of 2

Summary: Stories abound about the legendary Judge Jeremiah Patrick Casey (1844-1924), who was the justice of the peace in Port Costa for many years and then went on to be a Contra Costa County supervisor.

It was just after the turn of the last century that Casey and John Twomey, a fellow immigrant from Ireland opened up a steam brewery In Port Costa.

Casey left Ireland in 1873 because he needed a job. He had a cousin in San Francisco, Cornelius Lyon, who was making a good living from a chain of boot-black stands.

Lyon offered to make a bootblack out of Casey, but Casey decided he’d rather do the kind of work he had done in Ireland, which was farming.

He went to Dixon and found a job, but it was hot and tiring work. The job only paid a dollar a day, and his boss charged him 25 cents a bucket for drinking water.

So in 1879, Casey met up with another Irish immigrant, and the two came to Port Costa and opened the Port Costa Hotel and saloon on the waterfront. After his partner got married, Casey took over the Ferry Exchange Hotel.

In a talk before the Contra Costa County Historical Society in 1962, Casey’s daughter Margaret said that her father studied the law on his own, there being no law schools close to him at the time.

“He was an avid reader and acquainted himself with sufficient law to conduct his office when he was elected judge,” she said. “Days in the Ferry Exchange Hotel were hectic during my childhood. The grain warehouses were at their busiest, and it was common to see several ships tied up along the wharves and waiting in midstream to unload ballast and then load with wheat and barley for European ports.

“Much of the barley grown in California went into the making of the famous Dublin Stout.” She said that when her father and Twomey opened their own brewery, it was the only one in the county.

“It was sold in Port Costa, Martinez, Crockett, Rodeo and Pinole. It was taken to those towns in a big, high iron wagon drawn by powerful draft horses.

Casey’s steam beer was food and drink for a man; if you drank too much of it, and ran into Jim Ahern, the constable, it could be a night’s lodging, too.”

Casey was generous with his beer. Every morning, he would bring out two barrels of beer at his brewery, and everyone was welcome to pull the tap as long as the two barrels lasted.

Casey’s beer business came to an end during World War I because of a government decree that any establishment making or selling liquor within seven miles of a military station had to close. Port Costa was less than seven miles from the brewery.

“He lost every cent. The government did not give him one penny for his years of hard work and the money invested in it,” said his daughter.

In 1908, Casey ran for Contra Costa County supervisor from District 2 and served in that office until he died in 1924.

Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..