Iowa City Is Using Lasers To Map Its Abandoned Beer Caves - Atlas Obscura

Iowa City Is Using Lasers To Map Its Abandoned Beer Caves

Beer and lasers.

Researchers from the University of Iowa have begun mapping the extensive network of abandoned “beer caves” that run beneath Iowa City using state-of-the-art lasers in an archeological project that sounds like a beer commercial.

The old Union Brewery, which was originally founded in 1856, produced Graf’s Golden Brew and became one of three breweries in the city. The Union Brewery is particularly memorable for its brewmaster having in part led the Iowa City beer riots during the state’s first stab at prohibition. But before the teetotalers drove the industry out of the city, the breweries created beer caves dozens of feet below street level that would used for storage, fermentation, and transport of their product. Once the breweries went out of business, the old caves were left abandoned.

Today, the beer caves are a well known, if little-visited, facet of the city, and still hold a wealth of untouched historic knowledge. As reported in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, a group of students, faculty, and state archaeologists have set about mining the caves for their secrets using a system of lasers that will create a 3-D image of the caves. They are using a so-called Light Detection And Ranging system, which scans the entire space with pulses of reflected laser light.

Eventually the collected data is hoped to be used to create a fully-explorable virtual version. Which sounds like the perfect promotional event for a beer company.