Early American Life October 2004

The American Way of Beer

By Tom Huntington



One man who understands the "mistry" behind the era's brewing is Richard Wagner of Philadelphia. Since 1990 Wagner has given demonstrations of colonial brewing methods. If nothing else, it's taught Wagner to be thankful for today's beer. "When I do my colonial brewing demonstration I'm frequently asked, 'Can you make beer the way they made them back in the day?' And I say, 'Fortunately the answer is no'. For one thing, improved grains have been developed over the past centuries. "So first of all I say you can't replicate the ingredients," Wagner Explains. "Second of all, they had no pure yeast culture. They had a bake and brew house because you used yeast for both things. Did you ever make a beer with bakers yeast? I did." The results apparently left much to be desired. Says Wagner, "These are the good old days, that's all I can say."