(Rich Wagner) RW: I am
frequently interviewed by reporters and give of my time generously and always
strive for accuracy. I also understand there is such a thing as “literary
license.” However, after reading the following story which bore absolutely no
resemblance to what actually took place and was said, I found a need to respond
with some corrections, if for no other reason than to defend my reputation as a
brewer. I can only hope that those in attendance, some of whom traveled from as
far away as
Beer Buffs Hop to Mercer’s Brewery Night
Rich Wagner, master brewer, demonstrated the art of beer-making
By Gina V. Stevens, Assistant Editor
The Elkins Gallery was full to capacity August 18 as Rich Wagner, a former high school science teacher, shared frothy secrets with hobby brewers, academia and beer aficionados, in the art of beer-making during “Brewery Night” at Mercer Museum in Doylestown.
The evening which included a seminar
and beer tasting was sponsored by Yards Brewing Co., Whole Foods Market of
North Wales, and in town Mesquito Grille, Friends of the Bucks County
Historical Society, and the Doylestown Rotary Club, and was hosted by the staff
and volunteers of
Rich Wagner, who garnered his expertise
of brewing beer from the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago (the oldest
active school of brewing in the
Many of the tools that Wagner utilized during the speaking engagement were purchased from farm auctions and collectors. That, coupled with his colonial attire, put guests in the mood to sample some home pressed wort, a sugary beverage produced using crushed grains and water, then adding yeast and hops.
RW: This is where the accuracy of the article deteriorates. All of the tools I used during my “show and tell” were hand crafted by David Miller and myself. The copper kettle was purchased at a farm auction. There was no “home pressed wort” nor is wort “pressed.” Wort is produced during the mashing process and is indeed a sugary liquid but becomes beer after yeast is added and it is fermented. “Crushed grains” are not employed in the process. Malted barley is milled and placed in the mash tun where an enzymatic reaction converts starches in the grains to sugar. Hops are added when the wort is boiled. The wort is then cooled down, placed in a fermenter and yeast is added.
Wagner honed his craft through demonstrations at Pennsbury Manor, where he could handle the early American tools of the trade. He teamed up with David Miller, a self-tutored cooper, and retired industrial technology instructor. Wagner learned how to shape, pound and hone tricky tubs and drums from cypress wood and brass for the storage of the bubbly brew. (Iron was originally used during the 18th and 19th century, but rusted during prolonged exposure to moisture and air).
RW: I conducted several brewings at Pennsybury Manor using equipment that had been fabricated for their brewing program. I had seven years of home brewing experience at the time. It was after my experience at Pennsbury that I located David Miller and worked with him to create my own version of the equipment used by brewers in the 17th century. During my presentation I mentioned that we selected brass for the hoops of the mash tun and receiver as they would not rust when exposed to water during the process.
The must have brewer’s tool was the copper kettle, and Wagner acquired one through a friend. By constructing a trivet from a used wagon wheel, he was able to mount the immense pot over fire.
He would take a mash tongue and grind the Cascade hops he grows himself, then using a bailer would scoop up the mash and fill the tongue. Incorporating uniform water and heat, the starch mash formed sweet activating enzymes which started giving the liquid its appealing taste and color. Then he lets the mash rest.
RW: I’m not sure what presentation the writer of this article was listening to because there is not one correct statement in the above paragraph other than the fact that I grow a variety of hops known as “Cascades” for my brewing process. Hops are not ground and are not used in the mash tun (not tongue!). During the mashing process enzymes indeed convert starch to sugar after the milled malted barley has been mixed with hot water, stirred, and permitted to rest for a prescribed time.
As only a master brewer can, following the fermentation, the pale malt is kilned to a higher temperature for one to two hours, soon caramelizing and growing darker in color.
Next is a sparging operation, where waters are brought from 110 degrees up to a 170 degree boil. The brewer “slips and slides” the liquid through the draining equipment, thus reducing the amount of liquid by half.
Wagner coaxed the temperature of the liquid to a “blood warm” temperature, where it is cool enough to add the yeast.
RW: Where do I begin to make sense of the statements in these paragraphs? I should point out that during my Brewers Night presentation there was no actual brewing being conducted and I was simply describing processes used by brewers during the 17th and 18th centuries. Actually “the pale malt is kilned” refers to the malting process which has nothing to do with the brewing process I was describing. The raw materials for the brewing process are water, malted barley, hops and yeast. I did describe the malting process but not in the way it is described in the story. The sparging operation is conducted during the end of the mash when the temperature in the mash tun is raised to extract the last bit of sugar that remains in the malt. There is no reduction in the amount of liquid. In fact, this diluting process actually adds volume. At the end of the sparge the wort is added back to the copper where it is boiled, hops are added and after the boiler the liquid is cooled down quickly, transferred to a fermenter and yeast is added. Early recipes describe the required temperature as “blood warm” meaning that when it is not hot to the touch it is cool enough to add the yeast.
After several more steps the ale is barreled and stored for later consumption.
“In the Middle Ages clandestine monks
would sneak off and fool around with yeast in caves. Frigid temperatures
produced lagers that were stored in colder temps. In this country, after
colonists manufactured beers, commercial hop farms sprouted up in the
RW: The above quote is a
complete fabrication that bears no resemblance to what was said during my
presentation. I mentioned that monks were the “natural philosophers” of the day
who experimented with yeast in caves. I mentioned that there was currently a
thriving hop industry in the
Wagner also pointed out that
RW: My website address is http://pabreweryhistorians.tripod.com where you will find nearly 100 articles I have written. Perhaps if Gina V. Stevens would have read some of them she could have written a far more accurate story.
PHOTO Caption. Dean Brown, general distribution manager of Yards Brewing Co., served the beer for the sampling reception which followed the how-to presentation.
RW: Dean Browne is not the general distribution manager of Yards Brewing Co. He is a homebrewer and has worked at Yards. He has recently begun brewing at the Porterhouse brewpub in Lahaska. He led the tasting portion of the event and did an excellent job describing the beers, recipes, flavors, etc.