Bulletin of the Montgomery County Historical Society Fall 2018
Brewing into the Twenty-first Century in Montgomery County
By Rich Wagner
Joseph M. McLaughlin wrote the definitive histories of brewing in Montgomery County (Montgomery County the Second Hundred Years, Vol. 2.) and of the Adam Scheidt Brewing Co. (Bulletin of the Montgomery County Historical Society No. 3 Fall 1986), ironically, at about the same time that a large portion of the abandoned Scheidt brewery complex was renovated and given a new lease on life as the Stony Creek Office Center in 1986, becoming one of a number of Pennsylvania brewery complexes that stand as success stories of preservation. Brewing in Montgomery County has come a long way since Scheidt’s closed, and in order to understand the profound changes taking place in the Twenty-first Century, we need to understand how the brewing industry has developed over the past decades.
01 PHOTO: Stainless steel and glass exterior treatment illuminated Scheidt’s magnificent 1938 art deco brew house, now part of Stony Creek Office Center. (Wagner, 2002)
When the Scheidt brewery closed in 1974, the number of breweries was already in deep decline, part of a trend where large brewing corporations producing national brands with large distribution networks predominated. Their economies of scale meant higher profit margins and plenty to spend on television advertising, spurring even more sales. For many it was a foregone conclusion that eventually all of the nation’s beer would be produced by one company. For Pennsylvania, which had long enjoyed its status among the top three beer-producing states in the nation, and with more breweries than any other, this trend was devastating.
But in 1976 President Carter made home brewing legal, spurring the popularization of a hobby that would sweep the nation. America’s first microbrewery opened in Sonoma, CA that year. The first brewpub opened six years later in Yakima, WA. Since those early days some of the nation’s largest breweries have been developed out of the efforts of homebrewers who started their learning curve on the kitchen stove. This trademarked “hand crafted” beer was formulated to be more flavorful and in some cases stronger than mainstream American beer. Early craft brewers were primarily producing ales, a style known for being more pungent and bitter to the taste, long abandoned by most domestic brewers bent on mass marketing beer formulated to offend the fewest.
The new craft beers were often highly hopped, making them aromatic and with a more bitter flavor than mainstream American beer. Advertising emphasized the beers were “all malt,” and disparaged the use of adjuncts to cheapen the product. This harkened back to the German Reinheitsgebot, decreed in 1516 forbidding German brewers from using anything other than water, malt, hops and yeast in brewing.
The common recipe for mainstream American lagers includes adjuncts like corn or rice along with the malted barley. Adjuncts reduce cost and give beer a lighter body and color. This trend began during World War II rationing when ingredients were hard to obtain, and by the time the war ended, people had become accustomed to lighter beer. The trend continued for decades until beer became so light that at one point a national brewer rolled out a brand of beer that was actually clear! There was barely a whiff of hops in the “nose” of beer which had become next to flavorless. Light beer ads boasted low calories while claiming to deliver the flavor.
A growing number of people with enough discretionary income were rejecting mass-produced, mass-marketed products and discovering hand-made products that harkened back to an earlier time. That trend was evident in a variety of commodities and a whole range of super premium delicacies emerged: artisanal bread, chocolate, coffee, and ice cream to name a few. Craft beer was part of this movement as well. More recently there has been an added emphasis on sustainability and local sourcing.
The American Homebrewers Association has been an integral part of the craft brewing renaissance. Besides popularizing homebrewing as a hobby, the competitions and beer festivals that followed served to popularize beer in general and inspired countless homebrewers. The Great American Beer Festival started in 1982 in Colorado. The organization has defined and standardized the characteristics by which each beer style is to be categorized and judged. GABF medals are prized possessions, generally displayed prominently in breweries and brewpubs across the nation.
I attended the first craft brewers conference in Portland, Oregon in the fall of 1986. “Buffalo Bill” Owens, who opened California’s first brewpub in 1983 was there, and people laughed when he said that eventually there would be a brewpub in every town in America. While that hasn’t come to pass exactly, he wasn’t far off the mark. Most recently he has been a pioneer of the craft distilling movement.
One organization which has been instrumental in educating the brewing fraternity has been the Master Brewers Association of the Americas was formed for that purpose in the late Nineteenth Century. The organization has benefited greatly from the growth of the craft brewing industry and provides technical speakers, training meetings and seminars for members.
Today brewers can attend a brewing school, or take courses online. The University of California Davis has had a brewing program for decades and its graduates rank among the top in the field. The Brewers Association which grew out of the American Homerbrewers Association is another organization dedicated to education and promoting the industry.
Beer newspapers, available for free at beer distributors and places that cater to beer aficionados, fueled interest by reporting on new startups, the latest brews and events giving the growing industry momentum. The prevailing interest in beer has encouraged many historical societies and museums to host exhibits on local brewery history featuring items from local breweriana collectors. Those who have partnered with a local brewery without exception have said these were the best attended events they ever hosted.
02 PHOTO: Jim Cartin with a display of local breweriana to compliment the author’s talk “Breweries on the Schuylkill” at the Montgomery County Historical Society. (Wagner, February 2018)
Whether through brewery tourism or collecting the items issued by an ever growing number of breweries, breweriana collectors have been an integral part of the equation. Their enthusiasm is contagious and they have played a key role in word of mouth advertising. Brewery gift shops sell everything from t-shirts and hats to labels and coasters, key chains, bottle openers, tap handles and lighted signs.
Some collectors have been inspired to delve into history and many have written books. Long time Montgomery County resident Dale Van Wieren updated an existing book to create American Breweries II in 1995. It chronicles the nations’ breweries throughout history, assigning each a number and listing them by state and city. He has taken on the monumental task of updating that volume to include the thousands of breweries which have come and gone since then! He published American Breweries III, Mid-Atlantic Edition in 2016 and American Breweries III, New York and New England in 2018. He is also a regular contributor to the Eastern Coast Breweriana Association’s publication the KEG.
Another collector and lifetime Montgomery County resident was Robert F. Porter who died in 2017. He had a family member who had worked for the Scheidt brewery, which prompted him to collect. He wrote several articles on Scheidt for magazines devoted to the hobby. But more important was his antique restoration business where he cultivated a market among breweriana collectors, magically bringing damaged enamel signs, metal trays and mirrors to mint condition, greatly enhancing their value. His widow recently donated historically significant printed items from his collection to the Montgomery County Historical Society’s collection.
03 PHOTO: Rare tin sign from Robert F. Porter’s breweriana collection. (Wagner, 2012)
Today’s brewers have re-introduced beer styles not seen since pre-Prohibition days. They have researched beer styles of the world and of antiquity and have introduced beers never brewed in this country. Innovative brewers have created new beer styles utilizing new malt and hop varieties as well as fruit, herbs, spices and other novel ingredients. There are even brewers experimenting with “spontaneous inoculation,” using wild yeast from the air to ferment beers like the ones Dutch and Belgian Trappist monks have made for centuries, a method that would make Adam Scheidt and most modern brewers shudder.
At the high end, there is a niche for beers aged in wooden wine or spirits barrels, some of which are big beers with high alcohol content, suitable for aging. When issued in limited bottle releases they have become coveted treasures and there are aficionados who have their own beer cellars.
In 2017 America’s craft breweries produced nearly 25M barrels, about 13% of the nation’s total. In the 1870s with the ascendancy of hugely popular lager beer there were 4,131 breweries in America. Today there are 6,372 and counting. The Brewers’ Association estimates a potential for a 16% increase in 2018. In 2016 the craft brewing industry generated $67.8B in the U.S. economy and employed nearly half a million workers. Pennsylvania’s impact was $5.8B, second only to California’s $7.3B.¹
Pioneers of the craft beer industry had to fight laws made to prevent them from going into business. In the days after Prohibition was repealed on April 7, 1933, lawmakers scrambled to create laws which would eliminate the sins of the past including the so-called “tied house,” a saloon beholding to a brewer. In the old days breweries might own a string of hotels that served their beer exclusively. There had been earlier attempts as far back as 1887 to eliminate this system and the corruption associated with it. But the old ways remained in place with so many properties grandfathered in. The No License League of Montgomery County brought charges against Scheidt in 1915 for its interest in seven local hotels just five years prior to the beginning of Prohibition.² So with repeal, Federal and State laws finally succeeded in outlawing the tied house, and these restrictions were firmly in place when the early craft brewers were seeking to grow an audience for their beers. In England there were tied houses as well as brewery pubs, and the Germans had their “Guest Houses” (Gast Hausen) which were like a brewery/bed and breakfast. Many of the new brewers had experienced these places while visiting Europe and had enjoyed beer styles that were unlike anything they could get at home. In Europe and England, American beer had the reputation of being indistinguishable from water, or worse. When the craft brew movement started gaining momentum, these brewers set out to change the character of American beer, and the laws that kept them from growing their businesses, and they did.
Pennsylvania’s first microbrewery opened in Lancaster County in 1987. Ed and Carol Stoudt owned a popular restaurant with a liquor license in Adamstown. Therefore they could not, at the time, also own a brewery. To solve this problem they got a legal divorce: Carol owned the brewery which was located on a parcel of property purchased from the restaurant on site. The brewery then sold its beer to the restaurant.³ The notion of a female brewer was novel and attracted attention in the press, which probably didn’t hurt sales. Some thirty years later it has become common to see women brewers and owners in breweries large and small.
In Pennsylvania the number of liquor licenses issued is based on population, and they can be quite expensive. Brewery licenses, on the other hand, are for manufacturing and not limited by population, and they are not expensive. Tavern owners were concerned that if brewpubs could also serve outside beers it would give them an unfair advantage. As a result the 1989 law permitting brewpubs in Pennsylvania stipulated that they could only sell beer they produced on premise.
In 1985 Dock Street Brewing Co. began contract brewing with the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, NY. Brewing under contract made it possible for a company with offices in Bala Cynwyd, to have a beer made to their specifications, pay the tab and pick up packaged product on the loading dock. For struggling regional breweries with idle tanks it was a win-win proposition: they delivered the product and Dock Street paid all costs and assumed all the risk of sales and marketing. With the success of contract beers the brewers making them were encouraged to roll out their own all malt beers which commanded a premium price.
The business model was to have a growing market for a product before actually building a “bricks and mortar” brewery. When they opened a brewery and restaurant in Philadelphia in 1991, it was then illegal for them to sell draught or bottled Dock Street beer that had been made in Utica.
Dock Street was the brain child of Jeffrey Ware and he invested heavily, lobbying for changes in the law to permit brewpubs to also sell Pennsylvania wines. Pennsylvania legislators began to see the benefits of these new breweries in other states: improvements made to properties in need, jobs, increased tourism and tax revenue, and have passed laws more favorable to this business. By the mid-nineties it was legal for Dock Street to have a full liquor license.
Production breweries could only sell beer for off premise consumption. Traditionally Pennsylvania breweries always had a “bier stube” or tasting room for people to enjoy a free beer after a plant tour. In 2015 the law changed, permitting them to sell beer in tasting rooms for on premise consumption. And with additional changes to the law made in 2017, each brewery license now entitles the holder to operate two additional stores, satellite locations where they can sell their beer, much like Pennsylvania wineries are allowed to operate small outlets outside the State Store system. In the case of brewers, it essentially legalized the tied house.
In 2012 it became legal for breweries to sell single bottles, which was really good for expensive, limited edition specialties, frequently put up in wire-corked 750 ml. Reserve bottles. There have been a number of changes to modernize Pennsylvania liquor laws to be more user-friendly, not to mention competitive. Beer distributors that were permitted to sell beer only by the case or keg can now sell beer in smaller increments. This was driven by the premium price commanded by craft beers. Customers didn’t want to have to buy an entire case of high end beer only to find out they didn’t like it. Consumers wanted to be able to assemble a sixpack or case of different brands, or buy a single 750 ml. Reserve bottle of a specialty product. Recently a large grocer bypassed state laws prohibiting supermarkets from selling beer by getting a restaurant license to sell beer to go. It is astonishing they are the first one in over eighty years to do this as it required no change in the law.
Twenty-first Century craft brewers are on the forefront of sustainability, a good strategy for an industry dependent on water, agricultural products, chemicals and energy. This growing industry requires many supply lines for ingredients, machinery, processing materials, packaging equipment and supplies, distribution systems, touching on a wide variety of vendors.
Frequently brewpubs and tap rooms are located in historic districts, in neighborhoods that benefit from development and the repurposing of industrial buildings, giving them a new life. Being part of the community, these businesses locally source materials and labor. They can be a catalyst for revitalization.
Another thing that faded into history after repeal was “rushing the growler” which meant sending junior down to the local saloon to get the family a pail of beer for dinner. In those days only 25% of beer was bottled and was comparatively expensive. So when legislators sought to outlaw the growler people complained that the average family couldn’t afford a case of beer and a growler gave them an affordable way to enjoy beer in the home.4
Today it is expected that a brewpub will sell half gallon growlers, usually amber bottles with a screw on lid, frequently with a screen printed label. The beer stays good for a few days or until it is opened but doesn’t have a shelf life. Some brewers have installed the same type of equipment employed on brewery bottling lines to fill growlers, meaning they will remain fresh for weeks. And the can manufacturers’ answer to the glass growler is the “crowler.” A can is filled right from the tap and a lid is applied with a special device that seals the can just like on a packaging line. Today bars and beer distributors can sell growlers and crowlers.
04 PHOTO Each member of the mug club at The General Lafayette Inn had their own inscribed mug and enjoyed special club prices. (Wagner, April 2007)
If there was a dearth of equipment for small brewers when the pioneers were cobbling together dairy tanks and anything else made of stainless steel, there is a surfeit today. A homebrewer with deep pockets can purchase a complete system to make a keg of beer: computer driven with digital temperature controls, electric pump and O2 injector. Combined with the availability of quality ingredients, including fresh yeast strains, even an amateur can produce world class beer.
As this segment of the brewing industry has matured, the distinction between categories has blurred. The small brewers who started the trend are now some of the nation’s largest, and can hardly be called microbreweries. This led to the use of the term craft breweries, which covers a wider scope. And there are debates about who can lay claim to that term. Many restaurants that started as brewpubs are now production breweries and production breweries that once had a tasting room to conclude a plant tour now have cash bars. Some brewpubs contract with a larger brewer for a packaged product. And it would seem that there is room for virtually unlimited number of the nanobreweries as they become almost as common as pizza shops. This has already come at some expense to larger brewers, whose sales may suffer as a result of more competition for the public’s beer dollar.
On the tails of the craft beer renaissance we now also have craft distilleries, and the latest trend has been “micro-malting” which involves sprouting then kilning raw barley, making it suitable for brewing. In Chester County the local micro-maltster has persuaded local farmers to start growing barley varieties suitable for malting. Their super premium products command a high price. Their primary customers are the growing number of micro-distillers followed by craft brewers. Montgomery County is currently home to Double Eagle Malt in Huntingdon Valley.
What’s interesting is that with so many small brewers, any restaurant with a home brewing system can be a brewery. We’ve come full circle back to when the industry grew out of a multitude of small manufacturers before it was concentrated into a very few large companies. At the moment the maturing craft brewing industry is profitable, growing and playing out in new ways in the Twenty-first Century. The homebrewers who turned pro and became some of the nation’s largest brewers are now in turn losing ground to another new generation of brewers the likes of which our nation has never seen.
Industry Market Segments 5
1 bbl. = 31 gal.
Type of Brewery
< 15,000 bbl.
25% or more sold on site.
Regional Craft Brewery
> 6M bbl.
Montgomery County’s New Breweries (Chronological)
In an interesting twist of fate, Montgomery County’s first brewpub was established in the long-idled General Lafayette Inn, a colonial-era tavern in Lafayette Hill. They churned out beer in a seven-barrel system from 1997-2010. Owen Hutchens started out as one of the owners, as well as brewer. Chris Leonard became owner/brewer in 2004. In September 2007 they celebrated the 276th anniversary of the General Lafayette Inn and hired me to do a colonial brewing demonstration in the back yard. The brewpub closed in 2010 and a bank acquired it in foreclosure in 2012. A year later it became Barren Hill Tavern and Brewery with Scott Morrison as brewer, but closed again in 2016. The historic tavern recently reopened as a restaurant.
05 PHOTO: The General Lafayette Inn which became a brewery for sixteen years, celebrated its 275th Anniversary in 2007.
06 PHOTO: Brewhouse and fermenters behind glass facing Germantown Pike at The General Lafayette Inn. (Wagner, May 2002)
Brew Moon Restaurant and Microbrewery set up shop at the King of Prussia Mall in 1998. It was one of five locations of the Boston based chain. Brew Moon filed for bankruptcy in 2000 and sold four of their locations to Rock Bottom Restaurants, a Denver based chain that took over and changed the name to Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in 2001.6 Rock Bottom operated 77 locations, 27 of which were brewery restaurants which, in addition to Rock Bottom, included those doing business as Walnut Brewery and ChopHouse & Brewery. Today the company has 30 breweries in 16 states. They closed the King of Prussia location in 2017.7
07_PHOTO: This brewpub was owned by two different restaurant chains in the King of Prussia Mall recently closed after 19 years. (Wagner, July 2002)
The mid-to late nineties were heady times in the growing craft brewing industries and many of the pioneers were short lived. In some cases because there was not yet sufficient interest in craft beer, and in others because of money or management woes.
Dirty Dawg Brewing Co. opened in 1998 in the Limerick Airport Business Center. The brewery only lasted a year but they continued briefly making soda.
The same year Valley Forge Brewing Co. of Wayne (1995-2005) opened a second location in Center Square but closed within a year.
New Road Brewing Co. opened at Collegeville Station in 1999. Brian O’Reilly, a young brewer from Ohio, was brewer there for two years before they closed.
Famous from the Big Band era and long shuttered, Sunnybrook Ballroom found new life as a brewery in 1999 with long-time Pottstown resident Bill Moore as brewer. Bill is a Twentieth Century pioneer brewer. After spending five years working for Stoudt’s he got the opportunity of a lifetime to set up and run Independence Brewing Co., Philadelphia’s first microbrewery in 1995. After Independence closed in 2000 Bill was brewmaster at Sly Fox, and then went on to Sunnybrook. Bill has consulted on numerous brewery startups and has been with the Lancaster Brewing Co. now for over a decade. He is rightly considered the grandfather of craft brewmasters in Eastern Pennsylvania.8
08 PHOTO: Sunnybrook Beverage & Entertainment Center. (Wagner, October 2002).
After spending a career in commercial real estate, Henry Ortlieb resurrected the family brewery in Philadelphia as Henry Ortlieb’s Original Philadelphia Brew Works (1997-2000), a combination brewpub and production brewery. Three years after going out of business he purchased a brewpub that had been set up at the old Sunnybrook Ballroom. Bill Moore stayed on as brewmaster of Ortlieb’s Brewery & Grill at Sunnybrook. The brewery closed a year later with the death of Henry Ortlieb in 2004.
In 2003 Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant in North Wales became the first brewery to open in Montgomery County in the Twenty-First Century. Based in Wilmington, the company currently has 14 locations throughout the region including one in Greenville, SC. There are currently three operating in Montgomery County: Abington, Ardmore and North Wales. Each site keeps a stable of core beers, and beyond that brewers are free to experiment. In addition to the usual growlers, special brews are put up in wire-corked 750 ml. Reserve bottles. Restaurants within the chain can supply each other if a branch is running short of beer, or share their prized specialty brews. Iron Hill has taken advantage of the proliferation of companies that operate mobile canning lines. Blank cans can get a pressure sensitive label or one of shrink-wrapped plastic. What started as something special for employees during the winter holiday season has become a staple in their take home beers.
After nine years as a successful brewpub, Chester County’s Sly Fox Brewing Co. opened a second location in a shopping center in Royersford in 2004, which afforded plenty of space for a larger production brewery enabling them to greatly increase the distribution of the product. The brewpub had a high-end growler filling station to counter-fill with CO2 just like a brewery bottling machine, giving their growlers a much longer shelf life.
Even smaller than a microbrewery is a nanobrewery with a batch size of approximately four to six kegs (2-3 barrels). Gerry Martin is owner/brewer of G.G. Brewers which opened as Montgomery County’s first nanobrewery in 2006. He enjoys a prime location across from the Keswick Theater near Glenside, where he has a captive audience. The brewery/restaurant closed briefly from 2014-2016 but is back in business.
Prism Brewing Co. opened in an old factory in North Wales along the railroad tracks in 2010. Seeking a second career, Rob Demaria had the General Lafayette Inn brew Prism beer under contract while he set up his own brewery and tap room, which he ran for six years. Prism was famous for their use of unusual ingredients (vegan bacon?). Rob moved to a former gym in a shopping center in Lansdale in 2017. He tried to survive serving guest beers while plagued by start-up delays, and finally was able to return to brewing but went out of business shortly thereafter.
Appalachian Brewing Co., established in 1997 in Harrisburg, is an independently owned brew pub group with six brewpubs among eight locations throughout central and eastern Pennsylvania.9 They re-opened the New Road site in Collegeville in 2011 and do a modest amount of brewing on site but are mostly supplied by the company’s production brewery in Harrisburg.
09 PHOTO In an effort to grow their market Sly Fox moved production to an industrial park in Pottstown. They have since added a tasting room. (Wagner, June 2012)
Five breweries opened in Montgomery County in 2012 with a dozen more in the years since. Sly Fox Brewing Co. moved to a large facility in an industrial park in Pottstown and put in a canning line, becoming the first east coast craft brewery to sell their beer in cans. Most recently they opened a tap room on-site and are planning to open a tap room in the old Vanity Fair site in Reading.10 Sly Fox beer is distributed in five states and the District of Columbia and was started by Pete Giannopoulos. His brother John is a partner. A number of years ago when the last stainless steel keg manufacturer in the U.S.A. closed, he brought the machines from Spartansburg, SC to Pottstown and established American Keg.11
10 PHOTO Welding components of a stainless steel half barrel keg. (Wagner, February 2018)
Until recently manufacturers have required large packaging runs in order to print labels on cans. This was prohibitive for most small brewers, but Sly Fox had the warehouse space to store can stock. The success of their canned product convinced many small brewers to can their beer, frequently after talking with Sly Fox brewer Brian O’Reilly and touring his can line. Can companies have since seen the wisdom of selling shorter runs to small brewers and there are now alternatives to screen printed cans. A number of companies have emerged that bring a can line on site, hook up to the bright tank and can the beer. For brewpubs with limited space this is ideal.
After seventeen years with the company and bringing production to nearly 25,000 barrels a year, O’Reilly is moving on to a new brewery starting up in Philadelphia.12
11 PHOTO: Sly Fox can line. (Wagner, June 2012)
The oldest house in Ambler got a facelift when Forest & Main Brewing Co. refurbished the building at 61 N. Main Street in 2012.. They installed a brewery in the basement and had a small bar on the first floor, with fine dining throughout the rest of the house. Owners Daniel Endicott and Gerard Olson are committed to brewing outstanding British and Belgian styles of beer. Forest & Main features regular limited bottling releases and have recently opened a tap room next door which features live music and events.13
12 PHOTO: Forest & Main sign is reminiscent of historic British tavern signs. (Wagner, May 2012)
Tired Hands Brewing Co. took a shell of a building in Ardmore and created a nanobrewery and tasting room with a limited menu.
13 PHOTO: Tired Hands brew house. (Wagner, June 2012)
Also in 2012, Round Guys Brewing Co. in Lansdale was a surprising addition to the lineup of Montgomery County breweries since their flagship brand was a Berliner Weiss style, made with generous amounts of wheat and fermented with a combination of yeast and lactobacillus. In his book The World Guide to Beer, Michael Jackson described it as the brewers’ answer to Riesling wines. Its light color and sparkling brilliance led Napoleon’s occupying forces to proclaim it le Champagne du Nord. Traditionally it may be served with raspberry or woodruff syrup to cut the sourness, or without (ohne schusss). Some enjoy Berliner Weisse mixed with lemonade or lager beer. Round Guys has thrived bringing life to Lansdale’s downtown with an active entertainment schedule.14
After a long hiatus, Owen Hutchens (see General Lafayette Inn) got back into brewing when he opened Guild Hall Brewing Co. next to the Hiway Theater in Jenkintown. Unfortunately it didn’t last three months. His first beers were not well received and with so many brewpubs and so much good beer available people didn’t find a reason to return. Neshaminy Brewing Co. established a tasting room in that location in 2017, which gets beer from their production brewery in Croyden.
Conshohocken Brewing Co. was one of four breweries to open in the county in 2014. Located along the Schuylkill River Trail their logo features a bowler-wearing bike rider and they have become a popular watering hole. They supply the house and their tasting rooms in Phoenixville and Haverford with their 15 barrel brewing system. They recently opened a second brewery in Bridgeport with a 3 barrel system to be used for brewing specialty beers.15
The Crooked Billet Tavern was located in Hatboro in colonial times. There’s even an elementary school named to commemorate it, so it’s fitting that Crooked Eye Brewing Co. (2014) gave a nod to the past with their name. Known as “the cure for what ales you,” they have grown and do a brisk business in their tasting room.
14 PHOTO: Entrance to to the brew house of Crooked Eye Brewing Co. in Hatboro. (Wagner, March 2015)
Also in 2014, Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant opened their second Montgomery County location in Ardmore.
Tuned Up Brewing Co. was a one-barrel nanobrewery in Trappe for a year before moving to Spring City in Chester County in 2016.
In 2015 Tired Hands Brewing Co. repurposed an old trolley barn and opened the Fermentaria, a combination production brewery and restaurant just a stone’s throw from their first location in Ardmore. They have a number of wooden tanks visible in the restaurant and are known for barrel aging and sometimes experimenting with wild or unusual yeast strains. Tired Hands is currently canning their beer.
15 PHOTO: Fermentaria’s wooden tanks. (Wagner, April 2015)
Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant opened a third Montgomery County location in a shopping center across from Abington Township’s Hollywood neighborhood in 2016.
Two breweries opened in 2017: Prism Brewing Co. moved to Lansdale and closed in a matter of months and Blueprint Brewing Co. a production brewery in Harleysville that bills itself as Montgomery County’s first and only gluten-free brewery. According to the American Sorghum website, Anheuser-Busch and Lakefront Brewing Co., a regional craft brewery in Milwaukee, were pioneers in domestic production of gluten-free beer. Sorghum is a grain that can be malted and does not have the gluten of other grains. It has been used to make beer in Africa for thousands of years.16 To have a local craft brewery specialize in brewing this narrow niche product is quite remarkable.
So far in 2018 Pottstown has two new additions: United Brewing Co. doing business as Pottstown Brew Works, and Cuisine India Restaurant added a nanobrewery as the Amruth Brewing Co.
Rich is a lifelong Montgomery County resident whose interest in brewing began in 1980 with a summer vacation camping and visiting six of the nine breweries still in business in Pennsylvania. What intrigued him was the great number of out of business breweries he saw in between stops.
He began researching the state’s brewing history and self-published guidebooks to go with bus tours he conducted in: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, the Lehigh Valley and the central region from Reading to York.
In 1983 he began homebrewing and in 1990 and 1991 Rich did several brewings at Pennsbury Manor with reproductions of equipment used in the bake and brew house circa 1685. Three years later, with the help of a cooper, Rich constructed his own brewing system from cypress logs and took his show on the road. He and his wife honed their skills for a decade at the Goschenhoppen Festival in East Greenville and have brewed throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and as far away as Oregon and New Hampshire.
After early retirement as a science teacher, Rich received a diploma in brewing technology from Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology 1994. He worked in Philadelphias craft breweries over a seven year period and continues to do demonstrations, writes and lectures.
In addition to his guidebooks Rich is the author of Philadelphia Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Cradle of Liberty (The History Press 2012) and a frequent contributor to a number of publications aimed at the craft brewing industry and breweriana collectors.
16 PHOTO: Anna and Rich Wagner conducted a colonial brewing demonstration for the 275th Anniversary of the inn. (Van Wieren, September 2007)
For Further Reading
Porter, Robert F. Scheidt of Norristown, Pennsylvania: The One-Hundred Year Struggle… Pre-pro small-town brewer takes on the Philadelphia giants.” American Breweriana Journal. March/April 2003.
Porter, Robert F. “The Scheidt Brewery Beer Cans.” Beer Cans and Brewery Collectables. April/May 2020.
Van Wieren. “A Norristown Landmark is Reborn.” Eastern Coast Breweriana Association Newsletter. Summer 1986.
Van Wieren. “Stony Creek Office Center, Historic Brewery Adapted for Office Use. Eastern Coast Breweriana Association Newsletter. Winter 1988.
Wagner, Rich. "Ale's Well in State's Newest Microbrewery." Observer, The Pennsylvania Beverage Journal, March, 1992.
Wagner, Rich. “Beer and Pretzels in Berks County, PA.” Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. December 2007/January 2008.
Wagner, Rich. “Breweries Gone But Not Forgotten.” Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. October, November 2009.
Wagner, Rich. "Brewery Preservation: Celebrating Success Stories, Remembering the Fallen." The Keg, Eastern Coast Breweriana Association. Spring, 2004.
Wagner, Rich. “Brewery Preservation Update.” The Keg, Eastern Coast Breweriana Association, Winter 2014.
Wagner, Rich. “Brewing Industry in Post Prohibition America, 1935-1985.” National Brewery Museum Commemorative Edition. American Breweriana Association. July 2008.
Wagner, Rich. "The Brewpub Phenomenon, A Complex New Beer Marketplace...Now It's Come to Observer, The Pennsylvania Beverage Journal. June 6, 1988.
Wagner, Rich. “Craft Brewing Exhibit at the Philadelphia History Museum.” American Breweriana Journal. January/February 2013.
Wagner, Rich. “GABF Memories: Denver Festival Celebrates 21st Birthday.” Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. October/November 2003.
Wagner, Rich. Historic Bethlehem Partnership Rolls Out the Barrel. Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. Feb./March 2010.
Wagner, Rich. "... And Now There Are Five, Brewpub Review." Observer, The Pennsylvania Beverage Journal. December,1990.
Wagner, Rich. "State's Brewpubs Keep on Cookin'." Observer, The Pennsylvania Beverage Journal. June, 1991.
Wagner, Rich. “A Stroll Through Brewing History: The Past Preserved in Philadelphia.” Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. April/May 2005.
Wagner, Rich. Tapping Portsmouth Exhibt at Strawberry Banke Museum. American Breweriana Journal Nov./Dec. 2013.
Wagner, Rich. "What's Brewing in Pennsylvania's Microbreweries?" Observer, The Pennsylvania Beverage Journal. Feb. 12, 1990.
1. “National Beer Sales and Production Data.” Brewers’ Association Website. https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics/national-beer-sales-production-data/
2. “A Pennsylvania Case.” The Western Brewer (May 1892): 1070.
3. Moore, Bill. Interviewed by Rich Wagner. Phone interview. May 23, 2018.
4. “The Pennsylvania Quart Law.” National Brewer, A Monthly Journal Devoted to Brewing and Kindred Interests, Milwaukee (July 1897): 57.
5. “Craft Beer – Market Segments,” Brewers Association Website. https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics/market-segments/
6. Goodison, Donna L. “Brew Moon Hits ‘Rock Bottom,’ Pubs Are Sold.” Boston Business Journal (December 18, 2000) https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/stories/2000/12/18/story6.html
7. “Beer-story.” Rock Bottom website. https://rockbottom.com/beer-story/.
8. Moore interview.
9. Tafoya, Artie, Brewmaster/Head of Operations, Appalachian Brewing Co. Interview by Rich Wagner. Email. May 28, 2018.
10. Rhen, Brad. “Sly Fox to Open Location at VF Outlet Center, Pottstown-based Brewery Expects to Open Wyomissing Restaurant by Fall.” Reading Eagle (Reading), March 27, 2018.
11. The Editorial Board. “The Trump Tariff Layoffs Begin, A Keg Manufacturer Lays Off Workers as Domestic Steel Prices Rise.” Wall Street Journal (New York), March 17, 2018.
12. Nurin, Tara. “Sly Fox Brewmaster Quits, The Latest Major Craft Brewer to Leave the Business He Helped Build.” Forbes, May 24, 2018.
13. Forest & Main website. http://www.forestandmain.com/
14. Jackson, Michael. World Guide to Beer. Canada: Classic Press, 1977.
15. Conshohocken Brewing Co. website. http://www.conshohockenbrewing.com/
16. “Sorghum Farming Now.” American Sorghum website. https://www.americansorghum.com/what-is-sorghum-farming/
“Brewing Company Interested in Seven Hotels, is Charged,” Public Ledger (Philadelphia), Mar. 16, 1915.
“Federal Excise Tax.” Beer Institute Website. http://www.beerinstitute.org/beer-policy/legislative-policy/excise-tax/
Brewers’ Association Website. https://www.brewersassociation.org/
McLaughlin, Joseph. "Breweries." Montgomery County the Second Hundred Years, Vol. 2, edited by Jean Barth Toll and Michael J. Schwager,1339-1342. Norristown, PA: The Montgomery County Federation of Historical Societies, 1983.
Nurin, Tara. “Sly Fox Brewmaster Quits, The Latest Major Craft Brewer to Leave the Business He Helped Build.” Forbes, May 24, 2018.
Conshohocken Brewing Co. website. http://www.conshohockenbrewing.com/
The Editorial Board. “The Trump Tariff Layoffs Begin, A Keg Manufacturer Lays Off Workers as Domestic Steel Prices Rise.” Wall Street Journal (New York), March 17, 2018.
Forest & Main website. http://www.forestandmain.com/
Goodison, Donna L. “Brew Moon Hits 'Rock Bottom,’ Pubs Are Sold.” Boston Business Journal (December 18, 2000) https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/stories/2000/12/18/story6.html
Jackson, Michael. World Guide to Beer. Canada: Classic Press, 1977.
Moore, Bill. Interviewed by Rich Wagner. Phone interview. May 23, 2018.
“A Pennsylvania Case.” The Western Brewer May 1892, p. 1070.
Negra, Mike, Member P.L.C.B. “Overview of Pennsylvania’s Liquor Laws & Regulations, Including Recent Changes.” PowerPoint Presented at the 2017 PASA Farming For the Future Conference. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board website. http://www.lcb.pa.gov/Licensing/ResourcesForLicensees/Documents/February%202017%20Presentation%20for%20PA%20Producers%20and%20Licensees.pdf
“The Pennsylvania Quart Law.” National Brewer, A Monthly Journal Devoted to Brewing and Kindred Interests, Milwaukee, WI. (July 1897) 57.
Rhen, Brad. “Sly Fox to open location at VF Outlet Center, Pottstown-based brewery expects to open Wyomissing restaurant by fall.” Reading Eagle March 27, 2018.
Rock Bottom website. https://rockbottom.com/beer-story/
“Sorghum Farming Now.” American Sorghum website. https://www.americansorghum.com/what-is-sorghum-farming/
Tafoya, Artie. Brewmaster/Head of Operations, Appalachian Brewing Co. Email. May 28, 2018. firstname.lastname@example.org
Van Wieren, Dale. American Breweries III, Mid-Atlantic Edition. PA: Self-published, 2016.