The Camden County Historical Society Communicator Spring/Summer 2007

The Making of “Pomona Ale”

Historic Brew Fest Project Produces Real Beer

Three Months after it started in September, the Camden County Historical Society's first foray into old-time beer making techniques came to a triumphant end with the distribution of bottles of “Pomona Hall Ale” to staff and volunteers at December's Christmas party.

The Project began with a one day “Colonial Beer Fest” at which Pennsylvania brewing historian Richard Wagner set up an authentic 18th-century mini brewery in the side yard of Pomona Hall. Starting with fresh hops, barley and malt, Mr. Wagner employed the same handmade wooden, iron and copper implements used by Colonial era residents of southern New Jersey to make the beer that was one of their most important foodstuffs.

As a crowd of home brewing aficionados and other curious visitors watched throughout the day, Mr. Wagner worked up nearly 20 gallons of “mash” (sic wort) or the soupy mixture (sic clear sweet liquid) that is the primary material from which beer is brewed.

At the end of the day, Roger Gentry, home brewer and husband of Society executive director Linda Gentry, took possession of the mash (sic wort) and oversaw the two-month process of fermentation that turned it into real beer. The final product was decanted into antique blue-glass bottles topped with 19th-century porcelain caps and custom labeled as “Pomona Hall Ale.”

It really brought to life a major domestic craft of our ancestors,” said Society president Richard Pillatt. “And it was a very unique experience. After all, how often to you get to DRINK history as well as toast your colleagues and friends with it?”