Mid-Atlantic Brewing News February/March 2010

Historic Bethlehem Partnership Rolls Out the Barrel

By Rich Wagner

Beer has never been bigger or more popular and it seems like everyone is hopping on the beer wagon. That includes Historic Bethlehem Partnership’s Roll Out the Barrel: Bethlehem Brews History exhibit at the Goundie House. Brewing in Bethlehem got its start in the second half of the eighteenth century when the town was a Moravian Colony, so the exhibit spans three centuries.

The exhibit includes both brewing and distilling because in the early days it was quite common to find both pursuits practiced together. In fact, when John Sebastian Goundie, for whom the house is named, was brought to town to run the brewery in 1803, the Moravians gave him permission to make brandy as well. Visitors can see a copper “pot still” on display similar to one Goundie may have used.

Local homebrewer Chris Bowen does period brewing demonstrations in costume as John Sebastian Goundie using wooden tubs and a copper kettle at Historic Bethlehem’s Burnside Plantation. This fall he brewed at the Goundie House to help promote the exhibit. Prior to that, he attained every homebrewer’s dream and brewed with Bethlehem Brew Work’s Beau Baden to create "Goundie's Old Monocacy Ale," which was served at the event.

Chris has created a novel home brewing system out of an old washing machine, which is on display along with panels describing the process “from grain to glass” along with some antique scientific instruments.

There’s breweriana from Bethlehem’s most famous breweries: Widman, Uhl and South Bethlehem, along with factory scenes and histories of each. But the one that caught my attention was the little-known Lehigh Mountain Brewery, relics of which can still be found on Lehigh University’s campus. The brewery’s hotel was converted to dormitory space when the University acquired the property in the 1890s. Students dubbed it “Die Alte Brauerie.” Today it’s called Price Hall and is used for office space. Behind it you can still see the entrance to the brewery vaults.

The exhibit includes a section on the nineteenth-century saloon, and exhibit curator Bonnie Stacy will be giving a “Feed Your Mind” noon-time presentation on March 18, 2010, entitled: “Bar Art: Not Just Dogs Playing Poker” at Historic Bethlehem’s Luckenbach Mill at 459 Old York Rd.

Prohibition is also covered but old-timers who were interviewed maintain that the city’s breweries were never idle! In October, Adam Bentz, who did his Master’s thesis at Lehigh University on Prohibition in Bethlehem, gave a talk to promote the exhibit.

My suggestion would be to start off with lunch at the Bethlehem Brew Works at 569 Main & Broad Streets. They plan to brew more “Old Monocacy Ale,” so you might want to schedule your visit when it is available. After lunch, proceed south to the Goundie House at 501 Main & Market Streets.

To see what’s left of Bethlehem’s brewing past, head north on Main past Broad St. until you see West Union Boulevard. Turn left and just down the street you’ll find the Old Brewery Tavern (138 W. Union Blvd.) formerly Uhl’s brewery saloon. The brewery, which lasted until the early 1940s and was famous for its Tannhaeuser and Vienna Export brands, stands right behind the tavern.

Roll Out the Barrel: Bethlehem Brews History at the Goundie House runs until August 8, 2010; $3.00 suggested donation. For information on presentations and hours of operation, check out http://www.historicbethlehem.org/.

Note: This is the version of the article as it was submitted, not as it appeared in Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.