Observer The Pennsylvania Beverage Journal February 16, 1987

Brewing History in Pennsylvania

By Rich Wagner

HATBORO – Since 1980 Rich Wagner and Rich Dochter have canvassed the Pennsylvania landscape searching for relics of a bygone era. In six years, the two have photographed over 200 standing (or nearly standing) brewery buildings in the Commonwealth and have verified another 200 sites as having no standing brewery buildings.

To the historian such work is called an inventory, but their hobby branches into a growing field called industrial archeology.

Wagner, a high school science teacher and Dochter, director of a day care center began this unlikely project by visiting working breweries throughout Pennsylvania. They soon found that between stops on their tour there were many more standing brewery buildings that were no longer manufacturing beer. Many were adapted to other uses, but more often than not they were abandoned. This piqued their curiosity and they wanted to know the story of how this all came about.

As their research became more serious, they frequented libraries and historical societies and interviewed scores of residents, brewers, breweriana collectors and just about anyone else who had a story to tell them about the history of Pennsylvania's brewing industry.

The collection of photographs they have amassed goes beyond pictures of the actual sites and includes many historical photographs and drawings of breweries. Dochter and Wagner have combed old newspapers and trade journals to gather what they believe to be the largest file of information on Pennsylvania's breweries in existence.

“Our research has been pretty diverse, sort of like the brewing industry,” comments Rich Wagner. “It includes architecture, economics, immigration, agriculture, you name it.”

Rich Dochter adds, “What started as a lark to visit Pennsylvania breweries turned into a lot of work!”

Naturally these hobbyists are always on the lookout for pictures of breweries as they appeared in their hey day. They enjoy talking to people who can give them insights into the past when there were more breweries in Pennsylvania than anywhere else in the United States. They are in the process of publishing a poster entitled Brewery Architecture in Pennsylvania that is a collage of pics they've taken during their survey of the state's breweries. For more information or to order the poster visit their website.

Note: This article has been modified from how it originally appeared through the addition of the website address.

The article was also illustrated with ten trays from Barry Hunsberger's collection which included: Class & Nachod (Philadelphia), Lieberman (Allentown), Esslinger (Philadelphia), Pure Springs (Fountain Springs), Hazelton, Goenner (Johnstown), Mellet & Nichter (Pottsville), Hornung (Philadelphia), Fernwood, Dubois; as well as a corner sign from the Kittanning Brewing Company.