Philadelphia Daily News April 13, 2001

A Thirsty First

By Don Russell (a.k.a. Joe Sixpack)


After four years of documentation and several rejections, beer historian Rich Wagner has finally convinced the state Historical and Museum Commission to place on of those blue markers on the site of America's first lager brewery. It'll go up near Poplar and American streets in Northern Liberties. That's where German immigrant John Wagner is believed to have brewed in a tiny eight-barrel kettle, starting in 1840. (Schaefer calls itself America's oldest lager brewer, but it dates only to 1848, according to Wagner.) Before the mid-19th century, Americans drank mostly locally made ales because lager yeasts were unavailable on this side of the Atlantic. It took the introduction of faster clipper lines across the ocean to bring us the proper ingredients. By 1850, Philadelphia was the lager capital of America. This is the first official marker honoring the city's important role in the growth of the American beer industry. Cheers to Rich Wagner for a great job of historical research.