Original Document
Original Document
An Account of the Philadelphia Lager Beer Industry, 1859.

The manufacture of lager beer was introduced into this country about eighteen years ago, from Bavaria, where the process of brewing it was kept secret for a long period. Its reception was not a very cordial or welcome one; and about twelve years elapsed before its use became at all general. Within the last few years, however, the consumption has increased so enormously, not merely among the German population, but among the natives, that its manufacture forms an important item of productive industry. The superior quality of that made in Philadelphia has, no doubt, increased the demand, and by diminishing to some extent the use of firey liquor, has effected partial good. Lager signifies "kept," or "on hand;" and Lager Beer is equivalent to "beer in store." It can be made from the same cereals from which other malt liquors are made; but barley is the grain generally used in this country. The processes resemble those of brewing Ale and Porter, with some points of difference, and the brewing generally forms a separate and distinct business.

There are now about thirty brewers of Lager Beer in Philadelphia, having a capital employed of $1,200,000.

The statistics of the entire Brewing business in Philadelphia, for 1857, are as follows:


Ale, Porter, and Brown Stout, 170,000 bbl. averaging $6. $ 1,020,000
Lager Beer, 180,000 bbl. averaging $6.                                1,080,000
Other beer, say                                                                        200,000
Total                                                                                   $ 2,300,000

The capital invested in Ale, Porter, and Lager Beer brewing, including Malting, is $3,050,000; being, it will be perceived a larger amount in proportion to the product than probably in any other business. This arises from the necessity of occupying large plots of very valuable ground, from the extent of the buildings, and from the great number of vats and casks required. The casks alone, exclusive of vats, in use by Philadelphia brewers, cost $ 320,000....

Lager Beer was first introduced into Philadelphia in 1840, by a Mr. Wagner, who afterward left the city. It was a lighter article than that was used. The first who made the real Lager was Geo. Manger, better known as 'Big George,' who, in October, 1844, had a small kettle in one corner of the premises still occupied by him in New street, above Second. The beer made in the winter is lighter, and may be drawn five or six weeks after brewing, but the real Lager is made in cold weather, has a greater body- that is, more malt and hops are used- and is first drawn about the first of May. It is much improved by age and by keeping in a cool place. When first drawn it is five months old: and as it is usually made in December, it is ten months old when the last is drawn. The vaults are probably the most interesting 'sights' connected with the business. The firm that constructed the first vault is that of Engel and Wolf- a firm that ranks among the most extensive, accommodating, and enterprising of our brewers. The vaults are built in the vicinity of Lemon Hill, near the Schuylkill, and contain solid stone exterior walls. These are subdivided by brick partitions into cellars or vaults of about twenty by forty feet, and connected with each other by a door large enough to admit a Purcheon (sic horse). There is a smaller door or aperture, about two feet square, barely sufficient to allow the passage of a keg.

"After the brewing has commenced, say in December, unless cold weather occur earlier, the most remote cellar or vault is filled- the ground tier, consisting of large casks, usually three rows far enough apart to permit a man to walk between. On these two rows of casks are placed; and above these, if the vault is high enough, one row of smaller casks or kegs are stowed. The other vaults are filled in like manner. After each is filled, the door is closed, and straw, tan, and other non-conductors are placed to keep out the external heated air of summer. The vaults are ventilated, and the temperature kept as low as possible. Should it exceed 50 Fahrenheit, the beer spoils. One only is opened at a time.

"Messrs. Engel and Wolf, before referred to, have seven vaults, in five of which 50,350 cubic feet were cut out of solid rock. The bottom of the vaults is about forty-five feet below ground. This firm have[[sic]] an agency in New Orleans, and sell to nearly all the South, including Texas.

"One of the peculiarities of Lager Beer is the flavor imparted to it by the casks. The casks, previous to use, have their interior completely coated with resin; this is done by pouring a quantity of melted resin into the cask while the head is out, and igniting it. After it has been in a blaze for a few minutes, the head is put in again, which extinguishes the blaze, but the resin still remains hot and liquid; the cask is then rolled about, so as to get every part of the interior with it; any resin remaining fluid is poured out through the bung-hole. This resin imparts some of its pitchy flavor to the beer."

Credit: Edwin T. Freedley, Philadelphia and Its Manufactures: A Hand-Book (Philadelphia: Edward Young), 195-98.
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