Lancaster Brewing History




The Lancaster brewing history begins during the 17th Century when brewing was considered to be a highly respectable profession. Initially, the beer was brewed in the back rooms of inns and taverns. To keep up with the demand, though, the building of breweries became necessary.

Although it is unclear when the first brewery in Pennsylvania was built, by the time of the 18th Century Lancaster already had several well-established, highly popular breweries. Before long larger scale breweries became commonplace. In fact, Lancaster was soon considered to be the brewing capital of Pennsylvania.

The early brewers were English and Scottish immigrants. As a result, English-style beer was the most common variety.

However, by the 1840's, there was a great wave of German immigrants arriving in Lancaster County. Those German immigrants with brewing experience introduced the region to German lager beer. Not only was this new style different in taste from the beer being produced by the English and Scottish descendants, but it required new and unique brewing techniques.

Eventually, the German-style beer became so popular in America that the lagers replaced the English-style beer in demand and production.

The brewing industry grew and became very successful in Lancaster. At its peak, there were over 10 breweries in the region. During this time, before Prohibition, Lancaster County produced seven percent of the all the beer, ale, and lager consumed in the United States.

In Lancaster County, beer was consumed in saloons where the locals would congregate for a good time; at inns and taverns which tended to cater to travelers spending the night; and, at tippling places where the so-called lower classes went. Furthermore, many of the breweries had beer gardens which presented a pleasant outdoor atmosphere for customers to enjoy their drink.

Every Lancaster brewery had deep cellars for aging and storing beer. Many of the inns also had hidden vaults designed to store large quantities of beer. It is reported that there still are dozens of these hidden vaults beneath the streets of Lancaster City that remain relatively forgotten.

During the Prohibition years between 1920 to 1933,the production of beer actually continued. Some breweries even continued to produce their beer at full speed. Others, on the other hand, utilized more secretive measures such as building concealed little breweries within the larger, main building.

In any case, there are some colorful stories about federal agents raiding many a Lancaster brewery while the breweries tried to avoid detection.

What really marked the end of the glory days of the Lancaster breweries was the rise of the large, modern breweries that had sprung up in other regions of the country. These breweries used more expensive, modern technology that allowed them to produce larger quantities of beer at less cost.

The small Lancaster County breweries simply could not compete. By the mid-1950s, nearly all the Lancaster breweries had been shut down and demolished to make way for parking lots and playgrounds.

However, the Lancaster brewing history continues today, although in a much smaller scale. A handful of small breweries continue to thrive, inviting visitors to sample the local brews.

So, another great Lancaster County tradition continues.


If learning about the Lancaster brewing history has put you in the mood to sample some of these local brews for yourself, you would probably greatly enjoy visiting one of the Lancaster breweries where you can not only sample some of the great-tasting lagers and ales crafted right here in Lancaster County, but you can also take a brewery tour. On these tours, you'll discover first-hand how the beer is produced using the purest brewing ingredients available in the county.

On the other hand, if learning about the Lancaster brewing history, has sparked an interest in learning about the fine wine produced in the region, consider visiting one of the Lancaster vineyards and wineries where you can take a tour and discover the history and wine-making techniques of this fertile and beautiful region.






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