We know there is a rich tradition of brewing in Pennsylvania and the early American colonies. But clues found in the Reiley Ledger from the late 18th century give clues to an early Bedford County brewing tradition. (see photos below)
The consumption of beer was common in the colonies. (Smith, 1998) For example, scholars have presented evidence a standard breakfast of the period included “cold meat with a pint of good ale or cider.” (Smith, 1998) Additionally, new arrivals to the colonies in eastern Pennsylvania found a large selection of beer. (Smith, 1998) One of these Philadelphia newcomers was Benjamin Franklin, who in 1745 wrote how he enjoyed a stout ale with other pleasures. (Smith, 1998)
During the time leading up to the famous Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, Philadelphia’s and Bedford’s favorite visitor, George Washington, was himself partial to a good Porter (a roasty, caramelly beer). (Baron, 1962) Additionally, in the 1760s, he was known to purchase his porter from Robert Hare of Philadelphia. (Baron, 1962) During the 1790s, Washington was also purchasing his Porter from another Philadelphia brewer, Benjamin Morris. (Baron, 1962) Additionally, by 1796, as Washington was finalizing his plans for leaving his presidency, he “… procure a groce of good Porter to be taken there….” (Baron, 1962) OBBC would argue, when George came to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, he continued to enjoy a good Porter!
The Reiley Ledger
OldeBBC reviewed the Store Ledger kept by Martin Reiley 1788-1816, Bedford, PA. (Reiley, 1788) This examination provided us with a window into the past. The use of distilled spirits in around Bedford, as a local commodity, is evident while examining the many eateries with the words, Gin, Whiskey, Wine, Sherry, and French Brandy. But a closer examination of some of the entries, reveals the possible evidence of the spirit of homebrewing and beer consumption in the county. Consequently, we believe these are clues to an undiscovered Bedford County brewing tradition.
According to the ledger, In 1797, Conrad Atley, purchased along with other sundries, some British Ale. Later, in 1798, Jacob Helm purchased some molasses along with wine and other sundries. (Reiley, 1788) During this time, molasses was one of the key ingredients of a small beer recipe. (Baron, 1962) Also, in 1798, Noah Bowser purchased a “Kettle.” (Reiley, 1788) A brew kettle is a critical part of the brewing process, even in today’s brewing process. Although OldeBBC may never know if these precursors were used to brew beer, we would like to think so. Therefore, it is this tradition, OldeBBC will embrace.
Reiley Ledger 1798 Bowser
Reiley Ledger 1798 Bonnett
In their October/November 2017 Issue, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News spotlights Olde Bedford Brewing Company’s plans to open soon in Bedford, Pennsylvania. The article, entitled “Resuming the Rebellion”, spotlights the unique partnership between OldeBBC and Fat Jimmy’s Outfitters. The two businesses joined forces this year to offer a unique business model. They also believe this will resonate with patrons of both businesses.
The article touches on the historical significance of Bedford, and its place in the history of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. George Washington (a brewmaster of his own right) used the Espy House, at 121 E. Pitt Street, as his headquarters when he and the United States Army marched into Pennsylvania to put down the rebellion.
Olde Bedford Brewing Company taps into this history with our slogan, “Join the Whiskey Rebellion,… Drink Beer!”.
Owners David and Mary Heller plan to use spring water from their farm, “Hideaway Ranch”, on Blue Knob Mountain. They also grow their own award-winning hops, which has received much attention from agriculture experts in the state.
OldeBBC plans to open its doors in early 2018. The ten-tap brewpub will occupy a portion of Jimmy Fungeroli’s sporting goods business. Additionally, he brew pub will feature rustic decor and will continue to play on the theme of the town’s historic relevance in the whiskey rebellion and other early American history. Check out items available in their store.
Bedford, a town of 2800, is the county seat of Bedford County, PA. The Hellers are native of the area and are seeing their dream of opening a brew pub come true this year. Most of all, as the first brewery ever to sell beer in Bedford, we are excited to build a new legacy for our great town.
Click here to go to the article in the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News October/November 2017 Issue.
On this Independence Day, we want to honor our country’s first President and Brewmaster.
Everyone knows George Washington as one of our nation’s founding fathers, General of the Continental Army, 1st President of the United States of America. He was also a farmer, entrepreneur, land owner, surveyor, distiller and yes, brewmaster!
George Washington was a true lover of beer. He especially enjoyed a good porter. This dark, English-style beer would have normally been purchased from Great Britain, but as president, he felt it was not appropriate to buy from them. Hence began the first “buy American” campaign. But, the English beer was the inspiration behind his recipe for “Small Beer”. The photograph is of his recipe hand-written by George himself.
Small beer was popular in Colonial America. It contained very little alcohol, and was considerably less expensive than traditional beers. Historian Victor S. Clark states “many housewives still brewed small beer for their families, and for fifty years thereafter numerous village breweries continued in operation with an equipment and a volume of business hardly exceeding those of a village bakery.”
At Olde Bedford Brewing Company, we recognize the importance General Washington made on our country, our town of Bedford, and our love of beer. We will do our best to honor his legacy. We will also work to formulate our own version of his porter and make it available to our patrons.