Lancaster Brewing Company

Lancaster Brewing Company
By producing Lancaster’s first commercially brewed beer in nearly 40 years, Lancaster Brewing Company has reawakened a rich and colorful brewing history. Brewing in Lancaster County grew from the back rooms of inns in the early 1700’s into a thriving industry. By 1810, the county accounted for 7% of all beer brewed in the US.
Before Prohibition, the county’s breweries produced some 200,000 barrels of beer annually. Lancaster’s quality beers won praise near and far. Beers brewed by Rieker’s Star Brewery on West King Street were favorites of renowned Baltimore Sun newspaper columnist Henry L. Mencken. In 1868, The Daily Intelligencer newspaper proclaimed, “Lancaster in America occupies the same position that Munich does in Germany in regards to the brewing industry.” The editorial further noted that the fame of our beer has spread over the whole Union.
Two factors eventually shut down the approximately 14 Lancaster breweries: World War I and Prohibition. Forced by the war effort to curtail the use of coal in the brewing process, Lancaster’s breweries stopped producing beer legally in November 1918, well before the 18tht; Amendment went into effect in January 1920. During prohibition, brewing continued under the noses of public officials, many of who had been paid to look the other way. In 1930, however, federal agents began to crack down, and brewing was forced underground-literally. At the corner of W. King and Pine Streets in 1932, a city worker discovered a hose in the sewer. The hose ran from Rieker’s Brewery to a warehouse on Water Street, where it discharged beer into kegs.
When Prohibition ended in 1933, Lancaster County breweries resumed legitimate operations, but one by one they bowed to economic pressures’ and competition from major, automated breweries. Lancaster’s last beer was brewed at Wacker Brewery, which closed in July 1956, and the remaining unpackaged beer was poured into the sewer, beginning a 39-year interruption of Lancaster’s glorious brewing tradition.
That is, until Lancaster Malt Brewing opened in 1995 in the historic Edward McGovern Tobacco Warehouse on the corner of Walnut and Plum streets, the site where Lancaster Brewing Company operates today. The large, red brick building stands out not only as a beacon of high quality beer for today, but, more importantly, as a reminder of the brewing tradition Lancaster was once so highly regarded.

Lancaster Brewing Company
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