Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (2024)

Behind every beer, there is a good story. Behind every Lehigh Valley brewery, there are volumes of history — and lessons to learn.

In 2015, The Morning Call’s annual Outlook business section examined the region’s beverage industry, and reporter Frank Warner constructed an insightful piece about our beer-making community roots. Brewing has always played an essential role in the growth of our cities, towns and neighborhoods. We’re still tapping into this valuable and delicious local resource.

With the introduction of the Lost Tavern taproom at the historic Moravian Book Shop, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed reading and learning (in Warner’s piece) about how Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton were built up, in large part, by beer — and how beer continues to bring us together.

If you missed the story the first time around, here are a few fascinating bits of Lehigh Valley beer research to pour over.

Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (1)

Lehigh Valley brewing history

By Frank Warner of The Morning Call, March 2015

In the color, clarity, smell and taste of each Lehigh Valley beer, you can sense its place in the centuries-long journey from ales to lagers to today’s experimental brews.

There’s the taste of the bygone big breweries in Bethlehem, Easton and Allentown. And there are the flavors, nurtured over the last 20 years, of the region’s active craft brewers.

In this region, beer-making’s time began in the mid-1700s when the Moravians built breweries in the Bethlehem-Nazareth area. Easton saw its first breweries in the 1820s and Allentown began brewing beer in the 1840s.

But the local industry that grew for two centuries sputtered between the 1950s and 1970s, when a few dozen giant breweries took control of the American beer market.

Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (2)

All that changed in the 1990s, when the smaller-scale brewing that blossomed in California in the 1980s inspired craft breweries in Easton and Bethlehem. Allentown would not be far behind.

In 1995, Dan and Sue Weirback founded Weyerbacher Brewing, a craft brewery on South Sixth Street in Easton. In 1998, the Fegley family opened the Brew Works in the old Orr’s building at 569 Main St. in Bethlehem.

It was the second birth of beer brewing in the Lehigh Valley.

The first birth was in 1749, when German-speaking Moravians constructed a brewery in a stone building in the village of Christiansbrunn, or Christian’s Spring, a half-mile west of Nazareth.

Christian Mathiesen, a Denmark-born brewer, ran the brewery until it closed in 1796.

Meanwhile, in 1781, the Moravians started up a brewery behind the Single Brethren’s House at Main and Church streets in Bethlehem. In 1803, it hired its most famous brewmaster, Johann Sebastian Goundie.

Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (3)

The brewery at the Single Brethren’s House was closed in 1812, on Goundie’s recommendation, and a new one opened near Goundie’s house closer to Bethlehem’s Monocacy Creek.

Goundie also helped take beer-making to Easton. In 1821, Frederick Seitz Sr. and Goundie, who was Seitz’s cousin, built the Seitz brewery in a wheat field at Second and Spring Garden streets, near the Delaware River.

Six years later, Goundie became Bethlehem’s first mayor.

Goundie represented the end of the ale era, during which the relatively simple brew was the Lehigh Valley’s only beer. Goundie died in 1845.

Until the 1840smost immigrants from England, Germany and the rest of northern Europe knew no beer but ale.

But by the 1850s, German and Danish breweries were shifting to lager, a beer style that took much more cold-storage time than ale to ferment and condition, but quickly was gaining popularity.

Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (4)

Then a new wave of German immigrants to the Lehigh Valley brought lager’s secrets with them.

The Lieberman Brewery became Allentown’s first large-scale brewery in 1845 when William Oberly opened it at Sixth and Union streets. The brewery started with English-style ales, but within 10 years it would have been producing lager.

Willibald Kuebler and Charles Glantz opened the Kuebler brewery on South Delaware Drive in Easton in 1852. They dug storage caves into the bank of the Delaware River and started brewing lager.

In winter, they’d cut ice from the river and haul it into the caves.They’d lower kegs of beer down there and keep them cold.

As demand for beer increased, saloon owner John Schilling started a brewery in Bethlehem in 1856. Matthias Uhl bought it a few years later and, after modernizing its operations, the Uhl brewery on Monocacy Creek was going strong.

The breweries of the late 19th century Industrial Age were innovating constantly. Their methods — refrigeration and mass production, for example — often were imitated by other manufacturers.

Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (5)

In 1883, the Seitz Brewery in Easton was the first in Pennsylvania to put its beer in its own bottles. From the brewery building, underground pipes pumped beer under a street to the bottling department.

In Allentown, Frederick Horlacher started one of the region’s larger breweries at Third and Gordon streets in 1897, a decade after he bought a smaller brewery at Fourth and Hamilton streets.

Also in Allentown, Neuweiler’s Brewery was the region’s most stylish beer-making factory when Louis Neuweiler and his son Charles opened it at Front and Gordon streets in 1913, two years before the city’s aging Lieberman Brewery closed.

Neuweiler’s six-story brewhouse of red brick was built with a big concrete letter “N” on its front wall and an elegant cupola of copper and glass at the top.

Prohibition, which went into effect in 1920, put most breweries out of business for 13 years, but a few struggled through by making more soft drinks while others sold illegal beer to the speakeasies and smugglers.

Beer-makers celebrated the end of Prohibition. Even with the Depression, beer demand was high, but breweries had to be clever marketers if they were to survive.

Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (6)

In the 1930s and ’40s, Horlacher’s Brewery was guided by legendary brewmaster Charles E. Lieberman. The brewery was popular for its Nine Months Old “Perfection Beer” ale, specially aged to withstand long-distance deliveries, and its Nine Months Old lager.

Neuweiler brewed lager, ale and porter, and was one of the city’s biggest employers before it hit hard times in the 1960s.

The Seitz brewery and Uhl brewery closed in 1941. The Kuebler brewery shut down in 1953, followed by Neuweiler’s in 1968 and Horlacher’s in 1978.

As Anheuser-Busch, Schlitz, Pabst, Coors, Miller, F&M Schaefer and a few other national companies cornered the beer market, the old Lehigh Valley breweries became warehouses, ruins and empty lots.

Schaefer opened a major brewery in the Breinigsville area of Upper Macungie Township in 1970. The region’s large, independent breweries were no more. As competition withered, beer lovers had fewer choices in the 1970s and ’80s.

Lentz’s Beers From Around the World in Allentown was about the only place in the Lehigh Valley you could get other beers, German beers, French beers, Belgian beers, English beers, Canadian beers. Lentz’s was a beer house on 11th Street.

The craft brewers eventually filled the demand for special beers. Craft breweries generally are defined as those that produce no more than 6 million barrels of beer each year, and usually a lot less.

Even D.G. Yuengling & Son in Pottsville, America’s oldest brewery, is considered a craft brewery because it makes just 2.5 million barrels a year. By contrast, “King of Beers” Anheuser-Busch brews 125 million barrels annually.

Following the example of Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco and the Long Trail Brewery in Vermont, craft brewers for two decades have been popping up throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (7)

Weyerbacher Brewing in Easton and Fegley’s Bethlehem Brew Works led the way. Both have experimented with beers that cater to sophisticated tastes.

Weyerbacher develops its beers with a similar sense of fun.

“We’re a brewery where there’s really no rules,” Renae Gornick of the Weyerbacher visitors center said earlier this year. “We use English ingredients. We brew Belgian-style beers with German names. There really are no limitations here.”

Among the popular Weyerbacher beers are Raspberry Imperial Stout, Blithering Idiot Barleywine and Merry Monks ale.

Since Weyerbacher and the Brew Works blazed the craft-beer trail in the Lehigh Valley, others have followed.

Weyerbacher moved to 905 Line St. on Easton’s South Side in 2001 to expand its beer-making. Brew Works added the Allentown Brew Works at 812 Hamilton St. in 2007.

In 2008, Boston Beer bought the former Schaefer’s brewery in Breinigsville to make Boston’s Samuel Adams beer. The brewery is a sprawling complex near Interstate 78, but because it is Boston Beer’s only plant that big, technically it is a craft brewer, too.

More recently, Two Rivers Brewing opened a brewpub at 542 Northampton St., Easton, and it soon will be making beer. Last year, HiJinx Brewing began operations at 905 Harrison St. in Allentown, and Funk Brewing opened at 19 S. Sixth St. in Emmaus.

And last year, Ruckus Brewing Co. of New York bought the gutted yet graceful Neuweiler’s complex in Allentown with plans to reopen it as a small brewery, possibly combined with retail stores.

The Lehigh Valley is not a crowded market, but its creative group of brewers gives the region a wide choice of locally made ales, porters, stouts and beers.

With all the new beers flowing here, it’s easier than ever to drink a toast to local pride.

This story originally appeared in The Morning Call in March, 2015.

Editor’s note: Since this article was published in March 2015the following ten breweries/taprooms have opened in the Lehigh Valley.

Bonn Place Brewing Company, Bethlehem

Separatist Beer Project (formerly Sole), Easton

Yergey Brewing, Emmaus

Cave Brewing Company taproom, Allentown

Lost Tavern Brewing, Hellertown

McCall Collective Brewing, Allentown

Sage Alley Brewery & Grille, Coopersburg

Hop Hill Brewing, Bethlehem

Taylor House Brewing, Catasauqua

Pocono Brewing taproom, Allentown

Seven Sirens, Bethlehem

Birthright Brewing, Nazareth

Morning Call Arts & Entertainment Editor Craig Larimer can be reached at 610-778-7993 or at clarimer@mcall.com


Beer goggles: A sneak peek inside Lost Tavern’s taproom and Dave’s Deli at Moravian Book Shop

Lehigh Valley Beer history pours from these storied breweries (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Nicola Considine CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 5243

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Nicola Considine CPA

Birthday: 1993-02-26

Address: 3809 Clinton Inlet, East Aleisha, UT 46318-2392

Phone: +2681424145499

Job: Government Technician

Hobby: Calligraphy, Lego building, Worldbuilding, Shooting, Bird watching, Shopping, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Nicola Considine CPA, I am a determined, witty, powerful, brainy, open, smiling, proud person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.