Brewing at Christian's Spring
The history of the Christian’s Spring brewery begins prior to the year 1752, when a 50-foot long by 21-foot wide hewn log structure was built. Maps of Christian’s Spring in 1758 list this building as the “Malt and Brew House as well as Father Rubel’s House.”
A brewery was an indispensable settlement priority in colonial times. Even though drunkenness was condemned, alcohol was considered a natural food and a necessity for life that people of all ages consumed. Ales were most common due to their quick brewing time of only a few days. Fruits such as apples and peaches provided ciders for those who did not have the ingredients for ales. Barley was widely grown and used for the fermentation process. The end product was often weak, 1 to 4% abv.
The Christian’s Spring brewery was well known in the community due to the quality of the water from the spring and the knowledge of their brewers. This combination created a demand that supply could not keep up with. After the Revolutionary War, the Church Elders decided to close the Christian’s Spring brewery. Production was moved to Bethlehem where Church officials had more control over the operation.
Christian Henry Beck was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on July 17, 1757. At the age of eighteen months he was sent to the nursery at Nazareth, located in the Whitefield House. He attended Nazareth Hall and afterward was assigned to apprentice at Christian’s Spring in the shoemaking trade. However, he also gained knowledge in the craft of brewing, and in 1800 he built a personal residence and brewery of his own near Nazareth. Beck was a shoemaker, brewer, businessman, and he was also a musician and a member of the Board of Supervisors for Nazareth. The Nazareth Diaries mentions that on March 26, 1821, Beck’s brewery burned to the ground, but his house and barn, along with the town, was spared due to the winds having died down (Nazareth Diary March 26, 1821).
Other brewers at Christian’s Spring include
Christian Matthiesen (1712-1796) born in Jutland, Denmark also worked as a distiller. Came to Christian’s Spring in 1751.
Michael Ruch II (1727-1797) born in Eckendorf, Alsace. Was at Christian’s Spring from 1755 to 1788.
Christian Steinman (1739-1808) born in Epstein, Germany he worked at the distillery until he left Christian’s Spring in 1785, to become warden at Gnadenthal.
Frederick Vogenitz (1765-1837) born in Salza, Germany came to Christian’s Spring around 1795.
John Vogenitz (1767-1837) born in Salza, Germany.
Matthew Wittke (1749-1803) born in Nazareth, Pennsylvania was a brewer at Christian’s Spring and Bethlehem. During his tenure at Christian’s Spring 1764-1781 or 1783, his knowledge of the craft helped build the brewery’s reputation. He went to Bethlehem to help open the brewery there.
Excerpts from the daybooks:
April 27, 1759: today we finished with sowing the oat. Philip Ranck relieved Brother Michel Ruch in the brewery.
April 30, 1767: From Bethlehem came the brethren George Slein and Horn from Lititz, and with them came also the beer-brewer Miller of Lancaster who had offered himself with some good advice for our brewery.
May 24, 1757:...one cart took beer and wheat to Bethlehm. Brothers Braun and Rapp came from Bethlehem to help do the work in the plantation.
July 25, 1768: today we made wine of currants
August 22 1760: our apple mill and press we have used today for the first time.
February 1, 1768: this night the dear angels averted a particular misfortune from us when in the Malt dryer the inner timber work with the hair clothing, on which the malt is dried, was pretty burned. We were thankful to the Savior that the brewery with the flour mill and saw mill, which are closely together did not catch fire.
October 19, 1764: today we finished our new flour mill so far, that we could make a trial with rough grinding grain. Now there are 3 new built buildings in this year, which we have finished. The saw mill can work when water will be there; in the brewery they are brewing, the flax house got the flax, which was cultivated this year, all under roof.
Inventories of Christian’s Spring moveables (products being taken from Christian’s Spring to elsewhere) in 1762 lists the beverages being made at the brewery. Cider, other spirits, and a beer-wine hybrid yielded over 550 gallons of beverages for the month of May. The Rose Inn and the Nazareth community received the largest amounts of alcohol from Christian’s Spring.
Interpreting the records
A hogshead is a barrel unit of measurement, either imperial or US that is used for alcoholic beverages. In the 1762 inventory of moveables, hogshead is mentioned in regards to measuring cyder (cider). One hogshead would be about 54 gallons of cider.
Inventory in 1762: Im Brau Haus (in the Brew House)
1 Kupferner Brau Kessel - 1 copper brewing barrel
2 Grosse Buetten - 2 big tubs
3 Kuhl Buetten - 3 cool tubs
2 Buetten zum einweichen der Gerste - 2 tubs to soak the barley
1 Buette mit 4 Eisernen Reiten - 1 tub with four iron (undefinable)
9 Faesser zu 40 Gall: jedes - 9 barrels for 40 gall: every
3 Do. zu 37 Gall. Do. - 3 barrels for 37 gall: every
12 Barrell Faesser - 12 barrels
2 Faesser zu 12 Gall. - 2 barrels to 12 gallons
1 Zuber zum Bier im Keller fragen(tragen) - 1 tub asked for beer in the basement
1 Trage Stange mit 2 Ketten - 1 carrying bar with 2 chains
2 Alte Schopp Kubel - 2 old (undefinable) pails
16 Gute Saecke von Zwillich - 16 good sacks made of twine
10 Alte Säcke von Zwillich - 10 old sacks made of twine