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Lehigh Valley Live: Brew Works crafting Bethlehem’s anniversary ale

February 19th, 2016 |

February 18, 2016 | In The News

Written by Sara K. Satullo for Lehigh Valley Live

Bethlehem will have its very own celebration ale to commemorate its 275th anniversary.

Beer historian Christopher Bowen and Fegley’s Brew Works brew master Beau Baden joined forces to develop Goundie’s Old Monocacy Ale, a brew derived from an 1815 brewing recipe.

“It is going to help celebrate the 275 years of Bethlehem and its brewing history,” Bowen said.

Thursday morning Bowen and Baden began crafting the special beer, which is expected to be released in mid-April.

“It’ll come through once and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” Baden explained.
The ale will be on tap at the Allentown and Bethlehem Brew Works locations. It’ll also be sold by the bottle in commemorative packaging that includes a Moravain star necklace.
“It’s really a collector’s item,” Bowen said.

The malty, deep amber ale is made with authentic ingredients and a special brewing sugar, known as Essentia Bina.

To create the molasses-like sugar, Bowen boiled it over an open fire for three-and-a-half hours and then placed it into an aging barrel.The process gives the sugar a smokiness and heat, Bowen, a city resident, explained.
It is added to the beer about three hours into the roughly seven-hour brewing process. The resulting ale will have an alcohol content of about 8.5 percent to 9 percent putting it in the celebration beer category, Bowen explained.
Nineteenth century Moravians drank low-alcohol-content small beer with breakfast and lunch, which Bowen calls the soda of the day, and table beer. Celebration beer was used on special occasions and had a higher alcohol content because it needed to travel well, he said.
Moravian records show that the elders kept the celebration beer for themselves, Bowen said.
While most don’t think of stern Moravians as big drinkers, Bowen says that alcohol played a major role in daily life.

“They demanded a quality brewer to help establish their community,” Bowen said. “Men, women and children drank beer every day.”

That is how Johann Sebastian Goundie came to the Moravian settlement in 1803. He was the brewer for 30 years.
Goundie went on to be a major civic leader until his death in 1852. His home is now a historic site on Main Street in the city.
“He was one of the most influential people in Bethlehem at that time,” Bowen said.
Bowen does not have any of Goundie’s recipes but he does have copies of his inventory and brewing records, showing who bought what beer.
Goundie’s Old Monocacy Ale is derived from a recipe from Joseph Coppinger’s 1815 brewing book. Before the invasion of European lager, old ales were the typical beer drank in American from 1750 until the 1850s, Bowen said.

Bowen brought the recipe to Baden, who then figured out how to scale it up for large-scale production.

“That is some of the beauty of an expert brewer,” Bowen said of his collaborator.
Brew Works did make a small-scale batch of the old ale in 2009 but this round of production is much larger, Baden said. As a local brewery, Brew Works is thrilled to to help celebrate the city’s history, he said.
“We get to make an awesome beer and people get to try this historic recipe,” Baden said.
Bowen hopes the beer will be served at upcoming events celebrating the city’s 275th year, like the April gala at Hotel Bethlehem.
“Residents can hold one up and cheers,” he said.
Bowen’s curated a Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites’ exhibit “Bethlehem Brewed & Distilled.” It can be seen in the 1810 Goundie House on Main Street.

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