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Morning Call: Old-school beer makers return to Blueberry Festival: See how Bethlehem Moravians brewed 275 years ago

July 7th, 2021 |

If you enjoy a good beer as much as a good story, mark your calendar for July 17-18 and join me at Bethlehem’s Blueberry Festival.

I’ll be brewing and talking about Lehigh Valley beer history at the scenic Burnside Plantation with friends as we demonstrate how the frothy stuff was made around here 275 years ago.

If you don’t know, Burnside Plantation is Bethlehem’s beautiful 6.5-acre historic farm located along Monocacy Creek, just west of Moravian University at the intersection of Schoenersville Rd. and Elizabeth Ave.

It’s always a sunny event, and there are plenty of shady spots, occasional summer breezes and cold beverages to chill down with — including delicious beers from Cave Brewing, Lost Tavern and McCall Collective.

We will be boiling (over a wood fire), mashing, mixing, and toasting 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday right next to the Blueberry Brewery Tasting Tent. You can’t miss our smoke signals.

Visitors are welcome to stop by our colonial beermaking operation to say hello to our brew crew including Johan Sundlof and Jerry Peters. Our working exhibition will raise a few eyebrows, a few questions, and probably a few glasses.

A large banner bearing the name Johann Sebastian Goundie will be flying above our shady canopy. We refer to Goundie as the father of beer-making in Bethlehem. He was The Christmas City’s first brewer and became the town’s first mayor.

In 1803, Goundie arrived from Baden, Germany, and settled in Bethlehem to make beer for the Moravian community and the city’s visitors. Goundie was also a prominent leader, crafty businessman, and innovative civic leader.

As we’ve been doing for years, we’ll be wearing colorful colonial costumes to honor Goudie and his methods as we tell the story of how beer was made long ago in Bethlehem.

This year, we are making 10 gallons of “Burnside Amber Ale.” The flavor and style profile we’re planning resembles Rogue’s “American Amber” and Troegs’ “Nugget Nectar,” but perhaps not as hoppy as the latter.

The target alcohol by volume (ABV) is about 7%.

It will be rich and flavorful, but not quite as dark and malty as a brown ale. It will include noticeable hop characteristics, but we’re shooting for something less bitter than a typical west coast IPA.

We’ll be using a combination of Maris Otter, British Crystal and Munich malts for a healthy dose of bread, toffee, and caramel tastes and a backdrop for the hops — featuring Citra, Amarillo and Equinox varieties.

The idea is to enjoy it in a few weeks — over the sounds of Musikfest.

The brewing process involves several precise steps. You can watch us mill the barley grain, mash into a kettle (tun), cook, taste the pre-beer wort, boil, drop hops, cool the concoction and put the ale into fermenters for aging.

Though we’ll be brewing all weekend, we will not be serving beer or drinks at this event. We’ll leave that to the capable, talented and welcoming folks at the neighboring Blueberry Brewery Tent — where you can sample fantastic local flavors from local breweries, wineries and distillers.

As we like to say, Blueberry Festival may be the sweetest festival of the summer, but for us, it’s also the sweatiest festival of the summer. The cold beverages certainly help.

The weekend event is always a fantastic experience that we look forward to each year. Join us on Saturday or Sunday, or both days, and let’s raise a glass together in celebration of Lehigh Valley beer history.


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