Here Comes the Hohenadel Beer Project

This October, Hohenadel House is going back to its roots! There won’t be horse-drawn carriages or gas lamps in the streets, but we’re bringing back the best of that old world: classic Bavarian lager beer that made the Falls famous. Oh, and we figure an old time orchestra sound by the Falls’ own Frank Sinatra, sung in the Hohenadel ballroom, wouldn’t hurt either.

Goal: To brew a pre-prohibition lager that will approximate those brewed in the 1870s. The lager will accompany a Harry Prime performance at the Hohenadel House in late October.

Brewer: Tom Coughlin, competitive homebrewer and train travel aficionado. He brews historical lagers twice a year for historical societies.

Recipe: An adjunct lager recipe influenced by Anton Schwarz from the “American Handy Book of The Brewing, Malting, and Auxiliary Trades” by Robert Wahl and Max Henius (1902).

Tom's well-used copy of the home brewer's Bible.
Tom’s well-used copy of the home brewer’s Bible.

Schwarz in considered the father of raw cereal brewing in the United States. He taught American brewers that the only way to create an American version of Bohemian lager using six-row barley was by mixing either rice or white corn (less oily than yellow varieties) into the barley mash. These grains absorbed excess proteins and created a flavorful light-colored beer with a foamy head.

Yeast: A Wyeast California Lager strain that will approximate the yeast available to 19th century brewers. Tom believes the yeast will also ferment well in the temperatures present in his basement.

Hops: The recipe contains no reference to hop varieties or hopping rates. Tom is searching for a suitable modern hop. He’s considering the following varieties: Northern Brewer, Nugget, or Cluster.  We’ve contacted historical brewing legend Rich Wagner for his suggestions.

UPDATE 6/17: Tom emailed to say he’ll be going with Cluster hops (with some German hops). Cluster hops have been out of favor for decades (owing to the  popularity of Cascade hops), but it is perfect for a throwback event at Hohenadel because Cluster was America’s first great hop. Cluster resulted from crossing English (and possibly Dutch) hops with local American varieties during the 18th century (approximately). By the turn of the 20th century, nearly every hop grown in the United States was Cluster (96%). Read more here.

Water: Tom plans to use water filtered by reverse osmosis. Philadelphia tap water, he said, “is not good” for homebrewing.

(He could have been referring to this “Pharmawater” report by the Associated Press in 2010 in which 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts had been detected in Philadelphia’s drinking water.)

Water additives: Because reverse osmosis removes valuable minerals from water and makes it extremely “soft” by removing ions, Tom is determining what levels of calcium chloride and yeast food he will add to the water.

Brewing timeline: Tom will be brewing a “pilot batch” the week of June 16 in order to produce a large quantity of yeast for the historical lager. Brewing of that lager to start on Friday July 11. The brew will take 3 weeks to ferment and four weeks to age in Tom’s basement. The lager can be stored for as long as 5 to 6 months.

Amount: Goal is to brew 15 gallons (triple batch).

Storage: 5 gallon corney kegs.

Cost: $100 for malt, $25 for yeast, and $25 for hops.

We’ll follow Tom’s exploits as he brews the beer, capturing every twist and turn in the brewing process while trying not to get in his way with our cameras and notebooks. Yes, we love homebrew and respect the love and the art of it, but we’re a hazard in a brewing kitchen.

Check back too for updates on the menu by our Chef de Cuisine and owner of Epicure Cafe, Tom Leschak.

7 thoughts on “Here Comes the Hohenadel Beer Project

  1. Yes indeed. Beer and history! Attended “pilot batch” brewing yesterday with superbrewer Tom Coughlin. I’ll be posting about that soon. We’ll let you know as soon as tix go on sale. Can’t let down our first fan/subscriber!

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