Wyck Brew is Best

Wyck has an impressive history of brewing. Reuben Haines “the Elder,” owner of Wyck House in the late 1700s, opened a brewery in Philadelphia called “Haines and Sons.” This was moved to Germantown in 1794 after the Yellow Fever Epidemic, and then became the Germantown Brewery when Caspar Wistar Haines inherited the business. Haines’ brewery was well known in Philadelphia. George Washington visited the establishment and ventured to sell Haines barley for his brew. Haines was a prolific brewer in the late 1700s, and in 1788 he led a parade of brewery men in a commemorative procession of the US Constitution, holding banners that proclaimed “Proper Drinks for Americans” and “Home Brewed is Best.” These slogans stem from an American belief in supporting American industry by not buying imported goods. In 1789 Massachusetts passed an act which encouraged citizens to manufacture and buy American beer and ale, further displaying American pride in their own industry. Reuben Haines I continued to run the brewery in Philadelphia until 1793, when he died of Yellow Fever.

Germantown Brewery Sign
Germantown Brewery Sign, ca 1800. Photo Credit: Victoria Mueller

Caspar Wistar Haines, the son of Reuben Haines, continued in the family brewing business, opening up the brewery that sat on Walnut Lane and Germantown Avenue, called Germantown Brewery. A ledger of the Germantown brewery between 1794 and 1801 lists a total of 425 customers or suppliers of the brewery, many of whom were local. The Direct Tax List of 1798 helps identify the dimensions of the Germantown Brewery; the malt house and kiln were the largest structures, with the Brewhouse being almost half its length. Both houses were stone. A sign remains from the brewery with both German and English wording, welcoming customers. The faded sign reads “Germantown Brewery” and underneath that “Germantauner Braüerrey.”

Wyck Mashing Oar, ca 1793. Photo Credit: Victoria Mueller

The Germantown Brewery was not owned by the Haines’ throughout its entire history. In 1801, after Caspar Wistar Haines’ death, the brewery was leased to Thomas Hadley, who then ran the brewery until he passed away in 1840. The family at Wyck decided to shut down the brewery afterwards for a plethora of reasons, including the commonality of temperance societies, the decrease in beer consumption, and the miniscule income from the brewery. Though the family’s hands-on approach to brewing ended at the very beginning of the 19th century, the significance of the Wyck breweries live on in the stories told at the house today.

On display in the house is a mashing oar, which was used in the Germantown Brewery to mash the malt in order to make wort. Wort was the substance that the hops would be added to, and then the liquid would be fermented. Also in the Wyck collection is a hydrometer which would have been used in the brewery. A hydrometer is a device used to measure the alcohol content of one’s brew. Wyck is furthermore in possession of a volume scale, which allows one to weight their brew. Tools similar to these are still used in brewing today.

Today Americans can get any type of beer their heart desires; what isn’t brewed at home can easily be imported. But when America had just won her independence, when all the citizens of the new nation wanted to promote home businesses and import as little as possible, American brews were the norm. There was no Weiss beer or pale ale category, but Americans still had a list of brews to try; elderberry beer, wormwood ale, strong beer, china ale, treacle beer, small beer, and porters being some of the most common. Cost wise, a gallon of strong beer from a public house would have cost about fifty cents, while a gallon of small beer would have cost eighteen. Hops and malt are some of the most important ingredients in beer, and a bushel of malt would cost a dollar, while a pound of hops would cost twenty cents. According to the Family Brewer, most people usually only used a third of a pound of hops to make a gallon of beer.


Wyck has a grand history, full of interesting people and ideas. The brewery is only a small part of that history, but a part that the family and those at Wyck are immensely proud of.





Works Cited

Baron, Stanley. Brewed in America: A History of Beer and Ale in the United States. Little, Brown and Company, 1962. Boston.

Cantwell, Dick. “Brewing in Colonial America”. Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine. Unfiltered Media Group, LLC, 2017. Web. <https://beerandbrewing.com/dictionary/yPV4Boo9uC/brewing-in-colonial-america/>

“Customers of the Haines’ Brewery 1794-1801.” Brewery. Box Number. Wyck Association Archives.

“Daybooks and ledgers of Reuben haines, 1814-1824.” Page 165. Wyck Association Archives.

Gaves, B. “The Complete Family Brewer or the best method for brewing or making any quantity of good strong ale and strong beer.” Philadelphia, 1805.

“Germantown Brewery Ledger.” Brewing. “box Name”. Wyck Association Archives.

“History of American Beer”. Beeradvocate. Web. 2003.   <http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/101/history_american_beer.php.>

“References to the Haines’ Brewery.” Page 197. Wyck Association Archives.