Photos by Will Marks
We spoke with Wacker Brewing Company’s owner, Bryan Kepner, head brewer, Michael Spychalski, and business development manager, James Bollinger, about the history of brewing beer in Lancaster county and the benefits of taking their delicious brews right to your home in their growlers.
Wacker Brewing Company shares space with Andrew Martin’s Thistle Finch Distillery in their rustic warehouse-like building on West Grant Street in downtown Lancaster. Every beer you taste has been created directly below you in the basement of the facility. Wacker brand beers are only distributed within Lancaster County, and with purpose. Wacker’s goal is to maintain the rich heritage of the city and to serve their local community first and foremost.
HISTORY OF BREWING IN LANCASTER
Every time you learn something new, a wrinkle forms in your brain. Bryan Kepner, the owner of Wacker Brewing Company, created a wrinkle in my noggin! Did you know that our city of Lancaster has quite a rich history in brewing beer? I certainly didn’t.
Four breweries existed labeled “The Big Four.” Rieker, Sprenger, Haefner, and, last but not least, Wacker were the four main German breweries before the Prohibition in Lancaster. Taken together, the breweries of Lancaster County produced enough beer to equal seven percent of the entire United States’ consumption, right from our very own city. Of the four of these, Wacker is the oldest and longest running brewery in Lancaster. “Back then, breweries took up entire city blocks,” Bryan explains. Bryan is a wealth of information; it’s almost as if he lived and worked in the brewery when it first existed in the mid-1800s.
To give you a perspective of just how much beer was produced in such an early time, results in 2009 show that an average of 20,000 barrels of beer were produced annually in the county. However, results from pre-Prohibition reveal that 200,000 barrels of beer were produced between The Big Four we produced just seven years ago! Lancaster was even termed “The Munich of the United States.”
THREE REASONS WHY GROWLERS RULE:
1. They are eco-friendly.
Growlers are made of washable, reusable glass, and therefore produce much less waste than aluminum cans or a case of glass bottles tossed aside in the recycling bin.
2. You are buying locally.
By purchasing local beer, you are supporting local small businesses. Wacker Brewing Company does not currently distribute their product outside of Lancaster County. It is very important to Bryan to support and maintain Lancaster’s rich heritage and distinct beerbrewing history.
3. You take home the freshest beer.
Wacker beers are manufactured directly in the basement of the facility. By taking home a growler of their beer, you are purchasing a product with a shelflife of just seven days. This allows your tastebuds to consume the freshest possible beer.
Wacker Brewing Company aims to maintain the authentic roots planted in Lancaster and to tell its history in the brewing industry. If you’ve never been to Wacker Brewing Company, Bryan recommends you order a flight so you can sample several choices.
HISTORY OF THE GROWLER:
Rumor has it that the term “growler” was actually coined back in the 1800s. Freshly brewed beer was primarily transported in small metal pails from pub to home. As the beverage splashed around in the galvanized container, carbon dioxide escaped, thus creating a “growling” noise.
How to wash a growler:
Michael suggests washing your glass container in very hot water three times. No detergents, no soaps. Keep it simple. Keep it hot (very hot). When drying, leave the cap off. Then bring in and refresh your stock!
How long does beer last in a growler?
Wacker purges their growlers with carbon dioxide when refilling. The benefit of this process is that your beer, which would normally last for just five days, will now last for seven. Once open, it is highly suggested that you drink its contents within 48 hours. (Well, that won’t be difficult. Now will it?What if my beer goes flat?
What if my beer goes flat?
Cook with it! Flat beer can be used when braising meat, or pour a cup of flat beer into your next batch of chili for added layers of flavor.