Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stuart's Musing- Creating the Brewery at the Museum

Recently I had the pleasure to interview Stuart Bolger, Director Emeritus of the Genesee Country Village & Museum. The content of our discussion will be the subject of a number of posts in the upcoming weeks.

Stuart is a fascinating man, hired in 1966 by Jack Wehle, the founder of the museum, to lead the creation of the village. He was educated at both the University of Rochester and Harvard, served in the Marine Corps in the Pacific in WWII and spent 8 years in the restoration of 18th century Moravian buildings in Pennsylvania before beginning his nearly 45 years at the museum!

Each week he regales staff members with excerpts from The Genesee Farmer or what's come to be known as "Stuarts Musings," short paragraphs about local history, the museum or both!

As we approach the grand re-opening of our brewery, Stuart remembers back to the creation of the building back in the 1970's!

Let the lager flow!

With preparations ongoing to convert the Museum’s Brewery from an interesting exhibit to a functioning facility, we might briefly review how it all came about.

By the mid-1970s the Village layout included a church, a schoolhouse, a store, an inn, and a blacksmith shop—features common to any hamlet worth its salt—plus half a dozen tradesmen’s shops and offices for two important professionals, the doctor and the lawyer. But no brewery.

A brewery! Why not? Well, both Mumford and Caledonia boasted breweries early on. However no trace remained of either for us to rescue and haul in. But we discovered an account of one in Geneva. In 1803, Lord Selkirk was checking out industries in the young nation. The observant Briton left a sketch and a detailed description of Hall’s brewery.

This evidence was good enough for the Museum’s founder, who himself knew something about the brewing industry.
There was an obsolete brewing kettle moldering away at his plant on St. Paul Street. An abandoned house near West Bloomfield provided hewn framing timbers; planks from a dismantled house on Clinton Avenue; and building stones from what was left of the Enright Brewery on Water Street in downtown Rochester.

These were knit together to form a convincing replica of an early 19th Century brewhouse. A masonry furnace was built to heat the old brew kettle.
Alfonso Lang, chief cooper at the Genesee Brewing Company, fashioned wooden mash tuns, wooden troughs, fermenters, casks, cooling ships, and wooden tools to agitate the mash. Huge hogsheads (the oversize barrels which Louis Wehle long ago had imported from the old country) rested on racks on the ground floor, representing aging vessels for the finished product. Half and quarter size beer barrels were stacked nearby. On the main floor was the brewmaster’s office, but he never brewed any beer. Now that is about to change.

A fire in 1988 burned everything of wood above the ground floor. It was quickly rebuilt. Timbers were drawn from the Museum’s stockpile, wood sheathing and planks were donated by the Yansic Lumber Company in Arcade, and carpenter Bob VanHoute rebuilt the brew house. (The furnace and brew kettle had survived.). There was no Alfonso to replace the wooden equipage. A cooper in Rushville, NY, who worked for the Finger Lakes wineries, spent several weeks reproducing the fire-destroyed reproductions.

Note, we now have village coopers who have provided many barrels for our current brewery.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing. What temp is his fermentation? How long does he let it ferment? Does it do a secondary fermentation or take it straight from there? A really traditional feel and gentle brewing.