Delaware

The father of lager beer in Delaware died penniless and buried in an unmarked grave, but a local beer historian is looking to remedy the situation this weekend. 

A day before the 150th anniversary of Christian Krauch's death turns into the 151st year since his passing, Delaware Beer Historian John Medkeff and Wilmington Brew Works will unveil a memorial to Krauch at his gravesite in the Wilmington & Brandywine Cemetery. 

Krauch, a Bavarian immigrant, arrived in Philadelphia in 1834, brewing there until 1840, when the first lager yeast in the country arrived in that city with the help of fellow Bavarian immigrant John Wagner. 

"Krauch, at some point, must have procured some of the lager yeast, because by the year 1850, he had relocated to Wilmington which, at the time, had a growing population as a result of immigration, particularly in the late 1840s when the wave of German immigrants started coming in," Medkeff said. "Krauch saw the opportunity to bring lager to the state of Delaware, into the city of Wilmington, and while he never made a fortune on lager beer--there's various reasons for that--he did share his lager yeast, and inspired other brewers to take up the mantle--brewers who happened to be much younger than him, and with better resources."

Prior, ale was the drink of the day, gaining popularity when the Swedes landed in the Delaware Valley region in 1638 and remained so through the early 19th century, Medkeff said. But it tended to inconsistent in quality, sludgy at times and brewed in very small batches and a lack of refrigeration meant it didn't travel well. 

"What Krauch brought was a beer that was much different than what the natives here were used to," Medkeff said. "It was a more refreshing beverage...and it tended to go well with the climate. The thirsty workers who were down at the shipyards and rail yards along the Christina River took quite a liking to the refreshing lager beer."

Krauch, for a time, did manage to find his footing in the city of Wilmington, opening up a few locations here over time, constantly moving up to bigger and better things.

"He ran a small sort of a forerunner of today's brew pubs on King Street, along the Christina river, and then moved up. That was starting in 1850, and by the late 1850s, he had moved up King Street to around 3rd, to a more commodious location where he had a hotel, saloon, and small brewery in the back," Medkeff said. "He plied his trade there until after the Civil War, when he moved out to what...is now Brandywine Park, and there he operated a small saloon and a dance pavilion that had a little brewery attached and, not coincidentally, it was only a few blocks away from a new brewery that opened, the Hartmann and Fehrenbach Brewing Company, which owned [the land Krauch was leasing.]"

However, Medkeff said, at least in terms of corporate success, Krauch would ultimately prove to be his "own worst enemy." By the 1860s, lager was being mass produced, Medkeff said, but small operations like Krauch's didn't stand a chance against large-scale breweries at the time. Additionally, Krauch proved to be quite giving. 

"As I mentioned, Krauch never really made a lot of money on lager beer, because his audience was rather small, it being the city of Wilmington, and then there were other small competitors like him. When the large lager beer brewers started...it essentially put the small guys out of business," Medkeff said. "That was pretty much all Krauch knew how to do, was brew beer. And aside from that, he was a little bit of his own worst enemy, in that he was a very benevolent soul. The word is that he gave away most of all that he owned, all of his worldly possessions, to those in need. And as a result, died a very poor man."

He died operating his pavilion and brewery in 1870,  and ultimately ended up in an unmarked gravesite. After discovering the oversight, Medkeff did everything he could to remedy the situation and reached out to Wilmington Brew Works to aid him in his mission. They began raising funds in 2018, hoping to have their efforts wrapped by October 2020 until COVID-19 delayed the project. 

Now, having raised $3,000 for a new monument, Medkeff said they're prepared to unveil the marker on Saturday, October 23, 2021, with a ceremony that will get underway at 11 a.m. Members of the Delaware Saengerbund and Washington Lodge No. 1 Freemasons will be in attendance, both organization of which Krauch was a member. 

"Lager beer, it was the right beverage at the right time, and Krauch introduced it to Delaware. It was inevitable that it was going to happen, but he was the guy that did it. And he was at ground zero when lager arrived in America and was one of the first lager brewers in the country," Medkeff said. "I see Krauch as being a significant--perhaps one of the most significant--figures in Delaware's beer history. He signifies a time when the occupation really changed, and he was key to making that happen...I found Krauch to be one of those forgotten heroes of Delaware."

Source : https://www.wdel.com/news/one-of-those-forgotten-heroes-150-years-later-delaware-lager-pioneer-gets-proper-grave-marker/article_bef3adb4-3298-11ec-a2d0-63c9aa1835a2.html

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