A Day of Beer Making and Open Hearth Cooking

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CAMDEN, N.J. -- Adding to the aura of authenticity of his colonial brewing demonstration at the Camden County Historical Society was the physical countenance of Richard Wagner himself (above, left). In costume, the brewing historian looks like nothing so much as a stern Quaker brew master suddenly stepped out of the mid-18th century. His brewing equipment (above, right) is all handmade, as it would have been in Colonial times.

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At the core of the brewing process are the crops that were a major industry in the surrounding region 250 years ago: hops and barley (above, left). The raw grains of barley must first be malted and then ground before they are used in the beer making process. The left hand above is holding malted barley; in the right hand is ground malted barley.

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Last spring, in preparation for its Colonial Brew Fest event, the Historical Society planted its own hops garden (above, left) and the fast-growing vines quickly enveloped 10-foot-high trellises. The flowing fruit of the hops (above, right) is shaped like a tiny green pine cone. It is dried before it is used as a flavoring and crucial preservative in the brewing process.

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Also part of the Colonial Brew Fest were day-long hearth cooking demonstrations and presentations on tavern cooking in Pomona Hall's large 18th-century kitchen. In the foreground, above, left, Mercy Ingraham of the Historic Foodways Society of the Delaware Valley prepares part of the day's cuisine while Margaret Marks, the Society's Education Coordinator, stokes the fire in the background. Included on the day's menu were roasted pumpkin, sweet potatoes and "chicken on a string," so called because it is suspended on a string that twirls slowly as it cooks.

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The visiting crowd was able to get further into the spirt of beer history with specialty beer samples (above, left) provided by the Flying Fish Brewing Co. of Cherry Hill and Yards Brewing Co. of Philadelphia. The selections included OktoberFish from Flying Fish, a harvest season brew, and Yards' line of historic ales based on the family brewing recipes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Above, right, Richard Wagner with his wife and brewster, Anna Wagner, enjoyed a bit of the modern brew as they cooked up their own historical batch.

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Camden County Historical Society Website