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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Sunday, January 23, 2022

#4453 - Bube's Brewery, Mount Joy, PA - 1/9/2022

The smaller portion of Bube's Brewery at night
On the evening of January 9, 2022, while visiting some of the oldest bars in the state of Pennsylvania, I experienced one of the most extraordinary bar visits of my life at Bube's ("BOO-bees") Brewery, in Mount Joy, PA. Noting my astonished look, staff member Jeanbean volunteered to give me a personal tour. I really had no idea what the property contained, so I was continually stunned by the varied and beautiful features of the place. Down, down we went into the beer aging caves, past the "Catacombs" fine dining restaurant and the 2,000 gallon wooden barrels, to an eventual depth some 43 feet below the surface; then back up through the old cooper's shed, with its crammed museum of old beer-making artifacts; and further up to into the saloon room of the Victorian hotel, with its beautiful back bar, dazzling antique lamps, and other vintage appointments; then further through various group dining rooms, each with a unique and resplendent decor; and finally back down to the old Bottle Works room, now the main bar, where I sampled their brew and had a fine conversation with bartender Cory.

Constructed and founded as a brewery by Philip Frank in 1859, the operation was purchased by Bavarian trained employee Alois Bube in 1878, who went on to ambitiously expand it.

"In 1889 Bube (locals pronounced the name "BOObee") received financial backing from Philip Frank, the owner of a large malting operation across the street from the brewery. The brewery was expanded by digging large vaults throughout the property, on top of which a larger brewery was erected, as was the Central Hotel. Even after the expansion the brewery was not a large one, but it employed the most modern methods and was well equipped. Bube produced Pilsener and Bavarian beer, as well as ale and soft drinks.

Unfortunately, after Bube's death in 1908, the brewery was not as successful. The family tried to run the business, but sold it in 1914 to a Swedish brewer named John Hallgren. Hallgren's product was much lighter than Bube's and it never caught on with local tastes. A coal shortage in 1917, impending prohibition, and poor business conditions forced Hallgren to sell the brewery. In 1920 Henry Engle, son-in-law of Alois Bube, took over the property and operated the Central Hotel. Allen explained that during prohibition the brewery was used primarily as an ice plant, although he has heard rumours about some bootlegging, "nothing big like in Columbia or Lancaster."  (pabreweryhistorians
Bube's Brewery, Mount Joy, PA

The amazing, museum-like vintage qualities of the place are explained by its usage -- and lack thereof -- over the half century following the advent of prohibition:

"Lancaster County, Pennsylvania: At the time, it was known as the “Munich of the New World” due to its thriving German beer scene. Over the years, Bube built his establishment into a beer behemoth, with a labyrinthine premises including a bar, the “catacombs,” and an inn that featured the town’s first flushing toilet. The brewery, like other such establishments, was shut down during Prohibition, but by that time the family had become so wealthy that Bube’s descendants were able to keep the building, which remained untouched until 1968, when they remodeled and reopened."  (

Bube's Brewery, Mount Joy, PA

Thus, as if preserved in amber, the brewery and sumptuous Victorian hotel waited until 2001 to be reopened to the public after many continuing restoration and preparations by current owner Sam Allen, who purchased it in 1982.
'Sam Allen is a 1980 graduate of Penn State with a degree in business and psychology and some experience in theatre. I asked Allen how a college graduate with no money began his career by buying an old brewery-turned-tourist attraction. He said he always has been interested in "antique architecture," old buildings, as well as caves and catacombs. In addition, he spent some time in Koln, West Germany, in an exchange program and toured the Kuppers Brewery where Kolsch beer is made.'

'Following graduation his father started showing him the sales end of real estate and insurance, the family business. As part of his training, Allen helped his father show Bube's Brewery to some clients. "It was love at first sight," he explained. "I was hoping they wouldn't buy it." Later, when he expressed his interest in buying his father would not hear of it, much less help finance such a venture. His father tried in vain to drum some sense into him, explaining the economic facts of life. Allen persisted however, and got a summer job as a tour guide at Bube's Brewery. The place was still up for sale when Allen made his offer to Gingrich (owner). Allen said he would manage the business in exchange for room, board, a small salary and an option to buy.'

My tour host Jeanbean, Bube's Brewery
'He began by giving tours and gradually made some changes. The bar in the Central Hotel was small, so Allen opened the area known as "The Bottle Shop" and constructed a bar, installed tables and sold food so that visitors could top off their tour with refreshments. He worked on the catacombs and eventually opened a restaurant there. Due to the 'cave temperatures' he installed kerosene heaters for winter diners. He reworked the museum and eventually opened a "biergarten" out back. He is in the process of expanding the patio. Bube's giant steam boiler is now surrounded by tables.'   (pabreweryhistorians
While I was there there was a small film crew also wandering through, working on a project that wasn't quite clear. There is a live music stage in the Bottle Works bar, and the hotel hosts murder mystery events, in addition to ghost tours, various period-themed feasts, karaoke, and "a local rendition of Mystery Science Theatre 3000." I know little else of the small borough of Mount Joy, 2.4 square miles and a population around 8,000 people there in southeast Pennsylvania. But for anyone who loves beer, old bars, and/or simply American history, this is a must-visit location.


102 N Market St, Mount Joy, PA 17552 - (717) 653-2056
Est. 1876 (Bube's), 1859 brewery, 2001 post-prohibition opening - Building constructed: 1859
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Articles ranked: onlyinyourstate - atlasobscurapabreweryhistorians - ydkwashingtonpost - national register of historic places - theburgnews - yelp - tripadvisor - hpstrustwikipedia - instagram - discoverlancaster 

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