Bube's Brewery keeps beer-making and ghosts in Lancaster County
Hundreds of German immigrants opened breweries in their American communities during the 19th century. In many cases, the brewmaster and his family lived in a hotel or boardinghouse beside the brewery and served meals to travelers.
Some famous beer brands started this way. Do the names Coors, Miller and Busch ring a bell?
Most brewers disappeared during Prohibition or modernization, rendering the small-town hotel/brewery business model obsolete. Only one such enterprise remains in America, and it has been fascinating visitors for decades: Bube's Brewery, 102 N. Market St., Mount Joy.
Bube's Brewery offers fine and casual dining, entertainment, a micro-brewery and a hotel. Owner Sam Allen (since 1982) and his staff use the latest technology and offer an array food choices, but otherwise the business has changed very little in 130 years.
"In a modern way we're trying to make this work. I think this is neat," Allen said. "They brewed beer; we're brewing beer. They had a restaurant license; we have a restaurant license. They had a hotel license; we have a hotel license."
German immigrant Alois Bube built the original brewery in the 1860s, adding the Central Hotel in 1879 (known today as the Alois tavern/hotel). Lager-style beer was all the rage in the late 19th century, and Bube expanded by building an attached machine shop and three-floor brewery house in the 1880s.
Before steam-generated refrigeration was invented, Bube stored beer 43 below the surface in a cellar carved out of the ground and adjacent to a natural cave.
Today, the original buildings and the cellar -- known as the Catacombs -- are in remarkably good shape. Before buying it, Allen worked at the historical landmark right out of college.
"I saw that they had an amazing place here, and I've been working on it ever since," Allen said.
Dining and more
The Catacombs offer fine dining seven nights a week in the stone-lined, climate-controlled underground chamber. (Reservations are encouraged.)
The "Feast" on selected Fridays and Sundays are widely popular.
"It's supposed to feel like a medieval holiday banquet," said Allen, noting that roving actors and musicians "make it lively and fun" during the event, which lasts about three hours.
Meanwhile, murder mystery dinners are offered in the Alois tavern/hotel on Saturday evenings. Four different themes will be offered in the Victorian-style building this year.
Advance tickets for the feast are $48 per person; tickets for the murder mystery dinner are $50 per person. Order tickets early; the events often sell out.
Both events are also available to private groups.
The Bottling Works offers casual dining in the old brewery house. In warm weather, patrons can sit outside in the adjacent biergarten. Sandwiches, burgers, salads and soups are offered for lunch and dinner.
Allen wanted to get on board with the craft-beer frenzy that swept the U.S. during the past two decades, but Bube's family had stopped making beer in 1917. Allen regained a brewing license for Bube's in 2001.
"We like to say we took an 84-year break," Allen joked.
Brad Moyer is Bube's part-time brewmaster, and he creates unique brews for Bube's bars and restaurants.
The most startling transformation at Bube's occurred on the third floor of the Alois hotel. There, Allen and crew renovated nine rooms into impeccably furnished, themed bedrooms, such as the Moroccan Desert Tent room, a New Orleans room, a Jungle Room (with waterfall) and a Princess Room.
If a group reserves a minimum of five rooms, they can have the entire third floor, including three bathrooms to share, Allen said. There's a large sitting room at the end of the hall with a bar and a loft -- for a group to hang out and party.
Allen offers free mini-tours daily from 5 to 9 p.m.
"We want people to know they can come and visit," Allen said. "A lot of people will stop and have a beer or a bite to eat."
On selected Sundays, when beer is being brewed, the brewmaster wil explain the process during a tour that starts at 2 p.m. It's free, but guests must call ahead and sign up.
Watch out for the ghosts.
About two dozen people -- primarily employees -- have reported seeing a ghost on the premises. The most common sighting is a young woman that is believed to be the granddaughter of Alois Bube, according to Allen.
The hosts of the popular "Ghost Hunters" show on the SyFy Network spent a few days at Bube's in 2012 and confirmed that paranormal activity exists. Allen hasn't seen anything unusual, but he's keeping an open mind.
"If 25-30 people have seen a ghost, and it fits the general description -- but I haven't seen it -- I've got to think something's going on," he said.
Bube's offers a ghost tour on the first and third Fridays of the month at 10 p.m. The cost is $10 per person, or $5 for diners who show their receipt.