Original Document Signed by John Wagner- First American Beer/Lager Pioneer

John Wagner- American Beer/Lager Pioneer

Bavarian brewer, John Wagner, arrived in Philadelphia in 1840. He brought with him special yeast to brew the traditional, Bavarian-style beers from his home: what would be the first lager beer in America. Prior to 1840, beer was mostly of the porter, stout, or ale style. What set lager apart from the other top-fermenting beers, was the specific strain of yeast used and the production process which involved leaving the beer wort in contact with these bottom-fermenting yeasts for a longer period of time at refrigeration temperatures. Though slower to make, this process produced an easier and more pleasant drinking beer that quickly gained popularity and revolutionized the world of beer making in America.

To this day, there is a historic marker honoring John Wagner and his contribution to American culture in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties neighborhood (pictured here). As a saloon or brewpub owner, Wagner’s brewery-likely in accordance with other breweries of the time-was located in the back of his house, where he boiled his beer mash in a kettle over an open hearth. Despite his not being a commercial businessman, his contribution to American culture remains significant, as the producer of the first ever American Lager beer and pioneer of American beer culture. 

This is an officially notarized document signed by Wagner as the Customs House Storekeeper in Philadelphia, on Jan. 1st, 1855: A receipt for "Extra Labor at Patterson's Stores". The reverse bears a note signed by public notary, Alexander Murphy, confirming the payment of the bill of sale, as well as John Wagner's Signature (also dated Jan. 1st, 1855).

  • Title: Signed Document by John Wagner - First to Brew Lager in America
  • Date: Jan. 1st, 1855
  • Geography: Philadelphia, PA (St. John St., near Poplar St.)
  • Culture of Origin: American
  • Medium: Pen
  • Dimensions: 8X10
  • Classification: Work & Industry / Brewery / Philadelphia
  • Condition: Very Fine Condition
  • Commonality: Rare