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 Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory

​Curator's Choice 2021

“Let No Man Thirst For Good Beer”

June 2021                                                                                 By: Patricia Samford, MAC Lab Director


This pithy quote is attributed to American Founding Father and Revolutionary War hero Samuel Adams. More importantly here, Adams was also involved in the brewing industry as a maltster.  Several generations of his family produced malt—a vital component in beer (Baron 1962:462). Pierced tiles (Figure 1) were used in the floors of malting houses. 


Archaeologists working for the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology found these tiles during a 1983tiles3-275x518.png
excavation at the site of the former Clagett’s Brewery (Comer et al. 1984). The brewery began producing ale in 1784 and operated until 1880 under as many as ten owners, including Eli Clagett (Akerson 1990).  In addition to discovering the foundation of the brewery’s malthouse, other artifacts related to the brewery operations were found, including several dumps of nineteenth-century bottles. More unusual were over three dozen perforated unglazed ceramic tiles used as flooring for the malting kiln. Manufactured in England by two companies in operation in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century (Figure 2), each tile measures one-foot square and contained 1600 small holes (Bromwich 1984). Hot air passed through these holes to enter the drying room from the floor below, preventing the sprouted barley from growing so that it could be used to produce malt (Figure 3).

Baltimore, once the second largest city in the United States, has been home to over 115 breweries since the first brewery began operation there in 1748 (Arnett et al. 1999:274).  Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the arrival of immigrants from Germany brought about a wave of breweries producing light German lagers; more than fifteen breweries are shown on the 1869 Sasche map of Baltimore (Sasche 1869). The brewery industry remained vibrant in Baltimore until Prohibition.​



Baron, Stanley Wade

1962  Brewed in America: The History of Beer and Ale in the United States. Boston: Little, Brown.  


Bromwich, David

1984  Letter addressed to Charles Cheek, dated April 5, 1984.  Somerset County Library, Taunton, England.  In BCUA files at MAC Lab.


Comer, Elizabeth Anderson, Charles Cheek and Elizabeth Hartley

1984  The Great Baltimore Brewery Dig:  Excavations at an Eighteenth-Century Industry.  Draft report on file at MAC Lab.


Mueller, A. M. J.

1892  Souvenir Album.  F. A. Poth Brewing Company, Philadelphia.  Avil Printing Company. http://brookstonbeerbulletin.com


Sasche, E.

1870  E. Sachse, & Co.'s bird's eye view of the city of Baltimore, 1869. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.​

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