Colonial crafters were at the Peter Wentz Farmstead Saturday for the annual craft fair known as Laerenswaert. When translated from German, it means “worth learning.” Jack Armstrong of Lower Salford Township (pictured below left) was there with the First Continental Regiment Afoot, teaching people about the muzzle-loading muskets used in the Revolutionary War. He says they used a volley fire approach in musket warfare.
“Everybody fired at once. You were aiming at a target that was, perhaps, 100 yards wide and five-foot-six tall. You were putting out a big sheet of lead, fundamentally, because everybody fired at once. You didn’t really aim. You just pointed, and the sergeant would tell you to aim to the right or aim to the left, and that’s what you did. The weapons were very inaccurate. It was said that if you got shot at 100 yards, it was just your unfortunate day because it wasn’t from someone aiming at you.”
Anna Wagner of Hatboro (pictured below right) was there with her husband Richard, brewing up a batch of ale. She says beer and ale ferment for weeks to become the beverage people know today, but in Colonial times they made something that was ready much sooner.
“Most people would make what was called a small beer for the table, which would only ferment for 3 days, and it would be very low alcohol, but having been boiled and gone through that process, it would be a safe and very nutritious drink. It would have all the nutrition from the barley and the yeast, and it would be a table drink, much like we drink iced tea or coffee or anything else every day, including for breakfast.”
She says her husband started home brewing about 30 years ago, and he made almost everything they use.
“He actually built our entire brewing system from two logs of cypress, and we do this Colonial brewing because it’s an important part of the history of crafts people in the United States and around the world, and it was an active part of daily life. A lot of people don’t realize it was an important part of the culture.”
Wagner says people drank a lot of beer in colonial times because they had to boil the water to make it safe to drink, and if it’s already boiling, you might as well brew something.