History of the Brew Barons

The History of the Brew Barons

You’ve heard many stories about secret societies and exciting underground adventures, but there is one crafty tale you’ll only find here.

America’s Gilded Age was dominated by entrepreneurs, visionaries, and influential barons who commanded the steel, oil, finance, and railroad industries. Many often traveled the corridor between New York City, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Meetings that at first were happenstance amidst business travel became more regular as the barons bonded over shared interests.

Secrecy was important, so gatherings were arranged using coded playing cards. An abrupt exchange in the train station. A small envelope arriving by mail. A confident handshake. Any of these interactions could deliver a playing card that carried an invitation and the coordinates of the next meeting. Meetings most often occurred in Hershey & Harrisburg, with the group’s stories and good times washed down with a round of cold beer.   

The enduring ritual inspired the moniker “Brew Barons.” The secret society enjoyed years of hops, barley, power, and influence before prohibition forced their meetings underground. Adapting was easy; they already had their coded card system. During prohibition, the group’s membership grew at an unprecedented rate. When the ban was lifted, the Brew Barons began openly convening in local establishments.

It has been said that the society continues to exist and that a new generation of Brew Barons can be found frequenting breweries across the region. Others claim that the Brew Barons Beer Trail grants tokens of luck to all who wander its path. Some quip, “that’s just the beer talking.” You’ll want to come and see for yourself!

The original Brew Barons left tall glasses to fill, miles of trail to explore, and the occasional playing card to discover. If you find yourself in Hershey or Harrisburg with a beer in hand, it could be fair to wonder…Are you the next Brew Baron?

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