‘Beaming’ with history

By on April 11, 2018

For Sylvia Beam of Lititz, history runs deep in her family.

You could even say it’s distilled.

Her late father-in-law Charles Everett Beam was master distiller at Michter’s, known at one time as one of America’s oldest distilleries, and operated just north of Lititz in Schaefferstown, Lebanon County. As the story goes, in 1753, John and Michael Shenk began to distill rye whiskey on the site. Then around 1860, Abraham Bomberger purchased the distillery. However, by 1919, Prohibition would close the entire operation. Ephraim Sechrist then bought the business in 1920, but didn’t begin operations until 1934, eventually selling it to Louis Forman in 1942. Forman gave up the business after he was drafted during World War II, but would buy it back in 1950 after two successive owners.

This was when Beam from the well-known Kentucky family entered the picture as master distiller. The grandnephew of Jim Beam (yes that Jim Beam), Charles designed an old-fashioned pot still mash beverage and named it “Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey.”

“Charles was one of the ‘Beam Boys,’ as they were affectionately known,” Sylvia said proudly. Sadly, the facility fell into disrepair, and eventually closed its doors for good on Valentine’s Day in 1990. By the time the last barrel rolled off the line, the national landmark, which produced “The whiskey that warmed the Revolution,” was known as the smallest commercial distiller in America.

Trained by Beam, Dick Stoll, of Stoll & Wolfe whiskey of Lititz, was the final master distiller at Michter’s. And despite all he and Sylvia have in common, surprisingly, they only met recently for the very first time.

Sylvia Beam of Lititz and Dick Stoll of Lebanon both of whom have ties to Michter’s Distillery, recently shared memories of the famed establishment at Stoll & Wolfe Distillery.

“Charles and I were good friends, and he was the one who taught me the business,” Stoll remembers. “When I got out of the Navy, I worked there from 1955 to 1990. I learned a lot in that time from him.”

While they didn’t know each other then, both Sylvia and Dick have fond memories of the legendary business.

“My kids liked to fish there during the summer,” Beam said. “During that time of year, we closed the distillery down because it was too hot for the whiskey,” Stoll added. Retiring in 1972, Charles Everett would move out of Central Pennsylvania, but Sylvia and her husband remained in the area, eventually retiring to Lititz. It was there that she recently started communicating with Stoll & Wolfe, and before long, the pair got together to reminisce and swap stories of the glory days of Michter’s.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at cvanbrookhoven@lnpnews.com or 717-721-4423. 

One Comment

  1. Erik Wolfe

    April 11, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to come out and discuss. We’re honored to play even a small role in helping to preserve Charlie Beam’s legacy, contributions to Pennsylvania Whiskey (Bourbon and Rye) and the knowledge he passed on to Dick Stoll.

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