In a time before electricity, refrigeration, and automobiles Bube’s Brewery was born. The breath that brought this building to life echoes in every corner…
Edited- Beck Rist
Photography- Rachel Smith
As you walk up to the building, you start to feel like you’re under a spell. Huge yellow doors trimmed in black and hinged with iron diamonds stand as portals to another time beckoning you to enter. You notice there is a lot going on with this building that spans almost a full block. There’s really no mistaking it – Bube’s Brewery in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania is truly one of a kind and a testament to the history of the area.
I passed through the doors where carriages once picked up large barrels of beer (as I would later learn). I was meeting Sam Allen, the owner of Bube’s Brewery. It’s pronounced “Boo-ba,” by the way (I kept pronouncing it “booby”, which was met with many smiles. #fail), as Mr. Bube graciously corrected resident ghost hunter, Pat Miley of Miley Paranormal, via a spirit box. Sam, who has worked at Bube’s since 1981, and his team of employees possess a dedication to the brewery and each other that has been the lifeblood of Bube’s Brewery for over a century. They all enjoy each other’s company and get along like old friends. This is not only felt by me, but also by Sam’s employees, as cook Taz Strickler points out, “When I started (working) here these people made me feel at home my first day.”
I learned from Sam that Bube’s is patterned after Bavarian breweries. Alois Bube opened his brewery in 1876 on the perfect spot. He made sure there was a steady water supply (Bube’s has its own well water) and he built it on top of a cave so that he could use the catacombs to create a proto walk-in freezer. Remember, this is the 1800’s, so there is no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and certainly no refrigeration. Mr. Bube would freeze water in the winter and store the ice all year long in the cave under his brewery. He needed it to aid in the brewing process. Sam informs me that it is the last lager era brewery in it’s original condition in the country!
Mr. Bube was truly an amazing man known for his ingenuity and forward-thinking. As Sam said, “you had to know who was making your beer back then. He couldn’t live in an ivory tower – he had to be a man of the people.” After the industrial revolution, Mr. Bube began using steam power in his brewery. I could see how Mr. Bube would have a proclivity towards new scientific developments in the world, especially since brewing beer is a science itself.
It’s important to point out again just how forward thinking Mr. Bube was, not only was he pushing the envelope of beer making, but the Brewery was the first building in town equipped with electricity and indoor plumbing. It was THE place to be.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Mrs. Bube was as well-known as her Husband. After all, what’s a brewery and pub without great food? Mrs. Bube certainly married the two beautifully. Today the tradition of succulent bar food and fine dining is carried on by the chefs of Bube’s Brewery, whose new American cuisine echoes Mr. Bube’s lien to experiment on the foundations of tradition in order create something uniquely shaped by modern influences.
It’s not just the ambiance or the inspired menu that brought me to Bube’s Brewery. Guests have reported seeing orbs in the catacombs and dining rooms. Taz has seen a shadow man in the kitchen area. Guests and employees have also reported seeing an apparition they call the Woman in White. There have been countless EVP & spirit box sessions that have indicated intelligent communication, as well as disembodied voices. One thing Kate Hopkins, event planner and employee, told me that I thought was very interesting was, “If you’re going to investigate – hours here are different. It’s a bar. It was never quiet. The creepiest moment in this building [is when the] first ray of dawn comes through. There’s such a stillness it’s unnatural.” So, even the spirits in Bube’s still operate according to the schedule of a busy pub which leads me to note that this could be an important aspect in the identity of the spirits.
I started my tour in the Biergarten, which is just outside the Bottling Works. There are so many different parts of Bube’s – it’s still a functioning brewery, restaurant, bar, and biergarten. The catacombs are open as a dining area where many weddings and other private events are held. Usually, a wedding party will stay at the Inn (or Central Hotel) at Bube’s and can pick from a variety of exquisitely decorated theme rooms for their stay. Kate and Sam also host a number of events throughout the year ranging from 80’s dance parties, costumed feasts, and what seems to be everyone’s favorite murder mystery dinners. They also offer an Escape Room experience with a prohibition theme, and, to boot, they have a karaoke night! If you didn’t know, I’m a karaoke nut! I actually keep a note on my phone of karaoke songs just in case the occasion presents itself unexpectedly. I may or may not practice at home to Youtube videos. Don’t judge me.
I don’t know about you, but my typical conversations revolve around the unexplained, so of course I’m interested to know more about everyone’s paranormal experiences at Bube’s. Sam and Pat speak about how the small area of the catacombs has plenty of residual activity. Several bartenders and servers have heard doors slamming then seen a black, featureless mask go pass the doorway at the end of the bar in the Bottling Works and into the lobby.
Pat also mentions that there is a lot of activity that actually happens on their ghost tours and investigations. Once they had a guest from Bavaria who spoke German who was happy to indulge and ask a few questions in German while they were touring the catacombs. Suddenly, she begins speaking very quickly and mentions “Grossfader” over and over again. Pat noted that the K2 meter was redlining and there was a notable atmospheric change. Pat is with Jean Ellis, the great granddaughter of Mr. Bube, and they feel the hair on their arms stand on end. Then one of the 5-foot tall wrought iron candelabras begins rocking back and forth. Keep in mind; there are about 30 people in the room on this tour who agree in the shared experience of this event.
He mentions that there have been numerous times when orbs have appeared that guests have seen in the group. I find this fascinating! It’s much more common to see orbs manifest in photographs, but at Bube’s Brewery many people have witnessed them manifest with their own eyes. ( An orb in a photograph can almost always be ruled out as a natural occurrence, so it’s a bit of a stretch most of the time to say it’s “paranormal;” however, when someone sees an orb with the naked eye, it is much more compelling!) During one particular tour in the catacombs, the group saw a blue orb manifest between tables that were at the bottom of the stairs. “It faded like it was on a dimmer switch,” says Pat, “As soon as it disappeared, this one guy got up and bolted right up the steps!” Pat talks about a green and blue orb that materialized right next to Jean’s head that they were able to capture with a full-spectrum camera. Later, Lily Pfavtz, one of the servers, also reported seeing a blue-ish orb as big as someone’s head slowly float across a first floor area that’s closer to the dining room.
When I asked about these common group experiences, Sam notes, “You can’t explain two dozen people seeing the same thing and have it be nothing.”
Taz had only been with Bube’s for a little under a year when he had his first experience with the shadow man in the kitchen. …Sometimes I wonder if there is something about the energy we emit when preparing food for others that fuels the appearance of shadow men (just like in my own childhood house and kitchen). The first time, he was by himself and saw a figure standing near the refrigerator out of the corner of his eye. There was nothing when he turned to look, but he noticed that the refrigerator door was slowly closing by itself! The second time, he noticed someone dressed all in black coming down the steps towards the brewery, but the brewery was locked up at the time. “Part was solid towards the bottom, but then towards the top [it was transparent]. That’s what caught my eye. When I looked back up, that’s when I saw it take two steps into the brewery.” Taz also says that he felt the area warm up after the Shadowman left. When I asked him what he thought was at the brewery, he said, “I think it’s Mr. Bube. I think he’s here just making sure that everything is safe.”
While I’m at the bar, Mike Landis, the bartender, gives me a taste of his take on a Purple Velvet, a signature cocktail that he describes (like the poets most bartenders secretly are) as: “It’s got a nice dark look to it. I spooked it up a little bit with some hocus-pocus sparkling sugar (a man after my own heart!), and we rimmed [the glass] with that. It’s got a little blue, a little purple, a little green. It has an eerie little meld to it.” It’s a mix of Guinness, blackcurrant creme de cassis, and champagne. This delicious drink is definitely something to describe as spooky with a little bit of sparkle and would be the hit of any dinner party.
As we cheers and then progress deeper into Bube’s, I learn more about the Bube family history and its possible tie with the paranormal activity at the brewery. We weave through and up from the veins of the building, and I get to see the original stove that was used to brew the beer. We make our way through one of the new kitchens and into the old kitchen that belonged to Mrs. Bube. Her kitchen was so gorgeous that I thought I was going to cry! It was like looking back in time. It looked exactly how I imagined her kitchen would look. Antiques were draped all about the walls. It was so well preserved you could almost smell the past.
We continue to serpentine through the actual living quarters of the Bubes crossing thresholds heralded by squeaky hinges, and Sam brings me to the office, where he speaks about another apparition. A woman dressed in white, Victorian garb had been seen passing from one end of the room to the other by a former employee. Sam says she’s been seen a lot in the office (which was the basement of the hotel), but she’s also been seen more than twenty times in other rooms at Bube’s by guests and employees. They believe this Woman in White to be Pauline Engel, Mr. Bube’s granddaughter (not be confused with Mrs. Bube, who was also named Pauline). They believe this because it’s been documented that Pauline lived at Bube’s, and she was known for her eccentricities and extremely mischievous behavior.
Richard, one of the servers at Bubes, had a rather interesting interaction with Pauline. As he was working near the Peacock Room (one of Bube’s more active areas) he had the distinct feeling that he was being watched, even though he knew he was alone. Although, she looked real, he describes a transparent element to her. Richard could only stare, and without a word, this woman in a long white dress turned towards the hallway and vanished. “It only lasted 3-4 seconds, but it felt like forever” Richard recalled. He then said something, that really got my attention, “She saw me before I saw her.” indicating that Pauline has intelligence and an awareness. He continues, and the group seems to agree, “Very few men have seen her.”
An artifact that was brought to my attention was a drawing of Mr. Bube that was done by a spirit medium who said that he came to her in a dream. They have a ritual of checking the drawing for the presence of a localized EMF spike which tends to coincide with activity later in the night. If only it was always that easy everywhere! If you decide to visit Bube’s Brewery one day, you might be able to ask if there is an activity forecast for the night. This is also where their Escape Room is located. So if you partake you may just run into Pauline.
We move through to the hotel where multiple guests have had experiences. “This makes sense,” Sam remarks, “because it’s where people were most of the time.” Yes, there is spiritual activity everywhere in Bube’s, but you will find a greater variety where the greater variety of people stayed. The Brewery wasn’t as open to the public as it is now, so you might only find Mr. Bube down in the catacombs. They also mention that the “actual bar” (where they hold many of their special events) is another place where there is a lot of spiritual activity.
Let me tell you more about the amazing rooms at the hotel! They are themed to give each guest an immersive experience. Every room is lovingly done with fine attention to detail – there is even music to set the theme better. There is a New Orleans room that looks like you are right on Bourbon Street (although most of my New Orleans memories are fuzzy, I’m happy to confirm its accuracy!), a Jungle room – complete with its own waterfall that you can turn on and off with a switch, a Southwestern room, an Eastern/Asian room that kind of reminded me of how the Mom in Beetlejuice (Catherine O’Hara) would want to decorate. (Or should I say how Otho (Glenn Shadix) would want to decorate?)
In the hotel rooms, guests have seen apparitions and heard voices. Emily, a child apparition, who is often seen in Room 9, gave one guest quite the startle when she woke him up from sleeping. Other mischievous yet benevolent voices have been captured as well. Sam talks about a mysterious gangster guest in the 1920’s who stayed at the hotel once a month and always signed the guestbook as John Doe. “John Doe” was from Reading, Pennsylvania, and Sam believes that he supplied Bube’s with liquor during prohibition. This mysterious gangster quartered in what they have transformed into the Dark Princess room. Even though the hotel is very active with phenomenon, Sam notes that the Dark Princess room in particular does not see so much activity. He believes this is because the other spirits know not to mess with this potentially dangerous gangster who was always staying in this room and was not to be disturbed.
Now that my appetite has been whet with accounts of the supernatural, I am invited to dine in the candlelit catacombs. Beautiful pewter place settings topped with red napkins are waiting at the table, contributing to the romantic and almost medieval ambiance as I pull up a chair next to the curved, stone walls. I’m prepared for a menu that Chef David Nutter describes as “a refined, fun twist on American food” that, of course, is bolstered by the under running current of bringing together old and new that flows through every aspect of Bube’s Brewery.
I asked Chef David about his approach, “It (Bube’s) reminded me of a place I’d like to get lost in as a child” he makes it clear that he wants everyone to experience that same feeling, of getting lost in the moment, through every morsel on his carefully chosen menu.
Before we get to the solid food, lets talk about the liquid sustenance. Beer aficionados will be delighted by the changing taps at Bube’s. As Kate says, “Always check what is on tap!” There are multiple home brews on tap and they are listed on their website. When I visited, they offered: Black Forest Stout, a chocolate cherry stout (Sam’s favorite beer); Dunkelweizen, a German-style ale; Belgium Lemongrass Tripfel, a Belgian-style ale; and Hoppy Pilsner. Sam describes Vince, the master brewer (who unfortunately was not there for my visit), as an artist. I can’t help but agree, if not for the diversity of the tap offerings alone. Their new master brewer, Mitch Romig recently made a Pineapple Cream Ale for their Beach Party (they actually brought in 4 TONS of sand!) that sold out in ONE DAY! There is always a beer to try at Bube’s!
If you’re really looking to imbibe, but beer isn’t your favorite, the bartenders at Bube’s have got you covered. In addition to the Purple Velvet, there is a wide variety of cocktails to choose from. We are trying the Brain Hemorrhage with dinner tonight. This cocktail is made by Mike, who works to innovate by adding a little fire to the drink – making it a Flaming Brain Bloody Hemorrhage. Another staff favorite is the Gin Basil Smash (featuring local gin from Lancaster), and later during dinner, Mike brings out a round of the Feast Punch, a coconut rum-based drink with orange.
The thing about Bube’s Brewery (if you haven’t already figured it out) is that it is incredibly expansive, so there are actually two different menus curated to the dining experience. I asked Chef David which item he would recommend to try, and he said it that really depended on where you were dining. One of the dishes he recommends is their gnocchi. Let me tell you – once you have homemade gnocchi, you never go back. The flavors & the texture are unmistakable. Chef David’s gnocchi reminded me of my own family’s various Italian dishes that I learned to make when I was a child. …And guys – I totally called it! Chef David was taught to make his gnocchi by two Italian chefs who learned from their grandmothers, too. He related that it took years of cooking it to achieve his self-imposed mastery. Though he was too modest to mention it, Sam chimed in that Chef David won two awards at a local Chowder contest for his Fully-Loaded Baked Potato & Gnocchi Chowder.
An appetizer dish Chef David recommends to try is the asparagus wrapped in puff pastry, basted in bacon fat, and dressed with a Mornay sauce. Chef David proudly spoke about how the asparagus was locally sourced from farms in Millersville. In fact, Bube’s sources many items of produce locally including, seasonal fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats, and they are soon adding dairy to the list.
I can’t forget to mention the Gebratene Himbeer-Entenbrust (or the pan-seared raspberry duck breast), which made me change my mind about duck completely. It was so good. As Chef David comments, the sweet taste of the raspberry glaze with horseradish really cuts through any gaminess of the duck to bring out the flavor.
The menus at Bube’s are usually static, but do change periodically to introduce new dishes based on the season or special events. Chef David spoke about a carnival-inspired menu featuring Ruben Hush Puppies, Popcorn made in bacon fat and topped with cheddar cheese, PA Dutch-style Chicken and Waffles, and Pumpernickel flavor funnel cakes to name a few. You can definitely keep up to date by visiting their website and other social media pages.
Other than amazing food, the dinner was sparked by philosophical round table discussion of the paranormal and what it is about Bube’s Brewery that might make it susceptible towards spiritual activity. Kate, who grew up with the paranormal (much in the same way I did) and has been involved with the Brewery for 20 years, believes that the combination of the limestone foundations and the underground river currents create a type of kinetic energy influence that supports spiritual communication.
Sam offers a different point of view, “I can’t explain it, maybe someday science will, but I think something is left behind…”
One thing they do agree on is that the energy was much more negative before Sam took over in 2001.
Which leads to the other factor at Bube’s being the undeniable positive energy that exudes from the people who work there. It’s full of staff members who love what they do and genuinely want to share that love with others. I think Taz put it best when he told me, “I take pride in my food. When someone bites into it I want them to have a smile on their face.”
I’ve been to so, so many places, and this place feels like a family. The goodwill started with Mr. Bube and has been carried on through Sam’s efforts – and he will be the first to tell you that there is no way he could uphold the tradition without his amazing staff. “I don’t want to lose contact,” Sam says, “I never want to be guilty of the ivory tower syndrome. Seeing the customers in front of me enjoying themselves is a real connection that I think is important.”
Aside from the experience of simply being at Bube’s Brewery, I left full of good food, good drink, positive energy, and a sense of wonderment.
Remember – no matter what you do on a small scale or grand, it really does take a village to build success. Bube’s Brewery is proof of that.
When you go to Bube’s be sure to tell em’ Large Marge sent ya! Or just tell them Katrina sent ya… that might work out better.
Now it’s YOUR turn to try a piece of Bube’s in your very own kitchen! Bube’s has graced us with TWO recipes to make at home! Give these a try and let me know how they turn out. Be sure to tag us on Instagram and Facebook
The Chocolate Purple Velvet~ Dark and mysterious, the luxurious champagne cocktail is perfect when contemplating ghoulish ideas…
Hocus Pocus sparkling sugar
Crème de cassis
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
Using a champagne glass…
- Rim the flute with he Hocus Pocus sparkling sugar
- Pour ¾ oz of Crème de Cassis into the glass
- Add 2 oz of Champagne
- Fill to the top with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
- Sit back and enjoy all the magic of this devilish drink
Grilled Duck Breast with Strawberry Horseradish Glaze~ This dish is wonderful served over wild rice! Side note, I never liked duck before I had it at Bube’s!
4-6 Duck Breasts
- Heat oven to 450 degrees
- Score the skin side of the duck breasts
- Pat the duck breasts dry
- Clean he duck of excess fat
- Bring a sauté pan o a very high heat (Chef David recommends a cast iron skillet if available)
- Add duck breasts to pan, skin side up
- Rotate the breasts around the pan rendering fat until the skin is crispy~ about 8 minutes
- Flip duck breasts onto a roasting pan and place into the oven skin side up
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees
Strawberry Horseradish Glaze:
1 C. strawberry preserves
2 T prepared horseradish
¼ C water
- Whisk all ingredients together
- Spoon about 1 T of glaze on top of each duck breast
Update: Between the time of my visit and this writing Bube’s has added even more All-Stars to their already winning team!
Alex Brown- Kitchen Manager of Bottle Works
Corinna Killian- Executive Chef of The Catacombs
Mitch Romig- Master Brewer
Dustin Wilcox- Operations Manager
Brown, hailing from Maine mastered his culinary skills under Chef Tardes of Louis Grille perfecting a variety of casual fare, including Italian cuisines and seafood favorites!
Killian, a Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts graduate, has become a local celebrity Chef with her artistic vision, eye for detail, and work ethic. She was recently at the award-winning Belvedere Inn before joining the Bube’s team.
Together Killian and Brown are revamping the menus at Bube’s with an expected debut in the next month.
Wilcox, with 11 years of industry management experience, is cooking up a ton of new events coming to Bube’s. February 17th marks their charity Beard and Mustache competition (Yes you read that right! Amazing!) benefiting Aaron’s Acres.
In a recent press release, Wilcox stated, “I want our guests to come in our doors and fall in love with everything this incredible establishment has to offer, just as I did.” I think Mr. Bube would approve!
Special thanks to:
Chef David Nutter
Richard, Taz, and Lily
Lastly, but certainly not least, a very special thank you to Bube’s ace Director of Public Relations and Marketing Jeffrey Woodman, who went above and beyond to set up an unforgettable visit to Bubes! I WILL be back!
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