History, Untapped: The Story of Hillbilly Gold

Two women team up to research and re-create a pilsner originally brewed by Baltimore’s historic George Bauernschmidt’s Brewing Company.

Photo by Shutterstock/netsign33

Maureen O’Prey isn’t your typical historian; the redheaded Baltimorean is just as likely to be found at the bar as she is in the archives — all in the name of research, of course. And that’s lucky for the rest of us. With the help of her partner-in-crime, Judy Neff, O’Prey marries her passions for beer and history to bring ancient brews hopping back to life.

For O’Prey, the true lure of history lies in connecting to the people who forged the way. And when it comes to Baltimore, Maryland, a beer town that was home to more than 40 breweries at its peak in the late 19th century, there’s no shortage of colorful characters to toast.

Baltimore’s Brewing Past

There’s no doubt that beer is a touchstone of Baltimore’s character — just look to the omnipresent Natty Boh sign that winks over the skyline. The fermented beverage has been around since Baltimore’s beginnings, so much so that Mary Pickersgill even sewed the stars upon Fort McHenry’s Star-Spangled Banner on the floor of a local brewery. As a major seaport populated by German and Eastern European immigrants, the city’s beer economy flourished from Colonial times until Prohibition.

The original flag sewn by Mary Pickersgill that flew over Baltimore during the War of 1812. Photo by Wikimedia/George Henry Preble

Ironically, however, it was an overseas adventure that sparked O’Prey’s interest in her hometown’s brewing history. After visiting the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland, she realized how little she knew about the roots of beer brewing in her own backyard. 



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