Priestley Pilsner to help kick off 250th anniversary celebration

Apr. 29—NORTHUMBERLAND — The Friends of the Joseph Priestley House on Monday said they will kick off a summer-long celebration of the 250th anniversary of Priestley's discovery of oxygen with a rollout of a specialty beer.

The idea of Priestley Pilsner for this celebration was conceived and developed by Derek Fisher, of Pineknotter Brewing Company, and Craig Specht, owner of W&S Distributors.

Fisher and Specht began talking in December 2023 about how to get involved with the 250th anniversary celebration of Joseph Priestley this summer.

"When Joseph Priestley originally started doing his experiments in England with 'air' as he called it, he was living next to a brewery in 1767," said Specht. "That led to the idea in our minds, of a Priestley Pilsner. Derek and I thought, 'Hey, wouldn't that be fun?' We tossed around some ideas. And then, let's brew a Priestley Pilsner for the celebration."

Fisher said an experimental batch of the beer has already been made.

"It's something new for us, a way to branch out from our small operation here," he said.

The goal is to release the Pilsner around Pineknotter Days, July 4.

"We'll probably brew it up sometime in early June and have a full batch ready for all the events around the 250th anniversary celebration," Fisher said.

Priestley Pilsner is a light, refreshing beer, Fisher said.

"We wanted it to be easy to drink, where everybody should be able to enjoy it," he said.

Deborah Bernhisel, of the Friends of Joseph Priestley House, was one of the moving forces behind having the Priestley Pilsner as an opening event in the summer schedule of programs. She was assisted in her efforts by Murrie Zlotziver, Friends operations manager.

Long-time Priestley role player Ron Blatchley was there to taste test the Pilsner.

"He would have approved of this," Blatchley said.

Priestley, who lived in Northumberland from 1794-1804, did much of his later chemistry experiments in a laboratory extension to his house. In his time, he knew and exchanged letters with Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

The next scheduled event in the celebration is the second annual Herb and Native Plant Faire, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 18 at the Priestley House Museum, 472 Priestley Ave., Northumberland.