Museum crafts new brew for pop-up garden

Guests had an exclusive taste of custom beer in the Mütter Museum’s medicinal plant garden.

For once, the usual collection of medical oddities was not the main attraction when patrons visited the Mütter Museum.

Last Thursday, the Mütter Museum’s Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden welcomed new visitors, museum-goers and beer-lovers in a collaboration with Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery. The event featured a new brew inspired by the museum called “Ümlaut Fever” in a pop-up beer garden.

Gillian Ladley, the media and marketing manager at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, said the garden’s guests were the first to try the new creation. Barren Hill Brewery brewed a saison, a type of pale ale, with fennel and ginger plants from the museum’s medicinal garden.

“The beer, with its unique flavor, incorporates herbs from the plant garden, and also themes from the museum,” Ladley said. “The word ‘umlaut’ was reportedly invented by the Brothers Grimm, which relates to the Grimm’s Fairytale exhibit in the museum. Additionally, the word ‘umlaut’ does not usually have an umlaut—we added it much like Dr. Mütter did to his own name.”

According to James Zeleniak, principal partner at Punch Media and representative for Barren Hills, the museum reached out to the brewery to craft a specific beer for their events.

“We were excited to do so,” Zeleniak said. “… They have a beautiful courtyard where Ümlaut Fever will take place. It’s just an awesome day for it.”

Zeleniak had the opportunity to try Ümlaut Fever firsthand from the brewery’s head brewer Dave Wood.

“It was really quite delicious,” Zeleniak said. “It has a slightly higher alcohol content than most summer beers usually have.”

When not spending time in the garden, guests can purchase the Ümlaut Fever beer and enjoy free entry to the new “Mind Illuminated” exhibit by Greg Dunn in the museum’s Thomson Gallery.

The beer sold out among the 1,300 guests, said Jillian Stahl, Mütter’s lectures and events administrator. Stahl added that two more kegs were brought in for the event.

Ladley said the garden is the museum’s mission brought to life.

“The museum is part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, which has the mission to advance the cause of health while upholding the ideals and heritage of medicine,” Ladley said.

The garden, established in 1937 and named for founding member of the College of Physicians Dr. Benjamin Rush, features more than 60 different herbs with medicinal and historic value, according to the Mütter Museum website.

Rush’s mission was to create a medicinal plant garden so physicians could replenish their medicine chests. Ladley said that the garden is meant to be a “living exhibit” of the museum. The garden allows guests to use their cellphones to participate in an audio tour and learn more about medicinal plants and their uses— sometimes, using beer as a teaching tool.

Zeleniak said Ümlaut Fever may be on tap in the future at Barren Hills, Old Eagle Tavern in Manayunk and Devil’s Den in South Philadelphia, all under the same ownership. Barren Hills hopes to collaborate with the museum again in the future to host similar events.

“Everyone at Barren Hill is very excited about the event and we look forward to collaborating more with the Mütter in the months ahead,” Zeleniak said.

Stahl is also pleased with the turnout of the event.

“We really loved the fact that so many people came out and supported and we are definitely going to do something like this again later in the year,” Stahl said.

Logan Beck can be reached at

Video shot by Harrison Brink and Kevin Murphy. Edited by Harrison Brink.

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