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Home » Featured Trip, News Releases

Beer History is Explored in New York Historical Society Exhibit.

Submitted by on February 20, 2012 – 9:45 amNo Comment

Courtesy of New York Historical Society

The fascinating yet largely unknown legacy of the cultural history of beer in New York is uncovered in “Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History” at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition traces 350 years of the production and consumption of beer in the city – from colonial New York, when beer was a vital source of nourishment and tax revenues, to the current artisanal revolution occurring in microbreweries throughout the state. This exhibition will be on view at New-York Historical  from May 25 to September 2, 2012.

Beer has been brewed in New York City since the days of its earliest European settlement. “Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History” will begin with an exploration of the colonial period in New York when beer was often safer to drink than water, and noted citizens brewed beer as just one aspect of their business activities. It will then take the visitor up to the present popularity of microbreweries and homebrewing.

Topics include the nutritional properties of colonial beer and early New York brewers in the age of revolution; infrastructure innovations and the importance of access to clean water; large-scale brewing in nineteenth-century New York and the influence of immigration; temperance movements and the impact of prohibition; bottling, canning, refrigeration and other technological advances; and the promotional efforts of the City’s breweries in the age of mass production.

These topics will be highlighted through a display of historical objects and documents such as a 1779 account book from a New York City brewer who sold beer to both the British and patriot sides; sections of early nineteenth-century wooden pipes from one of the city’s first water systems; a bronze medal that commemorates an 1855 New York State temperance law; beer trays from a variety of late nineteenth-century brewers; souvenirs from the campaign to repeal prohibition; and a selection of advertisements from Piels, Rheingold and Schaefer, beloved hometown brewers. The exhibit will conclude with a small beer hall that features a selection of favorite New York City and State artisanal beers.

“Beer is an important cultural influencer,”said Debra Schmidt Bach and Nina Nazionale, curators of “Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History,” “and is not a topic typically covered in an exhibition at an Historical Society. We were intrigued by the longevity and popularity of beer in New York throughout the past 300 years, and wanted to bring together objects and documents of historical and cultural importance to investigate this venerable tradition.”

New-York Historical will host a special summer public program, “Beer Appreciation: The History and Renaissance of Beer,” featuring experts Garrett Oliver and Steve Hindy from Brooklyn Brewery, at which local craft beers will be served on Tuesday, July 10, at 6:30 pm. “Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History” curators Bach and Nazionale will join the conversation.

Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History is organized with support from both Brooklyn Brewery and Heartland Brewery.

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