Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History at NY Historical Society This Month

From May 25 through September 2, “Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History” will be on view 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 to the current artisanal revolution.

Beer has been brewed in New York City since the days of its earliest European settlement. The exhibition 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.

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 beer hall featuring 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 the exhibition, in a press release, “it 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.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, the historical society will host a special summer public program, “Beer Appreciation: The History and Renaissance of Beer,” on Tuesday, July 10 at 6:30 p.m., featuring Beer Here curators Debra Schmidt Bach and Nina Nazionale; Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver; Steve Hindy, co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery; and Gabrielle Langholtz, editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. A special tasting of Brooklyn Brewery beers will follow the program. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

There will also be a series of beer tastings, to take place in the exhibition’s beer hall on most Saturday afternoons, from May 26 through August 25.

The half-hour beer tastings, which will occur at 2 and 4 p.m., will offer visitors the chance to hear directly from brewers and brewery founders about the history and process of making beer. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Here’s the beer tasting schedule:

May 26 – Matt Brewing Company
June 2 – Kelso Beer Co.
June 9 – Keegan Ales
June 16 – Bronx Brewery
June 23 – Harlem Brewing Company
June 30 – Blue Point Brewing Company
July 7 – Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
July 14 – Genesee Brewing Company
July 21 – Heartland Brewery
July 28 – Ithaca Beer Company
August 4 – Matt Brewing Company
August 11 – Bronx Brewery
August 18 – Keegan Ales
August 25 – Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.

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