EXHIBIT: WHEN NEW YORK WAS AWASH IN BEER, AND IT WAS SAFER THAN WATER

By Katie Barry

The New-York Historical Society is ready for their summer of bubbly love with the launch of “Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History.” It’s an off-beat but eye-opening exhibit highlighting the rich unknown history beer has had in New York when they boasted over 200 breweries during the Prohibition Era; popular breweries at the time being Rheingold, Piels, and Schaefer.

“It’s a fizzy not fuzzy history,” quipped curator Debra Schmidt Bach (along with fellow curator Nina Nazionale). “Beer is an important cultural influencer and is not a topic covered in an exhibition (here). We were intrigued by the longevity and popularity of beer in New York…and wanted to bring together objects and documents of historical and cultural importance to investigate this venerable tradition.”

Like how, at one time when water levels were so inconsistent and dangerous in Manhattan, beer was the safest source of nutrition.

The exhibit showcases a wide array of archives spanning 300 years of NYC’s brewing history. There’s account books from 1779 belonging to William D. Faulkner, and NYC brewer who sold beer to British armies and Continental soldiers alike. There’s ceramic mugs, old advertisements and jingles (print, radio and television), and other props illuminating all the hooplah surrounding beer and liquor consumption. There’s maps speckled with breweries, diaries, logbooks, and a cookbook of Rheingold recipes. Kitschy coasters and lyrics to popular drinking hymns survived the test of time, landing in a special spot in the exhibit. There’s garden tools used to cultivate crops, such as barley and hops, and a bevy of barrels and pipes used for distilling and storage. Even Miss Rheingold 1944 was on hand for the opening, looking ravishing and reflecting fondly on her tenure as a beer advocate during tense times.

Beer tasting events will take place at 2 pm and 4 pm on select Saturdays from now until August 25, so you can learn what kinds of tricks and tactics artisanal and micro-brewers in the city and state are using to make some of the best pints in the country. New York breweries involved in the project include Keegan Ales, Kelso, Brooklyn Brewery, Captain Lawrence, Greenport Harbor, Matt Brewing Company, Genesee, Heartland, and Bronx Brewery. It’s a good parlay into a day at the National History Museum or a break from Central Park fun in the sun. Drink up! History couldn’t be more fun. (Check out this week’s tasting on our calendar.)

Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students. Teachers and seniors scoot through at $12, kids $5, and children under seven years old get a free pass.

Photos by Katie Barry.

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    1. Ajarn Frank says:

      Do you know where I can find information about the Fink Brewery which was located in the West 30′s of Manhattan during the early 1900′s Any information would be appreciated.