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Monday, May 28, 2012

A taste of fizzy history

"The great point is to bring 
them the real facts, and beer.
Beer has been an integral part of society since before civilization, it may have been a key facet in why we settled down in the first place. In many places it has been the social lubricant of choice and New York City is no different. Beer has been involved with NYC since the beginning and continues to play an active part today. The Beer Here: Brewing New York's History exhibition by the New York Historical Society reveals that history and showcases beers contributions and impact on the city's development over the centuries. Through eight sections starting from colonial times to the present, the exhibition weaves its way through New York's multi-faceted beer history while stopping along the way for a closer look at various elements of the history such as commodities, immigration, temperance, and hometown brewers to name a few. 

Debra Schmidt Bach, one of the curators of the exhibit, explains, "When you have something that a lot of us take for granted, like beer, or water, or ice,  when you scratch the surface even a tiny bit you find it has a really long and rich history; beer has a long and rich history in New York."

Several highlights of the exhibition include a collection of radio and television advertisements from Schaefers, Piels, and Rheingold Breweries, record books from colonial breweries, and a variety or breweriana from the 19th and early 20th century. Everything wraps up in a beer hall,
The exhibition starts in colonial times.
where current New York City and State brewers get to show their ongoing contributions to the evolving story of New York beer history. I'll be honest, this is a clever tie from past to present.  One of the disconnects of history presentation is when people can't make the jump from the past events and how it impacts the present and the future. By showing the 300 year continuum of New York brewing this exhibition builds an understanding of how the past relates to the current brewing scene both in the City and State of New York thereby building greater understanding on future potential and also showing viewers what has been lost over time. Add in the fact that the focus is very much on the New York City beer scene, which while limited in breadth does allow for a lot of depth, you can end up with a comprehensive overview of beer's role in New York City both yesterday and today.

Bert explains to Harry why
you need to check this out!
The beer hall ties past to to a 
tasty present.
Overall the presentation is neat, well organized in a lose chronological order, and includes some artifacts that would probably never see the light of day otherwise. There will be tastings and the beer hall will be open throughout the event but check the schedule first for pouring hours. Big days of the exhibition include Beer Appreciation Night on Tuesday, July 10 at 6:30 pm and special tastings on the Saturdays throughout the event from 2 to 4 pm.  More information on these events can be found on the New York Historical Society Web site. The exhibition is now open and will be on view till September 2, 2012. 

In my view the coolest souvenir of the
exhibition is the Beer Here growlers.
If you are up in New York City or heading that way during the summer, love beer and have a fondness for history then this is well worth the stop. For beer lovers this will help build a greater appreciation of your beverage of choice, for history buffs this is another viewpoint to understand how commodities interact and impact societies. The New York Historical Society has set up a cool exhibit that serves up a rich slice of New York history and there is beer at the end of it! 

Miss Rheingold 1956 may not be present
 at the exhibition but her dress is!

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