It is rare at my house when there is a nexus of interests and delights, but yesterday was one of those miracle moments. My homebrewing husband and I went to see Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History at the New-York Historical Society. Just when we thought we could never achieve the supreme confluence of interests and delights that were to be found at a NYC bakery owned by one of the stars of NCIS comes an exhibition about the history of beer in New York.
The exhibition is interesting and not just to beer geeks, although the growing and pressing of hops pegged the geek meter in my opinion. Who knew that were it not for the Erie Canal and the cutting of ice allowing it to be brought downstream, brewers would never have been so successful in New York? I was struck by the patent for the bottle cap, the same bottle cap used today, held by the Crown Corporation. I guess it is true that you cannot improve upon perfection, although clearly the screw top syndicate has surely tried.As a communications professional I enjoyed the salute to the advertising and marketing employed by Peils, Schaffer, and Rheingold. Not having grown up in New York, I had never seen the historic footage of the Miss Rheingold ’61 competition, hosted by Marge and Gower Champion. Cited as “America’s second most important election,” I was not the only one laughing out loud.
N-YHS must be applauded for the interactive conclusion: a tavern room with beer and pretzels for purchase. There are chalkboards that take up the length of the walls. On one is a quote attributed to Plato: “He was a wise man who invented beer.” A question is posed to the visitor: What say you? There is plenty of chalk with which to write your opinion, in keeping with the historic nature of the show because, if I recall, Plato did not have a Facebook page on which Socrates and Aristotle could “like” his comment.
We enjoyed the show very much, and not just because it was a hot Sunday afternoon. Check out Beer Here through September 2.Image: Sign, “Rheingold Extra Dry/Lager Beer,”1950-1960. Printed paper, New-York Historical Society Library. Rheingold beer was brewed in Brooklyn from 1883 until 1976. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.