Hopped Up: NY Beer Then and Now pt1

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In honor of #NYCBeerweek February 25 – March 5th, BTBT is going to explore the history of Beer in the wonderful city of New York. Part 1 in the series Hopped Up: NY Beer Then and Now is ready for your consumption.

Our favorite libation Beer was brewed over 5,000 years ago by the Ancient Sumerians and it’s safe to say that it’s been a popular drink ever since. Some believe that beer did not make it to the new world until the arrival of the European settlers. However, a 2007 study suggests that Ancient Pueblo Indians who predate the Europeans, brewed their own brand of corn beer.

Archaeologists found that 800-year-old potsherds belonging to the Pueblos of the American Southwest contained bits of fermented residue typical in beer production. Before the discovery, historians thought a pocket of Pueblos in New Mexico did not have alcohol at all, despite being surrounded by other beer-making tribes, until the Spanish arrived with grapes and wine in the 16th century (

Regardless of who brewed first, the quest for beer is an indelible part of this country’s history. It is reported that as early as in 1587 Virginia Colonists were brewing ale using corn. In around 1607 the first shipment of beer arrived in the Virginia colony from England. Given travel time and typical storage conditions within the ships it is hard to believe that these initial beer shipments held up well. Imported ingredients for making beer were also expensive and in short supply. The result was a certain amount of homespun improvisation of ingredients for both fermenting and flavoring (

A substantial attempt was made to establish maize malt as an alternative to that of barley; in 1622 John Winthrop Jr presented a paper to the Royal Society on the malting of maize. Molasses figured prominently in the fortification of brewing worts; also employed were peaches, persimmons, Jerusalem artichokes, peas, pumpkins, and even corn stalks. Spruce is often mentioned as a flavoring and preservative (

New York’s beer roots can be traced back to the Dutch who established outposts in Port Orange which is now Albany, Port Nassau which is now Camden, New Jersey and New Amsterdam, more famously known today as Manhattan. It didn’t take long for breweries to get up and running. In 1632, led by Governor Van Twiler, The West India Company built a brewery on Brewers Street in New Amsterdam.

By the 1640s Dutch brewers and maltsters were exporting their wares to the other colonies, among them Virginia, where tobacco had supplanted other crops as more profitable, and indeed served as a currency alternative to cash. The mid- Atlantic and southern colonies, including Maryland, Georgia, and the Carolinas, also relied on imports of beer and its materials from the north for similar reasons. Hops not imported from abroad were likely to come from New England or what would now be designated as upstate New York. More perhaps than the beer produced in the other, more provincial colonies, the Dutch-produced beer of New Netherland was widely praised for its quality (

New Amsterdam, the Manhattan of its day was the first real center of brewing on the continent. Several breweries were established from the 1640’s and an onward, and by the time the British Empire took over the colony in 1664 there were at least ten operating breweries catering to a population of roughly 1600. I like those odds.
In the next blog post we will take a look at Beer in the 1700’s and 1800’s in New York and America, how the British lost their stronghold and how American Beer really began to thrive.


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If you’re interested in delving deeper into the history of beer I recommend following acclaimed books:

The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to beer

The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World's Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today's Craft Brewing Revolution 

The United States of Beer: A Freewheeling History of the All-American Drink


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