#NYCBeerweek just ended a few days ago, but our exploration of the history of New York Beer continues for your consuming pleasure. We are pleased to present Hopped Up: NY Beer Then and Now part 2. The latest installment picks up right where we left off last week. Sit back, grab a brew and enjoy!
As you have surmised by now the history of beer is intertwined with that of this great nation and the grand city of New York. At a large parade to celebrate the New York State ratification of the United States constitution in 1788, twenty brewers partook with the motto “Ale, proper drink for Americans.” One of the brewers’ flags was emblazoned with the phrase “May he be choaked with the grains, or drowned in hot ale whose business it is to brew mischief” (untapped cities.com). The New York love affair with craft brew was only just beginning.
In 1797, James Vassar founded his highly successful and historic brewery in Poughkeepsie, New York. Vassar’s sons John and Matthew eventually took over and following John’s accidental death in a fire that destroyed the plant, Matthew Vassar rebuilt the brewery in 1811. By the early 1840s, the Vassar brewery produced nearly 15,000 barrels of ale and porter annually, a significant amount for this period. Continued investment in the firm facilitated even greater production levels, and by 1860 its fifty employees turned out 30,000 barrels of beer, placing it amongst the nation’s largest breweries. Today, the Vassar name is better known for the college Matthew Vassar endowed in 1860 with earnings from the brewery (EH.net).
Fun Fact: In New York Beer was safer to drink than water until the construction of the Croton Aqueduct in 1842.
Yet even with clean water the need to consume this wonderful libation showed no signs of slowing down. By the time the 1880s rolled around there were almost 100 breweries in New York. Many were in neighborhoods with high populations of German immigrants like Yorkville, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg and Bushwick (donyc.com). Breweries included the original NY Beer brew Giants Schaefer and Rheingold as well as lesser-known breweries like Lion, Hell Gate, Edelbrew, and Otto Huber all of which were started and/or owned by German immigrants (Politico.com).
The New York brew boom coincided with the hop growing supremacy. Throughout much of the 19th century New York was the country’s biggest hops-growing region. The state attained national leadership in hop production in 1849, and was selling over three million pounds annually by 1855 (craftbeer.com). This production was sadly crushed by the ludicrous prohibition laws. The crippling effects of prohibition, its aftermath and the rebirth of the NY craft brew scene will be covered in next week’s blog - Hopped Up: NY Beer Then and Now pt 3.
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For those of you inspired to homebrew here’s everything you’ll need to start!
How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time This is an easy to read and easy to follow step-by-step review of home brewing.
Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Homebrewing Craft Beer Making Kit - If your want to brew you’re going to need a good brew kit! Kit contains a compact, lightweight, shatterproof, reusable Little Brown Keg fermenter that is modeled after the design of professional brewing equipment and brews 2 gallons (16 pints) of delicious craft beer. The gold kit contains two brewing extracts to brew 2 batches (4 gallons/32 pints) of beer.
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