A new era of alcoholic beverage production is dawning in the Adirondacks. You can drink locally-brewed beer from any one of several micro-breweries, or imbibe vodka distilled from potatoes grown in Gabriels and filtered through the high-quality quartz crystals known as Herkimer diamonds. “Drinking local” has a long tradition within the Blue Line. Today, let’s consider the honorable history of Adirondack beer. Continue reading
In 1788, the same year as France was moving closer towards revolution and the United States Constitution was being ratified, a young man made his way to the area that would one day bear his name. His name was Selah Tuthill. He founded what would become known as the Tuthilltown Gristmill in Gardiner, New York. Once the mill started churning out stone ground flour, it would do so continuously for over two hundred years until its second life as a restaurant and distillery. Continue reading
To celebrate its summer exhibition Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History, the New-York Historical Society will host a series of beer tastings that showcase the thriving brewing culture in New York City and State.
Beer Here will examine the social, economic, political, and technological history of the production and consumption of beer, ale, and porter in the city from the seventeenth century to the present day. The beer tasting program, run by Starr Restaurants catering group, will take place in the exhibition’s beer hall on most Saturday afternoons from May 26 through August 25, 2012.
The half-hour beer tastings, which will occur at 2 pm and 4 pm, will offer visitors the chance to hear directly from brewers and brewery founders about the history and process of making beer. In addition to tasting local artisanal creations, visitors also will experience first-hand the hops, whole leaf flowers and other ingredients used to make beer. Tickets for the tastings are $35 (Members $20) and may be purchased online. A six pack special discount (purchase by telephone or in person only) is offered to visitors who purchase tickets to six separate tastings for only $150 (Members $100). A complete tasting event schedule follows below.
In addition to the beer tastings, New-York Historical also will host Beer Appreciation Night on Tuesday, July 10 at 6:30 pm, featuring Beer Here curators Debra Schmidt Bach and Nina Nazionale- Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery- Steve Hindy, co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery- and Gabrielle Langholtz, editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. A special tasting of Brooklyn Brewery beers will follow the program. Combined tickets for the program and beer tasting are $49 (Members $37), and program-only tickets are $24 (Members $12).
Beer Tastings Schedule & Participating Breweries
The Matt Brewing Company
Saturday, May 26, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm, Saturday, August 4, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
The Matt Brewing Company has prospered at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in Central New York for over a century. Under the leadership of the third and fourth generations of the Matt Family, the Brewery has earned the reputation as one of the most respected specialty brewers in the country and continues its family tradition with the celebrated Saranac family of beers. The tasting will feature Saranac White IPA, bursting with Citra hops, and the refreshing fruitiness of orange peel & coriander and the softening characters of wheat malt and oats, and other special selected beer.
Kelso Beer Co.
Saturday, June 2, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
Kelso Beer Co. was founded by Kelly Taylor, also a brewmaster at Heartland Brewery, and wife, Sonya Giacobbe, in 2006 to create fresh, flavorful, low-alcohol session beer. The tasting will feature Saison, a Belgian style ale- Recessionator, a big bold doppleback- India Pale Ale, a punchy, bright and unique beer- and Pilsner, a classic European pils, with a floral nose, slightly sweet with a dry finish.
Saturday, June 9, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm, Saturday, August 18, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
Keegan Ales was founded in early 2003 when Tommy Keegan learned about an empty building in Kingston that nobody would buy because there was a defunct brewery stuck in it! The Keegan Ales tasting will feature Mother’s Milk, a dark and creamy milk stout with hints of oatmeal, chocolate and milk- Hurricane Kitty, a coppery and heavily hopped India Pale Ale- and Barley Wine.
Saturday, June 16, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm, Saturday, August 11, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
Bronx Brewery is a craft brewer and distributor based in the South Bronx. It was launched in 2011 by a small team with two things in common: a maniacal focus on creating high-quality beer and a passion for the Bronx. Bronx Brewery will serve its Bronx Pale Ale, a deep amber, American-style pale ale. A second, yet-to-be released, spring beer may be available as well.
Saturday, June 23, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
The Harlem Brewing Company story starts about 86 years ago. Legend has it that during Prohibition a special beer was being made and this secret brew could be found in Speakeasies and after-hours spots all over Harlem. This tasting will feature Sugar Hill Golden Ale, a medium bodied golden ale known for its drinkability, with a subtle citrus accent and a finish of hops and malt flavor.
Blue Point Brewing Company
Saturday, June 30, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
Blue Point Brewing Company is Long Island’s only microbrewery. It was founded in 1998 by two long-time friends, Mark Burford and Pete Cotter. The brewery’s unique direct-fire brew kettle imparts a lightly toasted, complex taste to produce a line of ultra-premium microbrews.
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Saturday, July 7, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company was started by Scott Vacarro, an avid brewer from the young age of 17. The brewery opened in 2006, and is named after Captain Lawrence Drive, the street where Vacarro grew up. After much success, Vacarro recently expanded the brewery into a new location in Elmsford, NY with more brewing capacity and a large tasting room. The tasting will feature: Captain Kolisch, Liquid Gold, and Pale Ale.
Genesee Brewing Company
Saturday, July 14, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
Genesee Brewing Company, based in Rochester, New York, is one of the largest and oldest continually operating breweries in the United States. The Brewery makes the Genesee line of beers, including the original Genesee Cream Ale, Dundee Pilsner, the award winning Dundee Pale Bock, Dundee Stout, and Dundee India Pale Ale.
Saturday, July 21, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
Heartland Brewery opened as New York’s first American style brewpub on Union Square in 1995 and has been igniting New Yorkers’ passion for craft beers ever since. Heartland has consistently brewed New York’s freshest craft beers, including Heartland’s classic six as well as a wide range of unique seasonal brews.
Ithaca Beer Company
Saturday, July 28, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
In December 1998, Dan Mitchell, founder of Ithaca Beer Company, created the first local brewery in Ithaca that exemplifies “The Spirit of the Finger Lakes.” Ithaca Beer Company was recently awarded two medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado in 2008. The tasting will feature Nut Brown, with subtle hints of both chocolate and coffee- CascaZilla, a red ale- and Apricot Wheat Ale, an easy-drinking wheat beer.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company
Saturday, August 25, 2012: 2 pm & 4 pm
Founders John Liegy and Rich Vandenburgh met in college and dreamed of opening a microbrewery. That dream became a reality when in in July of 2009, the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company was founded. Today, Greenport’s beer is served in over 200 places on Long Island and NYC.
The passage of the Volstead Act and prohibition against intoxicating liquor caused a profound change in American culture by breaking the traditional mold of heroes and anti-heroes. Popular media has romanticized the anti-hero “gangster” role, and some of the greatest actors of the movie-making era have portrayed names like Al Capone, “Bugs” Moran, “Bugsy” Siegal and “Machine Gun” Kelly on the silver screen. In many instances, thugs, authorities and officials become the puppets of the crime boss, or the authorities become as violent as the criminals do.
During Prohibition my grandfather’s brother Denis Warren, a veteran of some of the bloodiest American battles of World War One, was left for dead on the side of Route 9N south of Port Henry on Lake Champlain. He was in the second of two cars of friends returning from Montreal with a small supply of beer. Going through Port Henry local customs agents gave chase and the car he was in hit a rock cut and he was badly injured in the accident. Figuring his was dead, or nearly so, and worried he would go to prison, one of Denis’s best friends rolled him under the guardrail, climbed into the other car, and sped off.
Joe Kennedy, never really enthusiastic about World War One, spent the war as an assistant general-manager of Bethlehem Steel and used the opportunity to buddy up to Franklin D. Roosevelt who was then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. During Prohibition Kennedy went to England and with the help of FDR’s eldest son James Roosevelt secured the exclusive American rights for Gordon’s Dry Gin and Dewar’s Scotch. Contrary to rumors, Kennedy wasn’t a bootlegger, he imported his British booze legally under a permit to distribute medical alcohol. Kennedy was of course, the father of John F. Kennedy.
The story of these two Irish-Americans serves as a kind of microcosm of the story of Prohibition, when all of America seemed upside down. “In almost every respect imaginable, Prohibition was a failure,” Daniel Okrent writes in Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. “It deprived the government of revenue, stripped the gears of the political system, and imposed profound limitations on individual rights. It fostered a culture of bribery, blackmail, and official corruption. It also maimed and murdered, its excesses apparent in deaths by poison, by the brutality of ill-trained, improperly supervised enforcement officers, and by unfortunate proximity to mob gun battles.”
The medical exemption to Prohibition, along with the sacramental wine exemption, and the fruit exemption for homemade wine and cider, meant that Prohibition was fairly doomed from the start according to Okrent. In fact it’s a wonder that Prohibition even got started. In the late nineteenth century drinking was at an all time high, a central part of American life. But immigration was also at an all time high, along with the Protestant Christian reformers, xenophobia, and racism. An unlikely alliance emerged to battle “Demon Rum” that included racists (including the Klan), progressives, suffragists, and populists.
Okrent lays out the story of this coalition in a readable way, avoiding much of the political minutiae, while still illuminating the personalities – people like Mother Thompson, Frances Willard, axe-wielding Carry Nation, bible-thumping Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan (who helped bring the Democratic party on board), Wayne Wheeler (the long-forgotten man considered the father of Prohibition), and Mabel Willebrandt (the Assistant US Attorney General despised by the nation’s drinkers).
The usual suspects are all here: the rise of organized crime from scattered minor street gangs, the rum runners contributions to boat design, the rise of Sam Bronfman’s Seagrams empire. The most interesting parts of the book however, detail how leading suffragists sought the vote after being denied leadership positions in the temperance movement and then used that vote to secure first the income tax (considered crucial to weaning the government off the alcohol excise tax teet) and finally Prohibition. Okrent also clearly presents the brewers’ failure to band together with the distillers, and their lack of action against the Prohibitionist until it was too late. Mostly German-Americans, World War One sealed their fates.
Also illuminating is Okrent’s telling of how the Eighteenth Amendment, which along with the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery is the only constitutional amendment to deal with personal property and the only one to have been repealed, came to be reversed. Last Call chalks it up to a few primary factors. The ease of access to booze which was no longer regulated, and so could be found everywhere, not just at bars (the old joke went “Remember before Prohibition? When you couldn’t get a drink on Sunday?”). The presidential campaign of solidly wet New York Governor Al Smith (defeated by mostly dry anti-Catholics) that changed the political mood of the country’s immigrants [video]. The Great Depression, and the need for the billions in excise tax (which helped fund the New Deal) that gave Repeal a push. But the biggest factor was perhaps the right-wing wealthy anti-tax (and future anti-Roosevelt) Pierre S. DuPont who believed so profoundly that Repeal would mean an elimination of the income tax that he bankrolled the fight himself. Fundamentally though, it was the Democratic title-wave that swept FDR into office [music] that changed the make-up of the Congress that allowed the crucial Repeal vote.
Okrent avoids the obvious comparisons to today’s Drug War, but even the causal reader, can’t miss them. The seemingly limitless supply, the institutionalized hypocrisy of legal tobacco and alcohol while pot smokers go to overcrowded prisons. The overzealous and expensive enforcement on the one hand (particularly in the inner cities), alongside marijuana buyers clubs and lax enforcement that amounts to a defacto local option.
It took about 10 years to understand that Prohibition only increased lawlessness, corruption, greed, and violence. Last Call leaves the astute reader wondering how long it will take us to come to the same conclusion about the War on Drugs.
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