|Portion of exhibit Hops & Hogsheads: Beer from Colonial to Craft Brew, on display at the Mabee Farm Historic Site through March 13, 2015.|
From the moment beer first entered New York in 1609 aboard Henry Hudson's Halve Maen, it has shaped our history, our laws, our culture, and changed many lives. The exhibit Hops & Hogsheads: Beer from Colonial to Craft Brew explores the impact beer has had in the area, from the early Dutch settlers and winding through history to the two Schenectady County microbreweries of today.
Beer was instrumental in the local community from the earliest days of European settlement. In fact, beer helped to purchase much of the land now in Schenectady County. In 1670, the Mohawk gave a sizable tract of land to the Dutch in exchange for beer and other trade goods. As to who was the first brewer in Schenectady, there is no clear answer. The most likely candidate would be a miller. They often took a portion, normally 1/10th, of the grain as payment and converting the grain to beer was a common practice. A 1698 map of Schenectady shows a brew house as one a few labeled buildings. The first documented brew house in Schenectady is from 1706, owned by Johannes Sanderse Glen, although he was likely not the first. Breweries became so prolific along Union Street that prior to the Revolutionary War, parts of Union Street were known as “Brewer’s Street.”
|Inn sign for Jacob Mabee's Inn, which was once located at the Mabee Farm Historic Site. Taverns and inns were a place for people to gather together, in addition to getting a drink. From the collections of the Schenectady County Historical Society.|
Early taverns and inns like the one found at the Mabee Farm were immensely important in pre- and post-Revolutionary America. They were a place where people gathered to argue politics, conduct business, eat a warm meal, exchange the news of the day, find safe refuge while traveling, or simply enjoy a cool, refreshing drink with family or friends. Because these venues were so popular, brewers traveled between these business and brewed large batches of two hundred gallons or more at a time. Innkeepers then kept these in storage and served small quantities to their patrons.
|Brewing supplies on display in exhibit Hops & Hogsheads: Beer from Colonial to Craft Brew.|
As Schenectady grew through the 19th century, beer continued to be an integral part of daily life. The 19th Century saw the rise of the neighborhood brewery in the Capital Region. The names of names of many area brewers in this era are known, thanks to newspapers, city directories, and other sources; however, there is little detail about or their beer. We do know from Daniel Shumay's book Utica Beer that Schenectady beer was "rated as the best around," and sold for the then-hefty sum of $5.00 per barrel.
|Beer bottles made for local and regional bottlers, on display in the exhibit Hops & Hogsheads: Beer from Colonial to Craft Brew.|
You can learn more about the role of beer and brewing in Schenectady County's past at the exhibit Hops & Hogsheads: Beer from Colonial to Craft Brew, now on display through February 7, 2015, at the Franchere Education Center at the Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction. A peek at the exhibit and some of the artifacts, documents, and images on display are included here. For more information about the exhibit, please contact our Educator/Assistant Curator Jenna Peterson or call 518-887-5073.
|Another view of a portion of the exhibit in exhibit Hops & Hogsheads: Beer from Colonial to Craft Brew, on display at the Mabee Farm Historic Site through March 13, 2015.|