Craft Beer Makes It To The Smithsonian

By Neat Pour Staff |

American Craft Beer is going up on a pedestal—literally. On Friday (10.25), the Smithsonian is set to feature the story, artifacts, and voices of the craft revolution in a new addition to a permanent exhibit at Washington DC’s National Museum of American History.

Some of the museum’s new additions will include Dogfish Head founders Sam Calagione’s boil kettle; a wooden home-brewing spoon from Charlie Papazian, past president of the Brewers Association and founder of the Association of Brewers; a microscope used by Fritz Maytag at Anchor Brewing Co.; and the travel notebook that cited as the inspiration for Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch to found New Belgium Brewing Co.

“The artifacts featured in this new display convey histories of innovation, creativity and risk, as well as deep pride and pleasure in the processes of brewing and drinking beer in the United States,” said curator Theresa McCulla. “Beer is a thread that runs throughout the fabric of our nation’s history and culture.”

McCulla aims to tell the story of American homebrewing and craft brewing from the movements roots in the West circa the 1950’s and 1960’s through the explosion in the final decades of the millennium before taking us to the present day.

The display is one subset of the American Brewing History Initiative headed by McCulla. Her quest to document the rise of craft for the Smithsonian also includes extensive research and reporting. For example, the project also includes a substantial archive of oral histories. To date McCulla has recorded interviews for the collection with over 75 craft pioneers across the US including including Calagione, Papazian, and Maytag.

The new artifacts along with snippets of the oral archives will be displayed in an installation titled, “Brewing a Revolution,” an addition to the existing “FOOD: Transforming the American Table” area. The exhibit already features an exploration of changes in American eating habits (including an entire section on Julia Child!) since the 1950’s.

Founded three years ago, the whole Initiative is underwritten by craft trades organization the Brewer’s Association. The group recently reupped an committed to another round of funding to carry the project through 2022.

“The craft brewing revolution in America has had a profound social, cultural and economic impact on this country,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association. “America is a beer nation, and we are honored to support this effort and work with the National Museum of American History to chronicle and showcase the significant achievements small and independent brewers and homebrewers have made throughout our nation’s history.”

The exhibit will kick off with some fancy parties this weekend and then be on display permanently during normal museum hours. More info available here.

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