“Something’s Brewing: A Historical Look at Albany Brews & Spirits” is the theme of the 16th Annual Albany History Fair to be held at Historic Cherry Hill on Sunday, May 3, from 1 to 4 pm.
This free event will include an 18th century brewing demonstration by Harvey Alexander, music by Friends Union, house tours, exhibits, and a brewing and agricultural scavenger hunt for families, throughout the afternoon.
Presentations include “Teetotalers, Temperance and the Cold Water Army, by Paul and Mary Liz Stewart of the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, “Did the Shakers Drink Alcohol?” by Samantha Hall-Saladino of Shaker Heritage Society, and “History on Tap: Brewing and the New York State Hops Industry of Roger Savoy of Homebrew Emporium.
Streams for powering mills and an abundance of hops and brewing grains, such as barley and wheat, made Albany an ideal place for brewing. The earliest breweries were established by the wealthy elite—those families who owned the land or controlled its resources and had enough money to invest in brewing equipment. Breweries proliferated in the nineteenth century, and, when the Erie Canal opened in 1825, Albany’s location near the Hudson River at the end of the Erie Canal allowed the city to establish a monopoly on the distribution of beer.
Historic Cherry Hill’s collections offer a personal glimpse into one family’s interaction with brews and spirits, from first-generation owner Philip Van Rensselaer’s interest in brewing beer to fifth-generation family member Herbert Rankin, enjoying a pint with his buddies during his days at Gottingen University in Germany. The intact collections of more than 70,000 objects and manuscripts include a wide array of related items—dandelion and elderberry wines made by Emily Rankin, Cherry Hill’s last surviving family member; flasks; corkscrews; beer bottles; cordial glasses; wine, liqueur and beer recipes; corks…and more.
The Albany History Fair, presented by Historic Cherry Hill and the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center, is sponsored by The Times Union, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Cohoes Savings Foundation, and is a designated event of Partners for Albany Stories (PASt).
Historic Cherry Hill is a non-profit historic house museum built in 1787 and lived in continuously by five generations of the same family until the death of the last family member in 1963. The museum has 20,000 objects, 30,000 manuscripts, 7,500 textiles, 5,000 books and 3,000 photographs in its collection. For more information on the History Fair, which will be held on the museum grounds at 523 ½ South Pearl Street in Albany, call (518) 434-4791, or email email@example.com.
Photo of 2014 History Fair provided.
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