To celebrate our exhibition Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History, the New-York Historical Society is hosting a series of Saturday beer tastings run by local breweries in the exhibit’s Beer Hall. The program will run from May 26 through August 25; half-hour tastings will start at 2pm and 4pm. Not only will visitors get to taste some of these local creations, but there will be hops, whole leaf flowers and other beer ingredients for people to touch, smell and experience. Tickets are $35 unless otherwise noted.
Matt Brewing Company, like many New York breweries during prohibition, was forced to adapt or die. During prohibition the brewery began making soft drinks, including the popular Utica Club Ginger Ale and non-alcoholic malt tonics. However, they never forgot their history as a brewery, and found a sneaky way to keep their customers drinking. On the malt tonic label, the brewery advised, “Caution: Do not ferment, do not add yeast, or you will create beer.”
Fortunately, Matt didn’t have to spend too long relying on his customers to make beer for him. A strong supporter of the repeal of prohibition, Matt was actually in Washington D.C. the day it was repealed, and got one of the first brewing licenses after the repeal. “We sold first legal beer in country after prohibition,” said Matt Brewing Co. spokeswoman Meghan Fraser, and they’ve been brewing ever since. “After prohibition it was just yellow beers. People just wanted to drink, and then people got sophisticated.” So Matt began producing Saranac, a “distinctive but drinkable” brew.
Matt Brewing Company is still run by the Matt family today, almost 150 years after F.X. Matt came to America from Germany and began brewing. But the company has expanded to include some new brews, such as their High Peak series, including an imperial stout, and a new white IPA hybrid that will be available at their New-York Historical Society tastings. Fraser says, “it’s great that we’ve been here for so long, but we want to innovate and keep things new.”