NYC’s Beery History: The Radio Show, The Bike Tour

Matt Levy, your host for the Bike Brooklyn Beer Blitz, shows off an olde photo of a Brooklyn Brewery in front of its former home.

You know what else runs citywide next week, in addition to Eat Drink Local week? That would be Craft Beer Week. And we like to think these are two weeks in a pod, so to speak, especially since our ingredient of the day for next Tuesday is local beer — brown ales and lagers, to be specific. So in honor of the craft of that quaff, our most recent show on Heritage Radio Network was on this city’s beer history, courtesy special guest Chris O’Leary of BrewYorkNewYork.com.

That’s a big topic, seeing as how 48 breweries were operating in Brooklyn at the turn of the last century, including Schaefer’s, which was the largest brewery in America in the 1950s and didn’t leave Brooklyn until the 1970s. The show discusses that golden era of brewing and Brooklyn industry, which, Chris explains, we owe to the German immigrant population and their desire for cleaner, crisper, colder lagers, as well as to New York State’s massive hop industry way back when. (In fact it was once the leading producer of beer’s bittering agent, meaning those hops, at one time.) Chris also neatly explains the collapse of the industry thanks to Prohibition and the recent rebirth of craft beer brewed right in our own backyards. It’s totally worth a listen.

And then be sure to sign up for one of Matt Levy’s four bike history rides through Bushwick. (It’s The Bike Beer Blitz: We’re going this Sunday: Join us and Matt, whose city knowledge and Brooklyn street smarts have been heard on our radio show before.) It’s just $25 and includes a pit stop at Matt Torrey’s, a fine craft beer bar in Bushwick near the Old Brewer’s Row. The new one, FYI, is now North 11th in Williamsburg, which was given the moniker in honor of Brooklyn Brewery, which calls the street home… just a few blocks away from where Schaefer’s once brewed on Kent Avenue!

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