Locations needed for accurate map of colonial breweries
April 9, 2012 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I want to make this map of American "colonial" breweries more historically accurate, so I need a list of American locations that brewed beer prior to 1776.

Any suggested brewing location must be reasonably locatable on this macro-scale. I don't need a particular street address (or really-specific lat/long), but city/town would be nice.

The current map lists modern breweries in the modern states that rose from the original colonies. I want to make a map like this, except with colonial breweries (many of which would've been housed in private estates and other non-business-like places, I'm sure). I want to include the 13 colonies in their entirety just before July 4th, 1776, so this may include much of modern-day Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia, etc.

I know many wealthy land-owners had private breweries, so if there is some big list of folks that brewed their own beer, I could make that work, too.

Bonus points for colonial roads that connected the brewing locations.

I can fudge the map projections if need be.
posted by cmchap to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Not an answer but a few suggestion for how to improve your map with more breweries-

Firslty, you'll have a fairly limited number of surviving newspapers, newsletters, gazettes etc that wrote articles or accepted advertising about and from the government, local industry and businesses. Look for publicized laws, articles and ads about breweries themselves, hop growing, malting, residential hotels, taverns and pubs, druggists, etc. Any of those might give you brewery names and locations. This may involve lots of travel and many joyous hours spent looking at microfilm, or you may get lucky and find that lots of old papers are getting digitized these days.

A second suggestion for getting the names (and potentially the locations) of more breweries than are on the linked map - bottle collectors and their resources. Whether bottles were stoneware (from the very start through to the late 19th C or so) or glass (mostly post 1810 or so), they differ in form, and they were often incised, stamped, painted, transfer printed or labeled with logos. Sometimes it's really simple stuff like the letter "A", sometimes it's a full brewery name and location plus the bottle manufacturer's logo. Bottle collectors spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort tracking down details about those forms and logos and what they represent, and much time criticizing/verifying each other's work. There are museums, antique dealers, books, websites with tens of thousands of example photos, and there are the collectors themselves. For really early breweries, you'll probably want to track down materials and people dealing with the stoneware and ceramic bottles. Your range here will be limited by the fact that there were less breweries, there are less surviving data points (both physical and archival), and (at a guess) many of the very early bottles will have been imported. On the flip side of that coin is the fact that the point to making clay bottles was that they didn't need to be imported. So there's a better chance they were made on site and carry some external detail about what they were filled with, and by whom.

Thirdly, another antiques suggestion. Tankards with stamped details. Particularly from taverns that brewed their own beer.

Fourth suggestion. Did the Brits tax beer, breweries, taverns or anything related? Did they promote the building of taverns at significant trade points? If they did, there will likely be colonial records of tavern building, who they taxed and what for. More travel and archival research..

As a bit of an afterthought.. malting. Until widespread rail transport and bulk handling, big breweries tended not to be too far from a malting factory. Significant scale commercial brewing uses large amounts of dry malt (I'm assuming this was the case way back then too). And malting traditionally involved big buildings containing large floors with fires under them. So architectural histories, heritage registers, newspaper accounts of those buildings burning down, etc might lead you to the breweries themselves just because they'll be nearby.
posted by Ahab at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

All of Ahab's advice is fantastic.

I also encourage you to look at census records and other vital statistics (marriage and death records, church enrollment rolls, tax records, etc.) where people's occupations were frequently given.

Checking with museums and reenactment sites like Plimouth Plantation, Old Sturbridge Village, Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH, Colonial Williamsburg, the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, etc., etc., is another potential source of leads. The staff at those museums tend to do more research than they can publish in a timely manner, so they often have data that aren't out in the journals.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:56 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might want to go to a library- i'm a librarian and found several books that might help (Brewing battles : a history of American beer by Amy Mittelman;Libations of the eighteenth century : a concise manual for the brewing of authentic beverages from the colonial era of America, and of times past by David Alan Woolsey;Early American beverages by John Hull Brown) in a catalog called WorldCat, which is a meta-catalog of thousands of libraries worldwide. Your local librarian can help you find these and other books in your location or help you order them.

There is great advice from other folks here if you want to do your own research, but you may be able to get a head start with other's research.
posted by holyrood at 4:06 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I second the suggestion of local libraries. I work at a library here on long island (its on the map you posted) and we have books dating from before 1776. people all over long island come to see our collection.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:09 PM on April 9, 2012

For what its worth and since I can't read your map well, the Old Salem/Bethania/Bethabara Moravian settlements in North Carolina brewed beer. Not too sure about distribution. Just an area you might want to get info on.
posted by PJMoore at 5:40 PM on April 9, 2012

Just in case this is helpful, a search of the New York Public Library’s online catalog for "breweries" returned the book Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey by Brian Yaeger (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008). According to the Amazon review:

Covering everything from fifth-generation family-run brewing companies to first-wave microbreweries, this book is a travelogue, guide, and genealogical study of beer families and homebrewers from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. It is filled with eclectic characters and shrewd businesspeople who populate an industry as old as the New World, and who produce liquid philanthropy, one keg at a time.

As holyrood suggests, you could look in WorldCat to see what libraries near you have this book.
posted by LIS652 at 5:18 PM on April 13, 2012

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