As the craft brewing industry expands in Central New York it is easy to forget that in the 19th and early 20th century most towns of any size had their local brewery. The Utica-Rome area has been home to well over 40 breweries since 1801. Historian and Author Dan Shumway will share hoppy stories of the history of brewing in the Mohawk Valley, September 18th at 7:00 PM at the Rome Historical Society.
Two factors played a major role in this booming industry. First, the location had a heavy influence on brewing in the region and the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 significantly lowered transportation costs for brewing supplies and finished beer. Second, hop growing was a huge industry in Central New York during the second half of the 19th century. These two factors resulted in booming commerce with New York and Pennsylvania generating 85% of the beer produced in the US in 1860. The great “social experiment” of Prohibition made the manufacture and sale of alcohol illegal and from 1920 through 1933 Prohibition crippled a thriving industry with only a handful of breweries surviving.
The Matt family’s West End Brewing Company (now the Matt Brewing Company) of Utica was one of the survivors. It claims to be the first brewery to sell beer after the repeal of Prohibition and is still thriving today under its award-winning Saranac line of beer and soft drinks. Author Dan Shumway remarks: “Thanks to their Saranac beer, the craft beer movement is old news for residents who have been enjoying these local favorites for more than 125 years.”
In 2016 Copper City Brewing Company opened its door in Rome’s east side and brought locally brewed craft beer back to life in Rome. They will be on hand for this event pouring samples of their Rome brewed beer and sharing their story.
Dan Shumway is a beer and memorabilia collector and historian of breweries in Upstate New York. He is a member of Beer Collectibles Club of America, Eastern Coast Breweriana Association, American Breweriana Association, Herkimer County Historical Society, and president of the Officer Suds Chapter of BCCA.
The program is free and open to the public. Dan Shumway will do a book signing of his book: Utica Beer: A History of Brewing in the Mohawk Valley and will have copies for purchase.