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Beer Lovers and Historians Recall the Reign of NYC Breweries

By Janet Upadhye | February 27, 2013 8:29am

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Historians love beer too.

During NYC Beer Week, The Brooklyn Historical Society will host K. Jacob Ruppert, scion of the Jacob Ruppert Brewery empire on the Upper East Side, Brooklyn Brewery's vice president Robin Ottaway and beer history expert, Robin Shulman.

"It is important to remember a time when everything you needed was made in your local neighborhood. That includes beer," said Shulman, who wrote "Eat the City," a book about urban food production.

Today there are 12 craft beer breweries in the city. But once upon a time, local breweries ruled the land. In fact, in the 1800s and leading up to World War I, New York City produced more beer than any other place in the country, Shulman says.

“Beer was all the craze,” she said. “And German breweries were everywhere.”

But during World War I, anti-German sentiment pushed many breweries out of business and fueled the movement for prohibition, nearly obliterating the city's beer market.

When New York City breweries were revived after prohibition, Midwestern beer makers dominated the national beer market and the city’s beer heyday apparently reached its end.

Some breweries survived, including the Jacob Ruppert Brewery on the Upper East Side. Though the brewery is now closed, Ruppert’s grandnephew is alive to tell the tales of the golden age of beer in New York City.

Talk Beer” is scheduled for March 2 at 3:00 p.m. at the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights.

And of course, beer will be served.