The Bowery, Blizzards, and Beer!

Well, it’s been a fascinating week in New York City so far – with one more week to go!

The snowy exterior of historic McSorley's Ale House.

The snowy exterior of historic McSorley’s Ale House.

Luckily we’re Midwesterners who know how to deal with a touch of snow – which the New Yorkers we’ve met here have quaintly called a blizzard.

But we’ve had an amazing time taking a bite out of the Big Apple, and exploring our roots as Beertonians.

Of course no trip would be complete without going to the source of it all – McSorley’s Ale House.

This is where our forefathers Rhys Bramblethorpe and Aloysius Thompson first met and dreamed of wide open plains (probably filled with fields of hops), while slinging mugs of New York beer.

And I must say that not a one in our group – which includes followers of this blog, members of Beertown’s Historical Society, and a Daughter of Ninkasi or two – went home disappointed…or sober.

Treading in historic footprints is exhausting and thirsty work, particularly in the snow!

A festive time was had by one and all after a long and cold day exploring the nearby Bowery, where Bramblethorpe and Thompson lived and worked.

More to come in the days ahead…but for friends and family back home, here’s a little postcard of our tour group – after being considerably warmed by McSorley’s ale:

Our tour group of Beertonians, finding refreshment after a history-filled day.

Our tour group of Beertonians, finding refreshment after a history-filled day.


Beertonians Take Manhattan

You might think that there are no two towns more different from each other than Beertown and New York City.

But those Beertonians who know their history know differently. In fact, Beertown owes its very existence to the Big Apple.

It was while working in McSorley’s Old Ale House that Beertown founders Rhys Bramblethorpe and Aloysius Thompson

McSorley's Old Ale House, where Beertown Founding Fathers Bramblethorpe and Thompson first met.

McSorley’s Old Ale House, where Beertown Founding Fathers Bramblethorpe and Thompson first met.

first met.

An immigrant from Wales and a native New Yorker, the two dreamed of finding their fortunes – and making great beer – out West.

While they started a new chapter and a new city on the frontier, they never forgot their hometown.

It is said that they providentially stopped for refreshment at the Thakiwaki River because it reminded them of the Hudson. And when they tasted the pure spring waters nearby, it had the taste of New York’s finest from the Old Croton Aqueduct (only much better!).

As Bramblethorpe and Thompson developed their new city in the boom times following the Civil War, they replicated many of the places they knew from New York. For instance, it’s no coincidence that a visiting New Yorker will find that Beertown Park bears a striking resemblance to Central Park (albeit on a somewhat smaller scale).

Founding Father Rhys Bramblethorpe, circa 1863.

Founding Father Rhys Bramblethorpe, circa 1863.

Founding Father and New Yorker Alyosius Thompson, circa 1861.

Founding Father and New Yorker Alyosius Thompson, circa 1861.

To celebrate the upcoming sesquicentennial of the founding of our dear city by these two New Yorkers, the Historic Beertown blog is proud to partner with the Beertown Historical Society to sponsor a special trip to the Big Apple.

It’s a sort of  homecoming for Beertonians to connect with our past and honor the connections between our two cities.

Over the next two weeks we’ll be visiting historic sites throughout New York City, including McSorley’s and other places connected to our heritage and the city’s beer past. By learning more about New York history, we’ll be learning about Beertown history.  

And we’ll be using the excellent NYC history blog and podcast – The Bowery Boys – as our guide. Check out their many entertaining and informative podcasts linked throughout this blog.

But it won’t be all history – we’ll also be sampling some cutting-edge arts and culture, including an exciting off-Broadway show.

Stay tuned to this blog to see more of our historic adventures as Beertonians take Manhattan!

Happy July 4th, Beertonians!

Historic Beertown wishes all Beertonians a Happy July 4th today!

This year, Beertown celebrates its 149th Independence Day (almost at our sesquicentennial!).

The very first July 4th celebration in our town was observed in 1865, by none other than Rhys Bramblethorpe and Aloysius Thompson. They invited the elders of the Thakiwaki tribe to share a peace pipe and homemade brew at their newly founded settlement, on the very site of what would become the B&T Brewery.

The Civil War had just ended a few months earlier, and it was a time of optimism and great promise for this new frontier town.

Sadly, this tradition would not last – the remaining members of the Thakiwaki tribe were moved

Chief Thakatanka prepares to lead this year’s parade as grand marhsal.

to a reservation west of the Mississippi in 1876, in reaction to the Battle of the Little Bighorn and Custer’s Last Stand.

Over the years there have been highs and lows for our Independence Day celebrations – the exciting visit of President Teddy Roosevelt as our parade grand marhsal in 1907, the somber beginning of Prohibition in ’20, the triumphant end of the ban on beer and Prohibition in ’33, and the bleak closing of the B&T Brewery in ’92.

This year falls on the celebratory side as we prepare to honor our town’s history at our 20th Quinquennial Time Capsule Day.

And to help us commemorate our special anniversary, we’ve been joined this July 4th by an actual descendant of the Thakiwaki tribe.

Chief Thakatanka from the Cool Springs Reservation in Wyoming will lead the parade as grand marshal.

Come out to join the festivities, and to celebrate Beertown’s independent spirit!