Last November, American brewers made history by setting a new record for most active breweries in the US, toppling the previous high of 4,131 breweries established way back in 1873. Now, this historic expansion in America’s brewing culture will be getting the formal recognition is deserves: a place in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Yesterday, the Smithsonian announced a new three year initiative “to collect, document and preserve the history of brewing, craft brewers and the beer industry to explore how the beverage and brewing connect to larger themes in American history.” The new project was made possible by a donation from the Brewers Association, the trade association representing the over 4,000 independent craft breweries making beer in the US today.
This new initiative is not the museum’s first foray into covering the history of beer, but will instead work to significantly upgrade their current collection which primarily focuses on the history of brewing between the years 1870 and the 1960s. A lot has changed in the ensuing five decades, with modern brewers altering the history of beer in America, exploding from under 50 active brewing companies in 1978 – most of which focused on German-style lagers – to the unique tapestry of breweries and styles we all enjoy today.
“Brewing has a long and deep connection to our country’s history, and the museum’s collections explore the history of beer from the late 19th to early 20th centuries,” said museum director John Gray in a statement. “The support of the Brewers Association allows our staff to collect the more recent history, including the impact of small and independent craft brewers who continue to advance the U.S. beer culture and inspire brewers worldwide.”
Granted, if the Smithsonian really wanted us to get into history, they’d add a full-on craft beer bar in the National Museum of American History. But for now, let’s consider this new initiative a start.