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German cuisine has long been a part of New York City culture. The same jovial spirit that filled Shop Life’s John and Caroline Schneider’s saloon in the 1870s can be felt all over the city today from the Upper East Side to Astoria. On March 19th, we’ll host our fifth Culinary Conversation, The New Little Germany: New York Revisits the German Table. This event explores the city’s recent proliferation of Austro-German restaurants, cafes and, most significantly for us, Beer Gardens.[To read an abridged version of this post, click here]
It’s no secret that beer is New York’s latest beverage of choice. Venture into any bodega and you’re bound to find rows upon rows of colorful six packs overshadowing sulking cans of Bud and Coors. Craft beer bars are popping up all over the city, from cult brewery Evil Twin’s just-opened Greenpoint mega-outpost, Tørst, to exclusive, rare-beer speakeasies like Proletariat in the East Village to friendly bottle-heavy drinking havens like our Orchard Street neighbor, Top Hops. Production is experiencing a renaissance, too, with homebrew shops and breweries opening on what seems to be a monthly basis. Seems like a new trend, a passing fad? Not so, says Brooklyn Brewery’s founder Steve Hindy.
“A century ago, there were hundreds of beer gardens and halls in the city and 48 breweries in Brooklyn alone,” Hindy explained in a 2011 Crains New York article. “You see all of that coming back now.”
Throughout the 19th century, German immigrants flooded into lower Manhattan. They arrived with a passion for brewing and consuming lager, a style of beer lagered, or stored, at cool temperatures during fermentation. Lagers are often lighter and crisper than their British-style counterpoints, allowing for gregarious, communal and even family-friendly drinking for hours on end without risk of over-intoxication. Thus, the NYC beer garden was born, welcoming picnickers, merchants and hardscrabble laborers alike.
A typical New York beer-garden. Creator: Glackens, William J., 1870-1938
While German food has never truly fallen out of fashion, German-style beer gardens diminished in the face of the growing Temperance movement and subsequent Volstead Act, which outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages and forced US and foreign production lines to a halt. By Prohibition’s end, over half of American breweries failed to reopen. While New York breweries like Rheingold attempted to bounce back, they were soon overtaken by big Midwestern corporations brewing mass quantities of inexpensive adjunct lagers, or light beers that use corn or rice as filling ingredients. The popularity of these beverages, due in part to their powerful advertising capabilities, dominated market share and pushed many small breweries and import/export businesses into obscurity. That was until Cranston Act was passed by the Carter administration in 1979, legalizing craft and homebrewing and opening the door to a more beer-friendly culture.
So why are the sudden resurgence? Many market experts attribute the rise in popularity to growing national interest in craft beer, or microbrews, in tandem with New York’s rich historical relationship with German-influenced brewing and food culture.
Tuesday’s Culinary Conversation, The New Little Germany: New York Revisits the German Table, brings together renown restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton, third generation charcuterie master Jeremy Schaller, Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner of the Standard Biergarten, craft beer expert Joshua M. Bernstein and Culinary Conversations curator Jane Ziegelman. Representing different pieces of the neo-Kleindeutschland puzzle, these panelists elaborate on a three-course Austro-German menu complete with beer pairings provided by museum favorite Brooklyn Brewery and Queens newcomer SingleCut Beersmiths.
SingleCut and Brooklyn Brewery represent two poles of the NYC craft beer boom. With distribution in more than 25 states and 20 countries, Williamsburg’s beloved 28-year-old Brooklyn Brewery pumps out some of the best lagers on this side of the Atlantic, in addition to a full run of other styles. Their flagship Brooklyn Lager will be served at the event’s kick off to wash down a German-style snack from Schaller & Weber. Later in the evening, Queen’s SingleCut Beersmiths provide pairings for Chef Gutenbrunner’s appetizer and main courses. Opened in 2012, SingleCut is Queen’s first brewery since Prohibition. Their flagship 19-33 Lagrrr! is a refreshing cross between a Czech and German Pilsner with a serendipitous name – 1933 is both the taproom’s address (19-33 37th St. in Astoria) and the year Prohibition ended. Alongside the 19-33, guests will sample SingleCut’s Jan Olympic White Lagrrr!, a white lager with a lemony aroma and a pleasant, biscuity sweetness.
Barrels of 19-33 Lagrrr! line SingleCut’s Queens Brewery & Taproom
Join us March 19th and raise a pint to German culture while we transform 103 Orchard St. into a bustling New York beer garden. Tickets can be purchased by visiting our website or calling 1-877-975-3786. Tickets can also be purchased in pairs through our partners at Couples.HowAboutWe.com, including a signed copy of 97 Orchard: An Edible History by curator and host Jane Ziegelman. Cheers!