State of Beer @ the American Museum of Natural History

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Many museums have upped their game over the last few years, adding gourmet restaurants and boutique shopping (i.e., MOMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art); however, not many are offering visitors an academically-approved path to the drinking of beer.

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH): In-house Authors

A Natural History of Beer was written by Dr. Ian Tattersall, Curator Emeritus, AMNH Division of Anthropology and Dr. Rob DeSalle, a Curator at the AMNH, Sackler Institute for Comparative Biology and its program for microbial research. Together they have linked their knowledge and expertise in the fields of paleoanthropology and molecular biology to developing an interesting and useful pathway to the enjoyment of beer.

The book covers the science and history of beer and includes such diverse themes as animal behavior, ecology, archaeology, chemistry, sociology, law, genetics, physiology, neurobiology, etc.

According to Tattersall and DeSalle, beer can be traced back 2,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia and the Babylonian Empire and the process for making beer that has evolved to the current interest in American craft breweries. The book explains how beer drinking became fashionable, the ingredients that deliver different taste experiences to our palates, how the chemistry of beer works at the molecular level, and how diverse societies have approached the regulation of beer production and consumption.

The Museum beer tasting and panel discussion was moderated by Megan Krigbaum, a wine writer and contributing editor for Punch.


The beers tasted and discussed were provided by the Catskill Brewery and Harlem Brewing Company.

Located in Livingston Manor, New York, the Catskill Brewery was started by three friends eager to make a positive impact on their local economy and determined that beer production would attract visitors to the Catskill Mountains of New York. Using fresh mountain water and natural ingredients, the brewery has created a popular tourist destination located at the entrance to Catskill Park.

With a focus on sustainability, the Brewery utilizes geothermal systems to heat the brewery and cool the storage units to keep the beer cold. A solar thermal hot water system supports the geothermal systems during high heat demand and preheats the brewing water during production. Solar photovoltaics deliver electricity and it is used to power the entire facility. During high loads wind renewable credits are purchased from the local electric grid.

The Harlem Brewing Company started in the 1990s from a home brew kit. Although the first batches were not newsworthy, Celeste Betty (entrepreneur and beer pioneer) did not give up and eventually developed a perfect recipe, inspired by the rich history of Harlem. The flagship beers are Sugar Hill Golden Ale, Harlem Renaissance Wit and 125 IPA. Since 2000 the Brewery has focused on introducing unusual flavors, infusions and flavorful recipes.


  1. Catskill Brewery. Ball Lighting Pilsner. 5.5 percent ABV

The beer was inspired by Czech Pilsner and has lots of hops thanks to the use of imported Saaz hops and European pilsner malt.

To the eye very light gold with pure white foam. The smell of multi-grain bread is crisp with a hint of lemon enhanced by a layer of malt. On the palate it develops a sense of new mown hay. The finish delivers a hint of bitterness and spice (that is pleasant).

  1. Catskill Brewery. Devil’s Path IPA. 7.5 percent ABV. 100 percent Michigan hops

To the eye, amber and gold. The smell is rich, ripe and fruity with hints of grass and leaves. On the palate there are traces of honey, flowers and berries, tropical fruits and pine leading to a bitter full-flavored finish.

  1. Catskill Brewery. Stout ’19. 4.5 percent ABV

If you like coffee, this is your go-to beer as it presents a strong roasted coffee aroma mixed with chocolate leading to a taste of stout. Coffee oats and lactose delivers a lush mouthfeel and provides a foundation for the strong dark-malt flavors.

  1. Harlem Brewing Company. Harlem Renaissance Witbier. 5.8 ABV

This Belgian – style wheat ale looks like golden apricots to the eye with a white fluffy head and lively carbonation. The smell of wheat malt, spice and citrus fruit (including orange rind) reward the nose while the palate is entertained by hints of wheat malt, ripe fruit and spiciness. The finish is long and spicy. It was awarded Best Beer in NYC, People’s Champ 2018.

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© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.



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