Revisiting the German Table
March 12, 2013

Editor’s Note: On March 19, we’ll host our next Culinary Conversation, The New Little Germany: New York Revisits the German Table. Tickets are available on our website, or make it a date and get a free gift by purchasing two tickets through HowAboutWe.com.

How’s this for a pairing at our next Culinary Conversation? We’ll celebrate New York’s rich historical relationship with German brewing and food culture, as well as the recent resurgence of craft beer and brewing.

Throughout the nineteenth century, German immigrants flooded into lower Manhattan—earning the neighborhood the nickname “Kleindeutschland,” or “Little Germany.” Many of these immigrants brought a passion for brewing and consuming lager, a style of beer that was lagered, or stored, at cool temperatures during fermentation. Because it’s often lighter and crisper than its British-style counterparts, lager was conducive to the kind of communal, prolonged drinking that New York’s German saloons and beer gardens became known for as they welcomed picnickers, merchants, laborers, and even families.

The Atlantic Garden beer garden in New York City, 1872. Courtesy New York Public Library.

While German food never truly fell out of fashion, German-style beer gardens in New York diminished in the face of the Temperance movement and Prohibition. 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 and marketing inexpensive adjunct lagers, or light beers that use corn or rice as filling ingredients. But then there was a turnaround when the Cranston Act, passed by the Carter administration in 1979, legalized craft and homebrewing and opened the door once more to small-batch beer culture.

Patrons at Brooklyn Brewery. Photo by Willamor Media on Flickr.

Today, craft beer bars are again popping up all over the city, from Evil Twin’s new Greenpoint outpost, Tørst, to rare-beer speakeasies like Proletariat in the East Village. And right across the street from our own Museum is the friendly craft-beer haven Top Hops. Beer production is experiencing a renaissance, too, with homebrew supply shops and new local breweries opening all over the city.

Behind the scenes at SingleCut Beersmiths in Astoria, Queens.

Next week’s Culinary Conversation, The New Little Germany: New York Revisits the German Table, will bring together renowned restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton, charcuterie master Jeremy Schaller, Kurt Gutenbrunner of the Standard Biergarten, craft beer expert Joshua M. Bernstein, and Culinary Conversations curator Jane Ziegelman. These panelists will elaborate on a three-course Austro-German menu, with beer pairings provided by Brooklyn Brewery and SingleCut Beersmiths, the first brewery to open in Queens since Prohibition. Join us!

And bring a date!

—Posted by Meredith Heil