About

I’m a trained historian, communicator, educator, and consultant who uses beer’s past to connect to its present. Born and educated in the Midwest, my wife and I now live near Seattle, Washington. When I’m not investigating beer history and raising Joey and Zoe, my two children, I’m working with breweries, nonprofits, other experts, and publishers to share my insights as widely as possible.

History is meant to do more than fill up bookshelves, and the proverbial pint glass offers not only an engaging perspective of the past but also an accessible way to bring it to just about anyone. Breweries, museums, educators, and others can use beer’s distinct historic role to tell the stories that matter to them most—even stories that may not directly be about beer at all.

My ability to activate the past using beer has led to engaging articles, museum exhibits, historical collaborate beers, dozens of public events, and more. If you have a project you’d like to pursue, feel free to reach out to me at bmalberts@gmail.com.

Keep reading for more of my story.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Beer History

In March 2014 I sat in my tiny shared office at Purdue University, reading…and reading, and reading. Because that’s what you do in grad school. Finally taking a little Facebook break, I discovered that tickets to Three Floyds’ famous Dark Lord Day would go on sale in ten minutes.

What the hell, I thought, and tried my luck. A month later, a friend and I stood in line at the gate in nearby Munster, Indiana like two wide-eyed Charlie Buckets.

The rest, in this case, is not history. By the time I attended my first Dark Lord Day I was already working out how I could better use the past to understand beer’s effect on the world, but my interest in modern beer was a vital part of that journey too. Exploring modern beer showed me how deeply it relied on its past for definition. This realization helped me understand my own historical research, and explore opportunities for engagement down the road.

I completed my dissertation, titled “Beer to Stay: Brewed Culture, Ethnicity, and the Market Revolution,” in spring 2018, but by then I’d already spent a few years seeking out the conversations, leading voices, and obstacles facing modern beer. I once made the five-hour trip from Purdue to Lexington, Kentucky to hear John Holl and Julia Herz speak at a conference, even though I needed to be in northern Illinois that night—another eight hours away. And when Budweiser released a historically-themed Super Bowl ad in 2017, I knew my research could add to the conversation. I published my first media article in The Atlantic a few days later.

I spent months on the road, researching beer history in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Washington DC. There was a lot less beer, and a lot more aged paper, than you’re probably thinking. I even designed a college history course which looked at the American experience through the lens of beer. Along the way, I learned of people and projects around the country who, like I did, used beer to better understand both past and present. Most importantly, I learned about the Chicago Brewseum, a nonprofit museum project dedicated to treating beer as more than just a beverage.

They were, for me, a dream organization. I met with Liz Garibay, its founder, who invited me to join an exciting new project just as I finished my doctorate. That summer and fall, I worked with their team to design Brewing Up Chicago, an exciting new exhibit for the Field Museum. I had to delay my move out to Seattle just to attend the grand opening.

From there, I offered to keep working with Liz and the Brewseum, experimenting with exciting new ways to share beer’s endless historic and cultural significance with whoever would listen. I helped organize events around Chicago, form new partnerships with kindred organizations in other cities (we called them ‘tours’), created historical collaboration beers pairing breweries with cultural organizations, and even created a little beer history of our own with the first-ever Beer Culture Summit.

I’ve since left the Chicago Brewseum to become a freelance historian and consultant, enriched and emboldened by an amazing global community of scholars and professionals who use beer to engage the past. With public interest in the beer’s history and culture growing every day, I look forward to seeing what lies ahead.