On a sunny August day last year, I was driving north on the Dan Ryan expressway with Chicago Brewseum founder and director Liz Garibay, bound for lunch at Forbidden Root. We’d just left a meeting about the Chicago Brewseum’s exhibit, “Brewing Up Chicago,” then still in production. It’d been a long morning—I’d driven up from Purdue University for this and was hungry. But with someone like Liz the wheels never stop turning, even in Chicago traffic.
(Update 5/26/2019: A Wisconsin federal judge has ordered Anheuser-Busch to halt some advertisements suggesting MillerCoors uses corn syrup without “giving more context.”)
Anheuser-Busch has revived an age-old marketing tactic in American brewing, even though it might be a bad idea. The nation’s largest brewer repeatedly uses high-profile Super Bowl ads to premiere bold narratives about its brands—such as differentiating Budweiser from craft beer or touting their support for disaster relief—and this year didn’t disappoint. During the 2019 Super Bowl, two Bud Light ads criticized its biggest rivals for using corn syrup in their brewing process, and it was classic misdirection.
Recently, David Berg published an impassioned article on Good Beer Hunting’s website, defending the use adjuncts from both historical and scientific standpoints. Himself a brewer at August Schell Brewing for over 20 years, Berg objects to the ongoing criticism of adjunct ingredients in craft beer culture, particularly the Brewers Association’s “blacklisting” of large brewers who employ them. He goes out on a limb to justify adjuncts to a community that shudders at their very mention, but I was left wondering why he didn’t go even further.
Chicago’s complicated relationship with alcohol is older than classic Old Style signs, Al Capone, or local option. The city was barely twenty-one before alcohol began permanently changing its cultural and political structure. On April 21st, 1855, one thousand German immigrants, joined by some Irish neighbors, marched on city hall in protest of liquor laws which turned their beer against them.
Six months after announcing the job we all wanted, the Smithsonian has finally revealed its choice for the National Museum of American History’s beer historian. Over the next three years, Theresa McCulla will research America’s brewing history and share her findings with the public. From this historian’s perspective, they’ve made a good choice.
The Queen City of the West sits, of course, in American beer history’s inner circle. In the late 1800s it was home to some of the largest and most famous brewers in the country, like Moerlein and Kauffman and Windisch-Muhlhauser, to name a few. In 1890 Cincinnati produced over 1.2 million barrels of beer (!) and was dubbed the “Beer Capital of the World” (which sounds better than ‘Porkopolis,’ doesn’t it?).