New Online Exhibit: Beer Brewing and Technology

Brewing tanks at the Bergner & Engel Brewing Co., Philadelphia, 1880's

The Bergner & Engel Brewing Co., Philadelphia.("Interior -- Ale and Porter Brewery," "Interior -- Bottling House"). Philadelphia; [publisher unknown], 188-

Guest post by:  Meg Morrissey,  School of Information 2015

According to researcher Ian Hornsey, alcohol has a history that predates civilization. He argued that “the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages, particularly beers and wines, have played an important role in the socio-economic development of early man, and were fundamental in the emergence of complex, hierarchically organised societies, such as were emergent in the Near East (beer and wine), the Levant (wine) and Egypt (beer).” 

Beer has long been a part of the story of developing societies. While the basic recipe has stayed more or less the same for the last few hundred years, the technology that brewers employ has changed drastically. As England and a young United States entered the Industrial Revolution, brewers began to take advantage of newly available technology. Their developments changed the way that people experienced beer.

The University of Michigan presents a new online exhibit: The Reflection of Technology in Brewing. This exhibit focuses on the swift changes that the brewing industry underwent from the late eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. 

Illustration of a refrigerated railroad car used for shipping beer in the the late nineteenth century
Bergner & Engel Brewing Co. (Refrigerating Car)

I have always found man’s long relationship with beer, as both a source of entertainment and potable drinking water, to be fascinating. As a native St. Louisan, I am intimately familiar with the history of one of the major American breweries, Anheuser-Busch. Beer brewing is an integral part of the history of my hometown. I curated this online exhibit to learn more about how brewing fit into the larger picture of American history. 

As an archivist and librarian, I know that many subjects of American history have been left out of textbooks and must be researched in primary resources. I feel that beer brewing is one of those subjects. Bringing the history of brewing to light adds a richer cultural context to parts of history that are studied in more traditional historical texts, such as the Industrial Revolution.

Take a look at the new online exhibit. Explore another facet of American history. And if you would like to delve further into brewing history, check out the new research guide on on Beer Brewing History in the United States


Bergner & Engel Brewing Company. The Bergner & Engel Brewing Co., Philadelphia. 1887.
Hornsey, Ian S. A History of Beer and Brewing. Cambridge : Royal Society of Chemistry, c2003.