The Reflection of Technology in Brewing

Curated by Meg Morrissey, Reader Services Assistant, Special Collections Library


The University of Michigan Special Collections Library presents a new student-curated project by recent UM School of Information graduate Meg Morrissey. This exhibit uses historical material from the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive and the William L. Clements Library to demonstrate the swift changes that the brewing industry of the United States underwent from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth.

People have been brewing beer, in one form or another, for millennia. As England and a young United States entered the Industrial Revolution, however, brewers began to take advantage of newly available technology. Their developments changed the way that people experienced beer. 

England and the United States entered a period of fast-paced innovation in the early nineteenth century. Pasteurization, industrial machinery, and shipping innovations affected the way that beer was brewed. Brewing was also affected by the mood of legislators. Legal prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States forced big breweries to find another use for their great machines, and alcohol was made and distributed using alternative, illegal methods. After the law was repealed, the industry returned in a leaner form. Only a portion of breweries survived. World War II saw growth for the industry, and innovation picked up.

The changes in the brewing industry reflected the changes in technology. Innovation and creativity kept brewing afloat during Prohibition and that spirit continued to spur new development.