December 1, 2015

Event Cancelled: Gerald Lorentz to Talk About History of NYS Brewing Industry

Gerald Lorentz, dean of the college's Northeast region
Gerald Lorentz, dean of the college's Northeast region.

The following event has been cancelled: Gerald Lorentz, dean of SUNY Empire State College’s Northeast region, will present “Beer and Candles” at the next Dialogue at Noon, set for Friday, Dec. 4, at 325 Hudson St., NYC.

Information regarding rescheduling will be posted when it becomes available.

The event, which begins at noon, is part of a continuing series co-hosted by the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies and the Metropolitan New York location. The event will be streamed live via the Internet at

Lorentz will talk about his current book project, “Beer and Candles: Explorations in New York State Brewing History,” with a focus on the chapter “Beer and Candles: Nineteenth-Century ‘Microbreweries’ in an Expanding Industry.”

“Beer and Candles” was a phrase often seen in early brewery advertisements, Lorentz explained. “At that point, most brewers did other things in addition to brewing in order to make ends meet, and candle-making was one of the major ones.  I use the phrase in the title of my book because most breweries continued to be small, even as the industry grew to mammoth proportions.”

The book examines the world of beer and brewing in New York state from around 1790 to Prohibition. At the beginning of this period, New York had five breweries that produced around 20,000 barrels of beer per year. At the height of the industry, New York state boasted more than 350 breweries and by the advent of Prohibition it produced 15 million barrels of beer each year. Brewing at that point was a $26 billion industry in today’s dollars, with an even larger economic impact (currently New York state breweries represent about a $3.5 billion economic impact).  At the advent of Prohibition, New York state breweries produced a quarter of all beer made in the country, and New Yorkers consumed an even higher percentage of the country’s beer.

“And yet,” said Lorentz, “very little is written about the state’s brewing history. While New York was the real Empire of Brewing, the focus of historians has been on the development of the large lager brewing enterprises in the mid-west, those giants that survived Prohibition and thrived in the aftermath of World War II.”

Lorentz remarked that his book seeks to broaden understanding of New York’s brewing history. “The goal is to present a series of chapters that examine different aspects of the history of beer and brewing in the Empire State and highlight the nature of the industry.”

He added that the book fleshes out the connections between the brewing industry and the society in which it developed. The final chapter explores similar themes, but examines the current state of brewing in the New York state, which has many similarities to -- as well as key differences from -- the 19th--century brewing industry.

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