Old photo showing an early steam-powered flatbed beer delivery wagon loaded with barrels.
Gimlich and White supplied Pittsfield taverns, inns, families, and individuals with their beer, starting before 1800 and lasting into the first years of Prohibition; photo courtesy Berkshire County Historical Society.

Berkshire County Historical Society offers lecture on early history of Pittsfield brewing

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield’s commercial brewing history was over 60 years inthe making when, in 1886, Jacob Gimlich, one of the principals of the successful Pittsfield brewery firm Gimlich and White, declared people should “use beer for their refreshment and invigoration in a temperate, manly, proper way.”

On March 23 at 5:30 pm, the Berkshire County Historical Society explores this history as well as contemporary Berkshire brewing with a lecture by Cynthia Brown, historian and BCHS President, and tasting from Berkshire Brewing Co., Hot Plate Brewing Co., and Shire Breu-Haus at Berkshire Theatre Festival’s “The Garage” at 111 South Street. Tickets are $25 for BCHS, $30 for non-members and can be purchased in advance at https://berkshire-county-historical-society.square.site/events; you must be 21 years of age to participate in the tasting, but the lecture is open to all ages.

Brown’s talk, Beer for Their Refreshment: Brewing in Pittsfield from the 18th Century to Prohibition, will present original research and images that will illuminate this fascinating part of Pittsfield’s history and culture. Gimlich’s 1886 proud proclamation was evidenced by the success of the firm, which employed over 100 workers and manufactured tens of thousands of barrels a year at its peak.

Later known as the Berkshire Brewing Association, this long-time Pittsfield business was the apogee of a series of commercial brewing concerns that supplied Pittsfield taverns, inns, families, and individuals with their beer, starting before 1800 and lasting into the first years of Prohibition. 

More recently, Pittsfield as well as Berkshire County have seen the rise and success of several new breweries, growing out of the microbrewery movement that took hold in the 1990s. Exploring the early history of local breweries provides a connection between older brewing traditions and practices and provides rich stories and some intriguing mysteries still to be explored.

Following the lecture, Berkshire area breweries Berkshire Brewing Co, Hot Plate Brewing Co., and Shire Breu-Haus will be providing free tasting samples. Additional flights and full pours will also be available for purchase.

About the Berkshire County Historical Society

The Berkshire County Historical Society is a non-profit corporation dedicated to collecting, preserving, and disseminating the history of Berkshire County in western Massachusetts. In addition, the Berkshire County Historical Society is committed to the preservation and interpretation of Arrowhead, home of author Herman Melville, designated a National Historic Landmark. The Berkshire County Historical Society provides tours of Arrowhead, and programming dedicated to the history of western Massachusetts and the life and writings of Herman Melville.

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