Where It All Started • Harlem, NYC November 2017. Harlem Brew Fest was the first festival in the world to connect all brewers, artists, chefs and DJs in celebration of Black Brewing culture and featured: Sankofa Beer, Black Frog Brewery, Island to Island Beer, 1947 Beer, Harlem Brewing and Rams & Parrot Distillery.
I hope you’ll be able to join our Zoom HNBA meeting tomorrow. The disparities of access to financial services, as shown below, is sobering.
The figure below uses the location of financial service providers, including banks, credit unions, pawnshops, and check cashers, to analyze the type of financial resources that are available in different neighborhoods. Because they charge high interest rates and fees and impose riskier terms, pawnshops and check cashers can damage the financial health of hard-working New Yorkers with low incomes. Figure 5.72 therefore examines the ratio of banks and credit unions to check cashers and pawnshops in each of the city’s Community Districts, and it shows. Figure 5.72 shows that in many New York City neighborhoods that are predominantly Black and Hispanic, there are more check cashers and pawn- shops than banks and credit unions. In the dark red areas, the number of pawnshops and check cashers is two to 10 times the number of banks and credit unions. As one resident of East Harlem said to OFE, “We’re… flooded with check cashers and pawnshops. Whatever little left that poor families have, [these businesses are] just stripping them of value… because families are in desperate need.”
From the very beginning of Harlem, beer was an essential drink among the European colonists. James Riker notes in “History of Harlem” that:
In 1667 beer was the common beverage in the Dutch Colony. “At vendues, or in making contracts or settlements, its presence was deemed indispensable to the proper transaction of the business. The magistrates when occupying the bench always had beer brought in, running up a score with the tapster at the public charge. Nor did the ordination of elders and deacons, or funeral solemnities, form an exception. At such times wine and other liquors, with pipes and tobacco, were also freely distributed. Families commonly laid in their beer by the quarter and half vat, or barrel. — Much of the beer consumed here (in New Harlem) was brewed by Johannes Vermilye, while the breweries of Daniel Verveelen, Isaac de Forest, and Jacob Kip, at New York, were also patronized.”
There were, however, also laws that attempted to restrict the sale of alcohol to the Lenape people in and around Harlem. This prohibition was signed by Nichols, the English ruler of New York, in 1664
A Warrant to the Magistrates of Harlem for the Prohibition of the sale of strong liquors to Indians. Whereas, I am informed of several abuses that are done and committed by the Indians, occasioned much through the liberty some persons take of selling Strong Liquors unto them; These are to require you that you take special care that none of your Town presume to sell any sort of Strong Liquors or Strong Beer unto any Indian, and if you shall find any person offending therein, that you seize upon such Liquor and bring such person before me, to make answers for the offense. Given under my hand, at Fort James, in New York, this 18th of March, 1664 [1665 N. S.]. RICHARD NICOLLS.
The presence, of course, of this “Prohibition” indicates that “the sale” was in fact, a common practice – common enough to warrant special mention.
Beer was not only regulated, but was also taxed – not only in terms of volume but also in terms of quality. This accusation (against Johannes Verveelen) was for his failure to pay tax on beer:
Most Honorable Heeren, Overseers of this Town: Whereas Johannes Verveelen, ordinary-keeper in this town, did on the 6th February wickedly smuggle one-half vat of good beer; on the i8th April, one vat of good beer and one anker of rum; on the 27th of April, one-half vat of good beer; on the 8th May, one-half vat of good beer; on the 27th May, one-half vat of good beer and one anker of rum; all which is contrary to the existing placards on the subject of smuggling, and by the high magistracy approved. Therefore the plaintiff, ex-officio the preserver of the peace, demands that the defendant be condemned in the penalty of twenty-one hundred guilders, according to the placards, together with the costs of prosecution. The I4th June, 1667, in N. Harlem. Yours, Honorable Heeren, DANIEL, TOURNEUR, Deputy Sheriff.
The tavern of the day was Verveelen’s:
At the comer of the lower street and third crossway, Verveelen’s tavern hung out its sign-board, its site now on the north line of 123d street, 300 feet west of 1st avenue. Well patronized, too, by the lovers of good-cheer and goed bier, this is shown by the frequency with which he supplied his vault with goed bier and klegn bier, Spanish wine and rum
The tavern’s site is where (today) the Wagner Projects are located:
And, I can’t end a piece on beer without mentioning Harlem Hops, Harlem’s amazing 21st century pub at 2268 ADAM CLAYTON POWELL JUNIOR BOULEVARD.
Harlem Hops notes that takeout is now available. They write:
Please check out our menu below and call us at 646-998-3444 We are delivering within a 20 block radius of the bar.
If you’re not in the NYC area but would still like to support us, click on the link to our Swag shop where you will fine some cool Harlem Hops Merchandise and Merchandise Gift cards for purchase. If you want to purchase an in-store gift cards, please click on the In-Store Gift Card link. You can also support by donating to our non-profit organization Harlem Hopes.
Thank you for your time and consideration, and your continued patronage