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Beer In Art #47: UC Berkeley’s Historical Beer Exhibition

This past Saturday, October 10, the Heart Museum at UC Berkeley held a special beer fair and symposium for their latest exhibit, 99 Bottles of Beer: Global Brewing Traditions 2500 BC – Present.

I’m fascinated by the history of beer and especially the notion that beer just might possibly be responsible for civilization itself. The Berkeley exhibit was also the subject of one of my recent newspaper columns. I was able to meet with the curator, Ira Jacknis, and preview the collection as he spoke about the exhibition.

The artistry of many of the pieces is obvious, but instead of choosing just one or two, here is the entire collection and a summary of the Beer Fair and Symposium that kicked off the beer exhibition, which will be on display at the Hearst Museum at UC Berkeley for at least one year. Stop by and see it in person when you have a chance.

The oldest piece in the collection was from the Old Kingdom in Egypt from the 5-6 Dynasty (2465-2150 BCE). It’s the figurine of a servant woman “straining mash for beer” in painted limestone.

A corn beer tumbler in gold from the Ica Valley of Peru. It dates from the Late Intermediate Period (1000-1476). According to the museum, “Incans graduated their drinking vessels, according to material. The lowest-ranked used gourd bowls, the better-off had finer ceramic and wooden cups, while gold and silver cups were reserved for the elite. The cups were often used in pairs, especially the ornate ones of the emperor.”

Another corn beer cup from Peru, this one made of polychromed lacquered wood. It was found in Cuzco and is believed to be from the late 16th-17th century. “Like the ancient Incan cups, these wooden cups were made and used in matched pairs. While the shape was conservative, the decoration was innovative, the figures and flowers showing a Spanish influenced. Apparently, they ceased being made after the 1820s. The beer was sprinkled or poured on the ground as a divine offering.”

An English mug from the early 1800s, probably from the first quarter of the 19th century. It’s made of lead-glazed pearlware and was found in Staffordshire.”

Below is a slideshow of the day’s events, the collection itself (including press shots) and some photos from my preview of the collection. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.

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