Guelph’s brewing history is taking centre stage with a new museum exhibit opening this weekend that examines the history and importance — both socially and economically — of beer to the community.
“Brewing Changes Guelph,” which opens Saturday at the Guelph Civic Museum, runs until the end of February and is divided into a pair of separate rooms.
The first room takes visitors all the way back to the 19th century when brewing beer started in Guelph until a 50-year moratorium was put in place in the 1930s.
The second room deals with the resurrection of local breweries in Guelph in the 1980s, the relationship between breweries and artists, and the role women have played and continue to play in the industry.
Museum curator Dawn Owen said the hope is to have visitors look at the bigger picture surrounding brewing beer.
“I think through Guelph breweries, what we get is a real solid understanding of what is the pulse point of this city,” she said. “It’s the heartbeat of Guelph.”
The exhibit’s centrepiece comes in the form of a 1,500-pound slab of concrete from the Thomas Holliday’s now-demolished brewery from 1868.
It was donated to the museum by a family from Paisley, Ont.
Owen said the Holliday Brewery is just as important to Guelph’s history as the Sleeman family and Sleeman Breweries.
“We don’t have the benefit of having the everyday knowledge of Holliday and there aren’t as many artifacts still surviving,” she explained.
Eric Payseur is the guest curator of the exhibit and said the project started about two years ago with a conversation over a few beers.
The local historian said the exhibit tells a Transatlantic story beginning with John Sleeman and Thomas Holliday arriving in Guelph in the 1800s to British ex-pats moving to Guelph in the 1980s, like Phil Gosling who co-founded Wellington Brewery in 1985.
Payseur said he hopes visitors will also see the important role women played in the industry.
“We wouldn’t have beer if it wasn’t for women,” he said. “Women were the original brewers worldwide before brewing became this highly-industrialized [and] masculinized activity.”
Payseur said they will be running some programs through the exhibit with Queen of Craft, a local group for women seeking to learn more about brewing beer.
A formal opening reception will be held on Friday, Sept. 28, featuring Juno Award nominee Don Amero.
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