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A history of suds

Natural history museum has exhibit on beer

SYCAMORE – A lot of history and work goes into a beer before it makes it into a mug on the bar or into a can in your living room, and the life and history of it all is part of a new exhibit at the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore.

“Cheers! A Brief History of Beer!” takes visitors through the history of brewing, and includes a tour on the process.

There is a step-by-step walk-through on how beer is made. Beginning with the grain, usually barley but wheat and corn can be used as well, the exhibit explains when to add the hops, malting, mash, wort and fermenting, all traditional aspects of beer making.

How long a beer ferments and the temperature at which it does determines what type of beer it is. Finally, carbon dioxide is injected into the beer to give it carbonation, before it is packaged and distributed.

People visiting the exhibit will have a chance to see and smell barley and hops on display.

It also includes a collection of beer steins from around the world, on loan to the museum from private collector George Hoffman of Sycamore.

“The one made of jade and gold is my favorite,” said Kayla Trusk, curator of exhibits and collections at the museum. The steins come from all over the world and range in size from 5 to 18 inches tall.

Some, however, don’t have dates or locations, such as the jade one. The oldest stein in the exhibit dates to the 1880s.

Across from the timeline, visitors will have a chance to learn about the history of beer and brewing, beginning with the Babylonians and continuing to modern day.

The earliest recipes appeared on Babylonian clay tablets, and you also will learn that the modern home brewing craze began in 1980, with the publication of “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing” by Charlie Papazian.

That home brewing trend was what helped start Forge Brewhouse in Sycamore, and the museum and the local brewery have partnered to create a beer for the museum.

The Armchair Anthropologist, is a blonde ale in honor of the exhibit and available at Forge Brewhouse. A quarter of the proceeds will go back to help fund the museum.

The exhibit runs until Nov. 18, and Armchair Anthropologist will be available through the end of November.

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