Beer And Brewing At The Haffenreffer Museum

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Haffenreffer family’s gift of Rudolf Haffenreffer’s private museum — now the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology — to Brown University. To celebrate, the Haffenreffer Museum Student Group has curated an exhibition devoted to beer in cultures around the world.

“Brewed for Thought: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Beer and Brewing” brings together a selection of objects from Bolivia, Peru, Kenya, Nepal, Tibet, and the United States illuminating the contexts in which beer and related fermented beverages have been brewed and consumed for the past 2,500 years.

On display are charming drinking gourds, as well as a man’s stool, collected in the 60’s from the Kamba people of Kenya. The finely tooled Himalayan wood and brass Chhaang vessels  would not be out of place in the Martha Stewart catalogue. According to the accompanying text, a Himalayan legend holds that Chhaang is a favorite drink of the Yeti who raid villages for their fill, a useful story for Himalayan teens no doubt.

Rhode Island was represented with a pile of old weathered Gansett crates and this Dr. Seuss serving tray that I wanted to take home.

Rudolph Haffenreffer, owner of the Haffenreffer and Narragansett Breweries, was passionately interested in Native American archaeology and history. He purchased local collections of Indian artifacts and made collecting trips to the Southwest. He ultimately built a museum on his property in Bristol, and this was donated to Brown University after his death. Rudolph was no dilettante; the study of the indigenous population consumed his life.

Haffenreffer interacted with the local Native American tribes and sponsored meetings of the Algonquin Indian Council of New England.  He was also active in the museum community and served for 22 years on the board of George Heye’s Museum of the American Indian in New York City (now the National Museum of the American Indian).

Illustrator and children’s book author, Theodor Geisel — a.k.a. Dr. Seuss — supported himself and his wife through the Great Depression by drawing advertising for General Electric, NBC, Standard Oil, Narragansett Brewing Company, and many other companies.

‘Brewed for Thought’ runs through May 28, Haffenreffer Museum, Brown University, 21 Prospect Street, (directions)

***The current Narragansett marketers know a thing or two about the power of nostalgia. They often deploy old labels and packaging to trigger happy memories. This campaign is running right now.

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