BEER! The Exhibit is fascinating but flawed

BEER! The Exhibit impresses but suffers a compromise

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Admittedly, I’m normally not the biggest fan of museum exhibits. I shrug at the sight of Ancient Egypt displays and interactive pieces on Pompeii — but every once in awhile an exhibit rolls around that gets me really excited. That exhibit is here — the aptly named “BEER! The Exhibit.”

As I stepped into the room I was overcome with excitement. My eyes were instantly drawn to the beautiful bottle wall where stood around 500 bottles and cans that spanned the history of the sweet nectar’s existence. Thankfully, this display wasn’t just eye candy. Splayed at every stop in the wall were small infographics that showed the evolution of bottle and can design over the last century.

Just opposite of the wall stood an appropriate display on the history of Oktoberfest in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Outfitted with small artefacts, history tidbits and a huge carriage that carried countless kegs. Needless to say, this exhibit was off to a good start.

To the right of the entrance stood the “History of Beer” wall, beautifully illuminated by a glowing mock-up of a pint. However this pint felt reminiscent of The Beer Store logo. In fact, the entire display had a similar color scheme to the infamous beer monopoly.

As my eyes glided across the historical timeline, I was met with interesting facts about the beloved beverage’s origin in the Middle East and its presence within Medieval Europe.

Unfortunately, the timeline took an evident bias as it approached the 18th century. Facts that should’ve remained in line with Waterloo region’s beer history were sacrificed for the historical highlights of The Beer Store’s shareholders. Sure, the Molson, Sleeman and Labatt brands hold significance within Canadian beer history, but the glaring omission of the landmark activities of local breweries left a bad taste in my mouth.

Thankfully, this was but a small stain on an otherwise thorough and engaging exhibit. Despite my disappointment in the lack of regional representation in the aforementioned display, the remainder of the exhibit served as a love letter to the growth of beer in Waterloo. At one corner of the room stood a display dedicated to Lulu’s Roadhouse, a Kitchener venue that was home to the world’s longest bar — at over 100 metres — until its closure in 2000.

Surrounding the Lulu’s display, you could find other excellent segments that explored the brewing process, the importance of ingredients and the changing of cultural attitudes towards beer.

At the centre of the room stood an interactive display that explored the history of Canadian prohibition, outfitted with a ballot booth where visitors were invited to vote “dry” or “wet.” Walking further, you’ll find the “game” section where you can unwind with a game of shuffleboard, maybe some King’s Cup or even practice your trick shot with the red solo cups.

Finally, standing in stark contrast to the embarrassing “History of Beer” wall was the “Keg Wall” where the exhibit paid homage to the past and present breweries that have graced the region.

I have merely scratched the surface of what this exhibit truly has to offer. The curators have done an excellent job of keeping this exhibit simple and concise but still bursting with interesting knowledge. Beer newbies will find the exhibit incredibly eye opening, while still easy to digest. Although most beer snobs will find they already know a vast chunk of the information presented, I can guarantee they will walk away satisfied and proud of this exhibit.

“BEER! the Exhibit” is quite the treat, and has hopefully inspired more residents to embrace the beloved beverage’s long and graceful history in the region.

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