Beer of Broadway Fame: The Piel Family and Their Brooklyn Brewery
In writing a history of his own ancestors, the Piel family, and their Brooklyn brewery, historian Alfred W. McCoy has put himself in a unique position of attempting to write intelligently and impartially about his own family. Although he does occasionally insert himself into the text, he mostly manages to tell his family’s history while maintaining a scholarly distance. Going into business with a unique business plan in a competitive era in a provincial Brooklyn beer market and surviving both Prohibition and the two World Wars, the Piels brewery provided its founders not only financial but also social capital.
Writing about both the Piel family and its brewery, Mr. McCoy seems to be aware of two distinct audiences. First, a general public interested in the brewing industry’s tumultuous 19th and 20th centuries, and second, his own family, interested in a detailed history of their ancestors’ infighting and rise to New York high society. Using the Piel family to illustrate numerous trends in American history, from the decline in family-owned businesses to the absolute assimilation of German Americans into American society post-World War II, Mr. McCoy shows that our nation’s history is made up of individuals making history.
Alfred W. McCoy
Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press