American History (After Hours)

American History (After Hours)

Join us at the National Museum of American History…after hours.

About Upcoming Schedule | Past Programs


American History (After Hours) is a regular evening series that presents evenings of food, drinks, and dynamic conversation that connect with the past to make sense of the present and shape the future. Each evening focuses on a different, unexpected topic and mixes historical connections with modern-day approaches for a unique experience for all curious minds. Cheers to history!

For the most up-to-date information on American History (After Hours) and regular reminders, sign up for program and event emails from the museum.



Photograph of women and men working on the bottling floor of a brewery

Innovative Lives: How Women Shaped the Alcohol Industry
Friday, March 16 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, 1 West

Online ticket sales for this event are now closed.

Women have been working in the American alcohol industry since before the founding of our country. From brewing early colonial beer to playing important roles in prohibition , they have helped shape this industry and continue to make an impact. Join us as we raise a glass to this history and hear from present day practitioners. The evening will feature a panel discussion with:

  • Emily Bruno and Julie Verratti, founders of Denizens Brewing Co., Silver Spring, MD
  • Carol Stoudt, first female brewmaster in US since prohibition and founder of Stoudts Brewing Co., Lancaster, PA
  • Meredith Grelli, co-owner of Wigle Whiskey, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Leslie Przybylek, curator, Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PA

After the panel, stick around for an interactive reception with tastings and activities to further explore historical tastes, modern craft brews, and more including:

  • Craft beer tastings with Denizens Brewing Company
  • Craft beer tastings with Stoudts Brewing Company
  • A custom cocktail by Wigle Whiskey
  • Samples of Wigle Whiskey and a new cider
  • Themed snacks and a hearty plate of appetizers by the museum's chef, Kristy Cleaveland

This event is a joint program by the museum's evenings program team and the museum's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Image: Archival image of the labeling floor at Schlitz Brewery, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.



Curious what we've done in the past? Scroll through our past after hours programs to get an idea!

October 28, 2017: The Smithsonian Food History Weekend After Hours

We toasted to the end of the third annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend at this evening exploration of the history of American brewing. Through tastings and stories about people, migration, and beer-making, we explored how brewing techniques and ingredients have moved around the country and inspired today's resurgence in brewing culture. How did individuals, techniques, and ingredients arrive and move around the country? How does this history of beer and migration help create today’s resurgence in brewing culture? 

The experts (and their world-class breweries) who joined us to serve up brewing history and tastings included:
  • Celeste Beatty, founder of Harlem Brewing Company, New York, NY
  • Uli Bennewitz, founder of Weeping Radish Farm Brewery, Manteo, NC
  • An Bui, founder of The Answer Brewpub, Richmond, VA
  • Oscar Wong, founder of Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, NC

This event was part of the Museum’s American Brewing History Initiative.  


September 19, 2017: The Sound of Memphis

What is the sound of American music, and from where does that sound originate?  How does music both reflect and shape the place and people from which it springs forth? How can music build community? Where does American music come from?

In September we hosted a special Memphis and Mississippi Delta-themed evening and joined forces with the team behind the documentary Take Me To The River (2014) and the Soulsville Foundation (STAX Records) to explore how Memphis and the Mississippi Delta region generated some of the most exciting music in American history. Through conversation and live performances with multiple generations of iconic musicians from the region, we celebrated the profound legacy of Memphis's extraordinary musical community and chart the musical evolution of the region from blues to soul to hip hop.

The evening included a panel discussion with clips from Take Me To The River to explore the unique collaborative musical environment that has thrived in the Memphis area for decades featuring speakers:

  • William Bell, singer, songwriter, producer, and Grammy Award-winner
  • Bobby Rush, blues musician, composer, singer, and Grammy Award-winner
  • Boo Mitchell, musician, songwriter, audio engineer, record producer and owner of Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Martin Shore, filmmaker and Grammy Award-nominee
  • Al Bell, STAX Records former owner and chairman
  • Deanie Parker, STAX Records former PR director, Soulsville Foundation president

After the discussion we opened up to a reception and—in an American History (After Hours) first—a live concert featuring Bell and Rush, as well as performances from Academy Award-winner Frayser Boy, Critics Choice-winner Al Kapone, Boo Mitchell, backed by the Hi Rhythm Section, who have 27 Gold and Platinum albums to their name (including all of Al Green’s classics). 


August 17, 2017: FOOD in the Garden - Fermentation Nation

We stepped outdoors to the museum's newest garden space this summer for an evening of food, drinks, and dynamic conversation. On August 17 we dove into the long (and tasty) influence of fermentation in American culinary history. From beer and wine, to pickling and preserving, how have Americans used this chemical reaction to a delicious advantage throughout history? The evening featured:

  • Discussion with experts Dr. Gretel Guest, biology and microbiology instructor at Durham Technical Community College; Yi Wah Roberts, founder of Number 1 Sons of Arlington, VA; Nathan Zeender, head brewer at Right Proper Brewing Company; and Susan Evans McClure, National Museum of American History
  • Custom cocktails courtesy of New Columbia Distillers
  • Craft brews on tap courtesy Right Proper Brewing Company
  • Tours of our new garden space, Common Ground, and one of our newest exhibitions, Many Voices, One Nation
  • Pickle samples from Number 1 Sons
  • Herbs and spices Q & A with Smithsonian Gardens experts
  • Fermentation collections objects from the Museum’s Medical and Science Division
  • Cheese tastings by Laura Chenel Cheese
  • Yeast through the Microscope station
  • Garum history (the grandfather of modern condiments)
  • A hearty plate of appetizers by the museum's chef, Kristy Cleaveland


August 10, 2017: FOOD in the Garden - Flavoring America

We stepped outdoors to the museum's newest garden space this summer for an evening of food, drinks, and dynamic conversation. On August 10 we explored how the historical movements of people and their culinary traditions influenced foodways in America. Focusing on how herbs and spices from around the world and across the country introduced new flavors and textures, the evening featured a panel discussion with experts and historians and an interactive reception with:

  • Panel discussion with experts Cindy Brown, Smithsonian Gardens; Ivan Fitzgerald, Bazaar Spices; Ashley Rose Young, New Orleans food historian; and Lauren Safranek, National Museum of American History
  • Custom cocktails courtesy of New Columbia Distillers
  • Tours of our new garden space, Common Ground, and one of our newest exhibitions, Many Voices, One Nation
  • Herbs and spices Q & A with Smithsonian Gardens experts
  • Chocolate history
  • Make-your-own spice blend station
  • Garum history (the grandfather of modern condiments)
  • Chardonnay pours for anyone who needs an alternative to cocktails
  • A hearty plate of appetizers by the museum's chef, Kristy Cleaveland


May 15, 2017: Rooted in Family - Wine and Stories from Mexican American Winemakers

May 15 was a lively evening that explored the wine and stories from five acclaimed Latino winemakers from California.

The history of viticulture and winemaking in California cannot be told without recognizing the significant contributions of Mexican and Mexican American families who have been planting, nurturing, and harvesting California’s wine grapes for generations. The Sonoma, Napa, and Lake County districts now bear multiple Latino winemaking estates, many run by second-, third-, and fourth-generation families. Each winery participating this evening has made a significant contribution to the legacy of American winemaking, while still honoring the rich and complex culture and cuisine of Mexico.

The evening started with a panel discussion featuring members of these family-owned wineries and opened to an interactive reception with tastings from participating wineries. Participating wineries included:

  • Gustavo Wine
  • Ceja Vineyards
  • Mi Sueño Winery
  • Maldonado Vineyards
  • Robledo Family Winery

This event was in conjunction with the 2017 Winemakers' Dinner


April 13, 2017: Women in WWI

To mark the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I, we dedicated this evening to the women of WWI. This pivotal time in world history was also a pivotal moment for women’s history.

During WWI, droves of American women donned uniforms and volunteered to help the war effort in both religious and secular civilian organizations, and as members of the U.S. military. From the Army Signal Corps “Hello Girls,” who operated the phone lines close to front, to the Salvation Army “Doughnut Girls,” who provided much needed respite for soldiers, to the Army and Navy nurses who cared for the wounded at home and abroad, these women pushed the boundaries of traditional roles and expectations of women. Their actions ultimately helped pave the way for woman’s suffrage. Join us as we explore these expanding roles of women, the continued limitations they had to work within, and the lasting results of their efforts. 

The evening started with a discussion and Q&A before opening up to an interactive reception featuring:

  • Curator-led tours of new WWI displays at the museum
  • Rarely-seen objects, WWI posters, and artifacts out of storage
  • French, English, German, and US canteen-inspired drink stations
  • WWI reenactors 
  • Thematic era-inspired appetizers (no rationing though, we promise!)
  • Hands-on activities 
  • Doughnuts! 
  • Scavenger hunt with prizes for the first 5 people

Rum tastings at the English canteen-inspired station provided courtesy of D.C.'s own Cotton & Reed. Beer tastings at the German canteen-inspired station provided courtesy of von Trapp Brewing of Stowe, Vermont.


January 26, 2017: Myths, Memory, and the "Wild West"

The “Wild West” provides some of America’s most powerful and iconic imagery. Many popular culture figures shaped perceptions of this dynamic time in American history, but most of those portrayals were largely inaccurate. So why do these stories endure? And what are the true stories behind these well-known fictions? At this event, we used these questions to dive into the story of Buffalo Bill’s "Wild West" and its impact on American culture. Over the course of the evening we explored the history of America’s Wild West, from the myth to reality, from the 19th century to today. The evening started with an expert panel featuring:

  • Michelle Delaney
    Author of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Warriors, Smithsonian Institution
  • Jeremy Johnston
    Chair and Curator of Western American History, Buffalo Bill Museum
  • Cécile R. Ganteaume 
    Associate Curator, National Museum of the American Indian
  • Ryan Lintelman (moderator)
    Associate Curator of Entertainment, National Museum of American History

And then opened up to an interactive reception where we went deeper into this complex story with rarely-seen objects out of storage, experts on hand, as well as appetizers and themed drinks and activities courtesy of our friends at Wigle Whiskey. 


October 29, 2016: The Great History of American Brewing  

It’s a fact: beer history is American history, and to celebrate that we served up a flight of brewing history with the help of historians, experts, and breweries. The evening included four tasty tales of brewing, beer, and policy from the Colonial era, 19th century, Prohibition, and the 1970s, as well as a chance to dive deeper into the tastes, stories, politics, and history of each era by talking with experts, viewing museum collections and archival materials, and tasting some historically inspired brews at each station.

This event was part of the museum’s new American Brewing History Initiative and Smithsonian Food History Weekend 2016.


August 10, 2016: FOOD in the Garden - Gardens & Community

In August, we went outside with Smithsonian Gardens for an evening in the museum’s Victory Garden! The evening included food, cocktails by Green Hat Gin of New Columbia Distillers, and dynamic conversation exploring the connection between communities and nature. We explored how gardens and public green spaces have brought people together to build community, learn, and heal throughout American history. From parks, to victory gardens, to community plots, these green spaces have offered not only beautiful and calming spaces but also a place for civic engagement during critical times. The evening's big question: How do gardens foster community and change? 

The evening included a panel discussion featuring:

  • Tom Kanatakeniate Cook, Running Strong for American Indian Youth
  • Pam Hess, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture
  • Elin Haaga, George Washington University landscape design program
  • Dr. Frederick Foote, The Green Road Project, a natural healing environment for wounded service members and their family members

And an interactive garden party-themed reception with:

  • Custom cocktails by Green Hat Gin of New Columbia Distillers
  • Tours in the Victory Garden
  • Delicious food by our own Chef Jose Diaz
  • Croquet games in the lawn
  • Arcadia activity station
  • Story-sharing with Community of Gardens by Smithsonian Gardens
  • Groundwork Anacostia station


May 16, 2016: The Judgment of Paris & American Wine

An evening of wine tasting, food, and dynamic conversation! Forty years ago, American winemakers surprised a panel of French wine experts (and the world) by placing first in a blind tasting that pitted the new American wines against the best of France. To mark this important anniversary, we hosted a conversation about the legacy of the Judgment of Paris and American wine history from the people who were there, as well as a wine tasting and more in an interactive reception. Speakers included:

  • Steven Spurrier – The organizer of the 1976 Judgment of Paris.
  • George Taber – The only journalist to cover the tasting and author of The Judgment of Paris.
  • Warren Winiarski – The winemaker of the winning 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
  • Bo Barrett – The current owner of Chateau Montelena and son of the late Jim Barrett who owned Chateau Montelena at the time of the Judgment of Paris.
  • Violet Grgich – The daughter and co-proprietor of Mike Grgich, the winemaker of the winning 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and founder of the winery, Grgich Hills.
  • Ted Baseler – The CEO of Ste. Michelle Estates and CEO of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

Image courtesy of Bella Spurrier. This event was made possible through generous support from: Altria Group and Wegmans Food Market, Inc.


March 10, 2016: Cooking Korean in America

From the Korean Taco to Kimchi Burgers, Korean food is making itself known on American menus. what is the history of Korean food in America? 

On March 10 we explored the (delicious) history of Korean cooking in the US and its impact on American cuisine. The evening started out with a cooking demonstration and continued with a panel discussion and interactive reception featuring:

  • Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard, authors of Koreatown: A Cook Book
  • Maria Godoy, senior editor at NPR and host of The Salt
  • Live cooking demonstrations and storytelling with Danielle Chang, founder of LuckyRice and author of the cook book, Lucky Rice
  • Delicious Korean-American-inspired food
  • Koreatown: A Cook Book and Lucky Rice book signings
  • Themed drinks and snacks


January 14, 2016: The Great American Tailgate

Tailgating at sporting events is a time-honored American tradition. But how and why did we as Americans eat and drink their way into celebrating sports? In January, we hosted a conversation with historians, researchers, and sports fans on why and how we tailgate. The evening also featured unique collections objects on display that tell the story of American ingenuity including the Igloo cooler, unique tailgating advertising and brands, sports-history objects, and more. 


November 11, 2015: Blown Away - The Art and Science of Glass

From cocktail glasses to beakers, glass is part of American life. But how is glass made today? And how was glass made throughout American history? In November we enjoyed this question with food, drinks, and an exploration of the art and science of glass. The evening started off with a conversation with scientific and artistic glass blowers, and then opened up to a reception with custom cocktails and samples from Pittsburgh’s historic Wigle Whiskey, and the museum's newest exhibit “Science Under Glass,” and more.


October 24, 2015: Brewing Up Innovation

The story of American craft beer is one of innovation- from business and entrepreneurship to styles and technologies, craft beer is constantly evolving. To explore this history, we were joined by Maureen Ogle, historian and author of  Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, Kim Jordan, co-founder of New Belgium Brewing Company, and Dick Cantwell, of the Brewers Association as they reflected on the history of brewing and the resurgence of the modern craft beer movement. How has American beer innovated and what will the craft beer of the future look like? After the talk, we conducted some innovative beer research with sample brews from a mix of local and national breweries and history brewing objects from the museum's collections. This event was part of the Smithsonian Food History Weekend.


September 17, 2015: FOOD in the Garden - How Does Your Garden Grow?

What do the kitchen gardens of our founding father, Victory gardens of WWII and edible rooftops have in common? Good design of course. From soil to sun, how do plant needs, space, and aesthetics influence the design of a garden? Historic and modern garden designers reflected on the past, present, and future of edible garden design and we gathered inspiration for our own unique spaces. This event was part of FOOD in the Garden 2015 - where we explored innovations in American food and gardens with tastes, talks, and tours outside in the Smithsonian Gardens’ Victory Garden.


August 20, 2015: FOOD in the Garden - Seeds of Innovation

From heirlooms to biotech, how have seeds fed us in the past and how will seeds feed the future? Scientists, researchers, and historians discussed the impact of seeds, seed saving, and seed technology on our historic and modern food systems. This event was part of FOOD in the Garden 2015 - where we explored innovations in American food and gardens with tastes, talks, and tours outside in the Smithsonian Gardens’ Victory Garden


May 13, 2015: Sushi for Sale

How did a Japanese delicacy become an American favorite? On May 13 we explored the history of sushi in America with an award-winning chef Kaz Okochi, Bonny Wolf of American Food Roots, and FoodStory founder Yoko Isassi. The evening also featured sushi-making demonstrations. Missed it? Want to relive it? Read the blog post or browse through pictures from the evening. 


April 8, 2015: What the Cluck?

How did chicken become America's go-to white meat? On April 8, farmers and Smithsonian historians joined for a conversation on the past, present, and future of chicken in America. From large-scale chicken production to backyard coops, from food safety to chicken marketing, how has American agriculture changed over time? The evening also featured live bluegrass from By & By and chicken coop demonstrations from Rent a Coop. Missed it? Want to relive it? Read the blog post, browse through pictures from the evening, or watch the video. Watch the talk here: What the Cluck?


March 16, 2015: The French Chef, American-Style

What happened after America mastered French cooking? Starting in the late 1960s, Julia Child and her editor Judith Jones, as well as countless food-loving Americans, began to look away from Europe and toward their own country for inspiration, exploring the rich heritage of American regional cooking. Food history writers Alex Prud'homme (co-author of My Life in France) and Sara Franklin (oral historian for Jones) discussed the renewal of American regional food culture after Julia's debut as The French Chef. Browse through pictures from the evening. Watch the talk here: The French Chef, American-Style


February 26, 2015: The Craft Distilling (Re)Revolution

Ever taken a trip to your local distiller? On February 26, author James Rodewald, author of American Spirit: An Exploration of the Craft Distilling Revolution, joined DC’s own Derek Brown and Michael Lowe of Green Hat Gin as they explored the current and historic revolutions in American distilling. Browse through pictures from the evening or watch the video. Watch the talk here: The Craft Distilling (Re)Revolution


January 23, 2015: Brewing Up History

How are today’s brewers inspired by history? On January 23rd we held a beer talk and tasting featuring Bluejacket brewery’s Greg Engert and beer historian Mike Stein as they discuss the art and science of brewing. Engert and Stein shared their story of creating new beers inspired by beer styles of the early 19th century and we explored the connections between Washington, DC’s craft beer scene today and the DC beer world of the past. Browse through pictures from the evening or watch the video. Watch the talk here: Brewing Up History.





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