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Ye Ol’ Watering Hole: Northampton’s Beer Can Museum

History

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Posted by Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

Nestled in the Pioneer Valley, Northampton, Massachusetts is famous for many things, including its distinctive architecture, visual and performing arts, LGBT-friendly environment and quintessential New England scenery.

You might already know that Northampton is also home to the Northampton Brewery, the oldest operating brewpub in New England, but did you know that Northampton is home to some of the oldest beer cans in American history, too?

It didn’t start off that way, but the Ye Ol’ Watering Hole Beer Can Museum now boasts a collection of over 4,000 novelty beer cans. How did it happen? Here’s a look through the years.

Sign entrance

Photo: Ye Ol’ Watering Hole entrance

As the story goes, in 1942, five friends each placed full beer cans onto the wall before serving in World War II so they could toast their safe return. Later on, the three surviving veterans honored their comrades by placing their three empty cans next to the two full ones.

Later on, in 1970, Ye Ol’ Watering Hole’s then-owner Al Drew added his own collection as a tribute the original five who served. Today, the Beer Can Museum’s assortment has been built up through the generosity of numerous can collectors, and the Watering Hole proudly displays over 4,000 one-of-a-kind beer cans from these donations.

Beer Collection

Photo: Ye Ol’ Watering Hole Beer Collection

Many of the cans are organized in alphabetical order, and all of them have their own unique stories, similar to that of the original WWII veterans. While the Watering Hole does not buy, sell or trade from their collection, interested beer can collectors can head to the pool room to see steel flat-top and cone-top cans dating back to 1935. Another fan favorite is the 1976 Billy Beer Can, made famous by Billy’s brother, President Jimmy Carter. Click here for a list of 19 other world-famous beer cans from this collection.

Beer Cans on display

Photo: Wall Display at Ye Ol’ Watering Hole Beer Collection

The museum only allows 21+ audiences, and viewers are welcome from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. every day (and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). Stop by for a drink from their long list of craft beers and ciders while you browse through the rich history that lines the walls of the Watering Hole.

Bar Area

Photo: Ye Ol’ Watering Hole Bar Area

And if you swing through Nothampton for a visit, why not make a weekend trip out of it?

Take a look at what else is going on in this cultural hub and the rest of Western Massachusetts, and if you’re interested in exploring more history nearby, check out the majestic Hotel Northampton, which was built in 1927.

What’s one unique, under-the-radar place that you’ve visited? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Tina

    Wow! I definitely want to check this out, if i ever to to Massachusetts! That has to be the one of the coolest bars I’ve seen! I wonder how many of those beers on the wall, I’ve actually tried. Id love to do a countdown!

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/AviantiJewelry

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