About the Blog
The Drunken River Blog is inspired by a 2018 exhibit at the Connecticut River Museum, The Thirsty River: Four Centuries of Drink, Life, and Reform in the Connecticut River Valley. I wrote the script for that exhibit with my friends and colleagues, Amy Trout (the curator of the CRM) and Chris Dobbs (the executive director). In researching this subject for the Museum, I discovered far more information than could fit the exhibit space. This blog will continue to share that fascinating and often complicated history with the public. It will examine both the celebratory and darker aspects of alcohol in all towns and cities in the River Valley from source to Sound.
I will update this blog once a week on Monday evenings and offer special posts here and there. Most posts will focus on the folklore and history of alcohol on the River, but as will become obvious, the connections may reach across the globe or throughout time. As often as possible, a post will offer a drink recipe, along with facts regarding the concoction. Occasionally, posts will highlight a contemporary brewery, distillery, cider mill, vineyard, liquor store (we call it a “packy,” short for package store, around here), or drinking establishment within a River town or nearby.
I do not intend to glorify alcohol in this blog. My father, Stephen Olbrys, was an alcoholic. It cost him his life at age fifty eight and deprived his grandchildren of a special relationship. But I also firmly believe that like all important things, booze is a medicine or a poison depending on how you use it. And I’m in the growing confederation who think that civilization emerged alongside alcohol production—folklore routinely testifies to that opinion—and that intoxicating drinks are part and parcel of the human experience and deserve attention for the good and the bad they sow.
I hope all of these posts will encourage residents and visitors to explore the Connecticut River Valley. And I hope that as you travel these historic and interesting roads, you do so tuned in to iCRV Radio, the Stream Feeding the River Valley. It’s a perfect companion.
I welcome your comments and dialogue. Please contact me if you have updates, suggestions, stories, images or postings that would benefit this blog. I ask that all comments be respectful of others.
Although this blog grew out of an exhibit, neither the Connecticut River Museum nor iCRV Radio is responsible for the postings or their content. All opinions, irreverent comments, and plain mistakes are solely my responsibility. Similarly, guest posts or comments reflect their personal opinions and not these or other institutions as a whole. Some content may not be appropriate for underage readers or listeners.
The content of this site is copyrighted by the author unless credited otherwise. All images are copyrighted by the artist unless credited otherwise. All recorded content is copyrighted by iCRV Radio unless credited otherwise. iCRV Radio reserves the right to restrict comments and content deemed problematic.
About the Blogger
Stephen Olbrys Gencarella
I am a tenured professor in the Communication Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where I teach a course on the global folklore of alcohol. I am a lifetime member of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, an international community of scholars. I am also the resident folklorist at the Connecticut River Museum, an officer in the Connecticut Eastern Regional Tourism District, and the author of Wicked Weird and Wily Yankees: A Celebration of New England’s Eccentrics and Misfits with Globe Pequot Press. For two years I was member of the crew of Fermented on iCRV Radio, a series on alcoholic drinks. A native New Englander, I currently live in Lyme, Connecticut, with my wife Winnifred and our four children. Winnie and I host Hogo Rum Bar, a mobile service dedicated to educating people on the world’s most interesting drink. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The Artists: Sharon Martain, aka Bingk, Chloe Deeley, Clara Kaufmann, Aubrianna Robinson, Scott Bartlett
About the Logo
Starting in the seventeenth century, the “Great New England Sea Serpent” frequently made an appearance in the waters of the Atlantic. This creature was a figment of folklore and imagination, but it proved to have staying power, especially when coastal communities developed a tourist industry in the 1800s and needed a headline to compete for visitor eyes and dollars. The creature made its appearance in Long Island Sound by the mid-nineteenth century and according to newspaper “reports,” had the good sense to travel up the Connecticut River. Although the sea serpent tradition died down in the 1920s, it has resurfaced in the Connecticut River Valley in recent decades. The logo of The Drunken River pays homage to our friend—affectionately known as “Connie” to many of us—and her exquisite tastes.