Tavern History Tour Celebrates Abraham Lincoln

Liz Garabay loves Lincoln!
Liz Garabay loves Lincoln!

Liz Garibay loves pubs. She also loves history. And what she has found in her time spent in Chicago’s pubs is that they are great places to pick up local history – straight from the horses’ mouths, if you will.

And so, Garibay, a historian by profession, created Tavern History Tours, a way in which she can combine drinking history with these oral histories to learn more about general history. In fact, at one point Garibay was a historian at the Chicago History Museum, and the pub tours she organized there became the most successful ever at the museum. In other words, she knows her stuff.

Garibay and her writer friend Francesca Mazurkiewicz also happen to love studying Abraham Lincoln history. As such, they decided to take a bit of a longer tour – hitting the road around the Midwest to see Lincoln historical sites and stop off at pubs, breweries and distilleries along the way. The tour, dubbed For the Love of Lincoln, is partly in honor of Presidents' Day and partly to observe the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death.

“I realized that, gosh, Lincoln is the Midwest,” Garibay said during a phone interview. “Everything we revere about him started in the Midwest. That’s the focus.”

The tour began on Feb. 12, his birthday, in Kentucky, where Lincoln was born. Garibay and Mazurkiewicz visited the Lincoln National Historic Birthplace in Hodgenville before hitting several distilleries and later Against the Grain, a brewery set in a former train station.

From there, it was on to southern Indiana for the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial; then on to New Salem and Springfield, Ill., where Lincoln worked several jobs starting at age 22 and began his political career. The duo will visit several locations while in Illinois, including the New Salem Historic Site, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and the Lincoln Tomb.

Also, there have been stops at Rolling Meadows Brewery for some Abe’s Ale and Lincoln Lager, as well as Obed &  Isaac’s Microbrewery, which has an architectural connection to Lincoln.

On Feb. 17, they head back to Chicago, where Lincoln was nominated for president.

Of course, it’s unlikely he celebrated with a drink. According to records at Lincoln historical website, Honest Abe wasn’t much of a drinker. In part, the site reports: “Most contemporaries testified that Mr. Lincoln seldom if ever drank liquor. Aide William O. Stoddard recalled that ‘At the table, when his attention was especially called to some rare wine, I have seen Mr. Lincoln barely touch his lips to his glass, just to see what it was, but there was no perceptible diminution of its contests.’”

Friend Milton Hay said Lincoln did for a time drink lager beer on the advice of a physician, but Hay’s nephew John Hay wrote that Lincoln wasn’t one to drink for pleasure.

For the Love of Lincoln LOGO
For the Love of Lincoln LOGO

“He drank little or no wine,” John Hay wrote, “not that he remained always on principle a total abstainer, as he was during a part of his early life, in the favor of the ‘Washingtonian’ reform, but he never cared for wine or liquors of any sort, and never used tobacco.”

Nevertheless, if a few beers can get the history flowing, it’s a fair bet that Pres. Lincoln wouldn’t judge – especially given this will offer a chance for others to learn about the life and history of one of America’s most beloved presidents. One of the goals was to map out an educational journey that other Lincoln historians and enthusiasts can follow in the future. Another is to educate along the way and make it a social media event, with tweets chronicling the journey via the handle @LoveofLincoln.

In April, they plan to publish a recounting of the journey and what they learned. Of course, that won’t be the first thing Gariba and Mazurkiewicz will do when they return home.

“When we get back here were going to go grab a beer and reflect on what just happened,” Garibay said.

Which is a big part of the point.

“It’s really just about making history fun and accessible by including alcohol,” Garibay said. “Alcohol is a lubricant for history.”