On December 5, Tapped Life emphatically celebrated the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition (and we have the headache to prove it). Most of us do not have a recollection of those dark, alcohol forbidden times. And, we’re grateful now, more than ever, for our freedom to choose. To choose between innovative craft beer offerings and large-scale American brewers who provide no real substance. ¡Viva independencia!
What Prohibition did to citizens and breweries was unconscionable. In 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment was passed and for 13 years there were no bars, breweries, distilleries, wineries or any legal alcohol manufacturing in the United States. In 1887, there were 2,011 breweries on the books in the US. The year before Prohibition, that number had declined to 1,179. The year after the Twenty-first Amendment was passed repealing Prohibition, 703 breweries came back to life. But a strange thing happened: a steady decline in breweries for five decades AFTER Prohibition was repealed. In the late 1970’s, there were only 89 breweries in the US. What was the cause of this ruination?
A couple of factors led to the decline of breweries:
- Local municipalities were allowed to enact their own laws regarding alcohol. Although the US as a whole was letting beer, wine and spirits freely pour, there were still areas of temperance.
- WWII happened. Before the beer industry could regain its foothold, it got socked with rationing. Grain supplies were limited, so breweries were also using corn and rice in their recipes. Ewww.
- Merging and consolidation became the only viable way for smaller breweries to stay alive. Which meant fewer options were available to consumers, allowing the largest breweries to take more market share.
So what happened in the 1970’s to right the sinking ship? A truly presidential decree from Jimmy Carter, legalizing home brewing (and encouraging a resurgence in creativity in the brewing arts). And, Jack McAuliffe. Mr. McAuliffe began the first craft brewery since prohibition: New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma County, California. New Albion was the catalyst for so many brews we know and love today.
In 2012, 2,403 total breweries were in operation. It is the highest total since the 1880s. As we set to close another year in beer, there will be even more breweries to add to this list. It can’t continue to grow forever. At some point there will be a leveling off, and possibly a decline in the craft scene, but nothing that will compare to the draft drought of the mid-twentieth century. Stay diligent friends. Beware any politician or activist that claims a removal of freedoms will make us freer. Raise a pint in appreciation of life, liberty and the pursuit of craftiness. In beer we trust! | celebrate 80 years of unprohibition.
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