December 5th, 1933, the date the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was enacted, which repealed the 18th Amendment, (also known as Prohibition); and October 14, 1978, when then President Jimmy Carter signed H.R 1337 into law, which eventually led to the newest advent of Home Brewing in the US; both of these dates are probably the most important dates in the 20th Century in relation to beer.
The truth of the matter is that beer and brewing have been around much longer than any known laws (beer was developed as far back as 7000 years ago and the earliest recorded laws date back less than 5000 years.) Samples of beers, meads and wines can be found from many ancient cultures from many different parts of the world. To say that the Prohibition Act was not only one of worst ideas ever would be an understatement. It not only forced hundreds of thousands to become law breakers but it was one of biggest reasons for the rise of organized crime. And up until that point in American history brewing your own beer at home was not only an everyday occurrence it was a large portion of the source of beer consumed at that time. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s that production beer brewing started really growing.
So I am going to describe and compare the three main types of beer brewing, where they have similarities and differences and the pros and cons of each type. I have broken them down by the main factor of what currently defines them and that is by amount of beer brewed.
Home Brewing is exactly what it sounds like, beer being brewed at home. Before America existed as a nation and for about 150 years after it was born, home brewing was the original method of brewing. And because it was done in the kitchen it was considered cooking, so most brewers in those days were women, not men. But then looking back through the history of many ancient cultures, brewing has always been primarily associated with women.
In fact most of the ancient deities associated with beer brewing were goddesses:
Siduri – Babylonian goddess of wine and beer
Siris – Mesopotamian goddess of beer
Ninkasi – Sumerian goddess of beer
Hathor – Egyptian goddess of brewing and enjoyment
Nepththys – Egyptian goddess of beer
Tenenet – Egyptian goddess of childbirth and beer
Dea Letis – Celtic goddess of waiter and beer
Nokhubulwane – Zulu goddess of rainbow, agriculture, rain and beer
These goddesses were also associated with agriculture, bread, water or childbirth depending on the culture, which means that the ancient world closely associated beer with life and good living.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us!”
Today many people are getting back into home brewing as a hobby, including yours truly. Brewing beer at home means that batch sizes range anywhere from a gallon to 10 gallons being brewed at a time. And the 10 gallon size batch can be very difficult for some folks because now you’re having to handle liquids in containers weighing at least 100 pounds. Once you get out of the 10 gallon range then you need to invest in more commercial like equipment and you’re really stepping into the Craft Brewing category.
If you enjoy cooking then Home Brewing may be an option for you to try. You need the same discipline that cooking requires; measuring ingredients, prepping both your kitchen and your equipment, and a good sense of timing for when the product is ready’ and the patience to wait for the product to be ready for consuming. If you don’t have those skills then you may be better off finding a friend who does and drink their homebrew instead.
While Home Brewing has been around for centuries, Craft brewing is a much more recent phenomenon and is really the next stage of evolution in the beer making industry after you graduate from being a hobbyist. A Craft Brewery is a business where much more experimentation is done on different varieties of beers, the goal being not to only create a good tasting product but to also create something unique using traditional ingredients and methods, something that the larger Production Breweries can’t or won’t do.
While most Craft Brewers started out as Home Brewers, they have now graduated from a hobbyist to an entrepreneur and need to keep in mind that they are running a business. They have to run a good business model and still maintain the higher quality of product than the large Production Breweries have. But if they do run the business well, they can often experiment more with varying styles of beer and ingredients.
Production brewing exploded after the start of the industrial revolution. With the invention of new machines that could do the work of many men the production of beer became much cheaper. Before Prohibition there were over 4000 breweries in America. During prohinition that number became zero. And only a handful of those breweries were able to survive Prohibition by changing their products produced to something legal, like near beer, malts, syrups, or other non-alcoholic related products. After prohibition ended, those that survived started up brewing again but with a much more homogenized version of beer due to new laws governing beer. And in order for these breweries to start making profits quickly, they changed a lot of their ingredients from the traditional barley and malt, to a much cheaper ingredient list that now also included corn and rice starches.
Another reason for the rise of these mass-production beer companies was due to the abject consumerism of the 1950s, ‘60s. ‘70s, ‘80s & ‘90s in the United States. The rise of radio and then television brought commercialism to new highs. Marketing alone sold the American public on the need for a particular kind of beer. Miller “High Life” used the ideal of living the high life to appeal to its customers. Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer subliminally associated the blue ribbon with being a prize winning beer, where in reality the name came from the original packaging of the beer which had a silk blue ribbon tied around the neck of the bottle. The Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull, Coors Silver Bullet, and Miller Lite “tastes great vs less filling” commercials all used various forms of comedy and flashy props to sell their products.
Which brings us to the “King” of commercialism, Anheuser-Busch. Adolphus Busch and Carl Conrad developed their lager style after a Bohemian Beer from the town of Budweis in Bohemia. The beer they copied was founded by the then King Ottokar II. So they used a “Beer of Kings” and named it after the town and called it the “King of Beers”, a marketing scheme that has lasted for over 100 years. Then of course there are the other marketing ploys, like the Budweiser Clydesdales and the sponsorship of sports, which all of the big beer companies have participated in.
The production beer makers are all about the business. It is much more profitable to make an inferior beer, mass produce it and sell it to the masses with marketing schemes than it is to make a good product. And that is what big business has become in the world today.
Thank goodness for Home and Craft Brewing’s rise in the 80s. Without them, a lot of Americans would never have learned what good beer is actually supposed to taste like.