84 years ago on April 7th, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, legalizing the purchase, sale and consumption of beer, for the first time since the start of Prohibition.
Since that dark and ominous day in January of 1920 when alcohol consumption in the U.S. was banned nationally, this day marks the first glimpse of sunlight for a nation that not only saw one of it’s favorite guilty pleasures being forcibly banned, but also saw the rise of organized crime and an uptick in unemployment as hundreds of distilleries, breweries and wineries were closed forcing thousands to be sent home jobless.
The only breweries that survived those tumultuous times were those could turn their breweries into producers of some other types of products. Very few were capable of doing that.
Before Prohibition there were over 4,000 breweries in the U.S. and after prohibition that number dwindled down to a few hundred, most of them being own by the large corporate giants, Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors and Pabst Brewing. The entry of America into WWII helped to increase the production of beer because it was a morale booster for the troops as well as those at home.
The rise of commercialism in the 50s and 60s made sure that the big producers could keep their foothold on the beer market. And the introduction of light beer in the 70s was an obvious grab for the women of America’s purse strings, as more and more of them were entering the work force. America had an all time low of 42 breweries in operation by 1978 pushing out the watered down, low taste that American Lager had become. Then a little miracle happened.
On October 14, 1978, H.R. 1337 was signed into law, legalizing the home production of a small amount of beer or wine for personal consumption. With a pen stroke, then President Jimmy Carter, began the movement that has become known as Craft Beer today.
As of March 28, 2017 the official number of breweries in the US has now reached 5,301 and continues to grow. Even if each of these breweries only produced five different styles of beer, that would be over 26,000 different beers in the US to choose from, not including the imports. And I guarantee the number of styles produced is far greater. These breweries have employed well over a hundred thousand people and this number should continue to grow. Craft brewers alone were responsible for producing over 23.5 billion dollars of income in the US in 2016.
So in honor of National Beer Day why don’t you and your fellow beer guzzlers drop on down to the local brewery, or micro brewery or pub and hoist a cold one. You certainly have enough to choose from.