April 7, 1933, something really neat happened. Let’s let Wikipedia tell you what it was.
The beginning of the end of Prohibition in the United States occurred as a result of the Cullen–Harrison Act and its signing into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 23, 1933. Upon signing the legislation, Roosevelt made his famous remark, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” Sales of beer in the U.S became legal on April 7, 1933, in states that had enacted their own law allowing such sales. The beer had to have an alcohol content less than 3.2% by weight (4% by volume), compared to the 0.5% limit of the Volstead Act, because 3.2% was considered too low to produce intoxication. On the evening of April 6, people lined up outside breweries and taverns, waiting for midnight when they would be able to legally purchase beer for the first time in over 13 years.
This little blurb just scratches the surface of the amazing amount of hard work and effort men and women put into Prohibition via the 18th Amendment and the subsequent Repeal enacted by the 21st Amendment. Now, I can get into the real nitty gritty of the temperance movement, and the role women played in both Prohibition and the reform, but I’m not quite done on my research, so, that’ll have to wait for another blog. Instead, let’s look at all the good things beer (especially craft beer), has done for America since the repeal.
In 2015, Craft Beer (defined here) produced 24,523,015 barrels of beer. A barrel is 31 gallons, so that is 760,213,465 gallons, enough to fill over 1500 separate “It’s a Small World” rides at Disneyland. Now, I love me some IASW (my poor husband can attest), but I would be more than stoked to float down the happiest cruise in the world if I could lean over the edge to fill a stein in the humid warehouse full of papier-mâché hippopotomi.
At the end of 2015, there were 4269 total breweries in America, more than any other time in American history. In 1887 we had around 2300 licensed breweries, which was about the peak pre-prohibition. Last year, 620 breweries opened and only 68 closed. Also, small brewers employed 121,843 people in 2015. Iron Horse Brewery alone has 40 men and women on our payroll, as well as an approximate buttload of contractors, two German engineers, electricians, mechanics, garage door installers, and host of other specialists finishing our expansion. The fine state of Washington has over 300 breweries now, and the beer contributed in 2014 $1,653,998,000 to the state’s economy as the beer moved through the breweries, wholesalers, and retailers.
When it comes to helping the community, the beer industry doesn’t shirk their responsibilities. Everything from silly races to scholarships, sustainability to more sustainability, and even more sustainability initiatives have been undertaken by almost every single brewer. Interestingly, hops (one of the four key ingredients to beer) are also being researched for western medicinal applications, although they have been mentioned in countless field guides and herbal remedy books for at least 1000 years. When it comes to research and science in the brewing field, lets not forget our hero Louis Pasteur, who not only confirmed and supported germ theory, made vaccines, and pasteurization; but he also was the person who proved fermentation was caused by the growth of microorganisms, which in turn resulted in standardization in processes to help brewers create more beer, in a consistent and healthy (read: germ free) way. What a guy!
So raise your glasses on the 7th, and give a toast to the entire beer industry, to the hard working Americans who helped repeal prohibition, and to the beautiful suds in your glass. Cheers!