America’s Beer History: Surviving Through Wars And Prohibition

beer history

There has been an incredible boom in the sale and production of craft beer. 2018 alone accounts for its $114 billion market. According to several demographic reports, close to 70,000 people are employed by many breweries peppering the USA. And, around 2.1 million people are indirectly impacted by breweries and their distribution system. But things weren’t always like this. America’s beer history has as much to do with culture, as it has to do with time. At a point in time, brewing and beer were more of a hobby than a necessity. 

The Beer History Of America- Commercial Brewing, 1632

On a strictly commercial basis, the beer started brewing in New Amsterdam (New York) in the 17th century. This was brought to the New World by the Dutch West India company. They had decided to create establishments strictly devoted to the development of the beer. This would not only create employment but would also allow the settlers to settle without having to worry about beer production. Till that point, beer was more of an individually created interest. This proved to be a turning point in how America’s beer history was reshaped. 

Drinking Beer

The very process of commodifying beer was quite a mess. With most people brewing it in their homes, it was seen to be quite light compared to ale, wine, or rum. Regardless, people consumed a lot more back then than people do now. As the colonists had to import most of their beer from England, much of its consumption stopped during the Revolutionary War. In this period, loyalists to the New World decided to create their stuff rather than drink something from the enemy’s camp. 

A Shift In What We Drink- 1879

With the immigration of Germans, St.Louis became the haven where lager was first created. When we talk about the beer history of America, it is extremely important to mention that faster ocean travel is the only reason why lager could be created in the states. The yeast used in the production of lager wasn’t stable enough to go past the Atlantic when traveling was a bi-monthly affair. Lager became popular throughout the U.S after modern technology actualized faster travel. And finally, Budweiser became the first company to produce it on a large scale. 

Read: History Behind The Making Of The Iconic Birra Moretti 


The Prohibition took a massive toll on breweries, with simply 40% of them being allowed to work. The possession of refrigeration units made it possible for most breweries to shift into creating ice-cream or cheese. When the tide blew over, there were simply 100 breweries left. 

Craft Brews

Most craft beers found today have been built on the ashes of dead breweries strewn across cities. One of them, the Great Lakes Brewing Company, decided to use an old abandoned building from the 19th century. It’s now their office for operations. Similarly, Samuel Adams decided to buy a factory in Cincinnati to get in on the game. It can be safely mentioned that craft beer was rejuvenating both the beer industry and places that had huge beer historical importance. 

The beer history of America can be considered to be one that has gone through the ravages of time. Not only did it face wars, but population shifts, prohibition, and intrinsic culture changes.

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