Between 1870 and 1919 (long before the days of Great Clubs!), America was giving the Germans a run for their money, matching their breweries in both quantity and quality. Shortly before the turn of the century, the number of breweries in such areas as Philadelphia, New York and Brooklyn was phenomenal. And it wasn’t just the East Coast that was bubbling over with brew. Chicago boasted forty-one breweries, and Milwaukee was an important brewing hub in the upper Midwest. Out of the Pacific West Coast, the best beer came from San Francisco.
There had been temperance movements since the 1700’s, mostly targeted at hard alcohol, but stirring the dust up for beer brewers and drinkers, too. But nobody saw the writing on the wall.
The Golden Age of Brewing came to a screeching halt on July 1, 1919, when the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The law forbade the manufacture, sale, transport, import or export of any beverage with more than one-half of one percent alcohol.
The immediate effect was not only the creation of a thirsty, irritable nation, but jobs were lost as breweries and saloons shut their doors and delivery drivers lost their jobs. While some breweries managed to keep their doors open by selling soda water, ice cream, malt syrup and malt beverages, some honest, hard-working people turned to bootlegging. They paid dearly for the protection of the gangsters and corrupt police officials to allow them to supply the speakeasies with beer.
Prohibition was a BIG mistake . . . one that last thirteen l-o-n-g years.