From 1870 to 1919, during the Golden Age of American brewing, American brewers competed valiantly with the Europeans, both in the varieties of brews made, and in the number of breweries in operation.
In the year 1890, Philadelphia alone touted ninety-four breweries. New York followed with seventy-seven, and Brooklyn (then a city independent of New York) boasted thirty-eight. Chicago, which became infamous during the violent Prohibition years, had forty-one totally functional breweries. Other cities (Cincinnati, Albany, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Louisville, San Francisco, just to name a few) also employed thousands of workers in the brewing/bottling/serving/transportation industries.
Most breweries specialized in one or two kinds of beer, offering many secondary choices. With so many suppliers, competition was keen. And the choices were magnified by the fact that American brewers had learned special recipes, methods and traditions from their foreign counterparts. More beer variety was available here in the U.S. than in any other country in the world.
The Golden Age of Beer, however, came to an abrupt halt when the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect in 1920. By law, the manufacture, sale, import or export of alcohol was prohibited. Though many breweries resorted to manufacturing sodas, malted milk products, etc. to keep their doors open, most ended up losing the fight.
By 1933, it was clear that Prohibition was unenforceable. After thirteen years of hardship, the industry was nearly broken. The struggle to regain lost ground continues even today. Your favorite Beer of the Month Club is proud to do its part!