April 6, 1933 has been dubbed “New Beer’s Eve.” On April 7, at 12:01 a.m., Prohibition had formally ended and beer was back! The day marked the first in t13 years when beer with an alcohol content over one half of one percent was legally available to the U.S. public, who lined up outside breweries and celebrated in the streets with great gusto.
Not that beer drinkers hadn’t found their way to quench their thirst during Prohibition. One official estimate reported in 1929 is that 22 million barrels of this illicit beverage had been produced annually during prohibition, the same amount as was sold legally in 1919.
Of course, the history of beer far precedes Prohibition. Some historians speculate that grain and water was used to make beer even before our prehistoric ancestors learned to make bread. Beer has been made with different ingredients in different cultures and regions throughout the world for millennia, with the first commercial enterprises developing in Germany, Austria and England in the 1200s.
In colonial North America, it is said that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because they were running low on beer supplies. Mind you, beer had been made by North American Indians with corn and black birch sap long before hops and grains were introduced by the European settlers.
Prior to taverns being built and becoming the communal hub of every town, many colonial households had a malt house attached to their homes, just like a kitchen. One reason cited for this necessity: fear of drinking the water in this new world! Everyone from babies to elderly women drank beer, from breakfast onward throughout the day. This was, ostensibly, before the discovery that the same process of boiling water to make beer also made water potable!
While most of us don’t have beer for breakfast anymore, for many, beer continues to be a very enjoyable, thirst-quenching beverage that we imbibe on a regular basis. The joy of producing your own beer, experimenting with different varieties and tastes while avoiding the chemicals and additives in commercial beer, can be a very satisfying, healthful and economical hobby that may develop into a passion.