A Good Beer Blog

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Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Stan Hieronymus -

But on April 7 people were drinking beer from American breweries that they had purchased legally.

One account, from Carl Miller's feature "We Got Beer Back!" in All About Beer Magazine:

"At 12:01 a.m. on April 7, 1933, brewery whistles around the country heralded the return of beer. Throughout the night before (fondly dubbed 'New Beer's Eve'), jubilant beer drinkers lined up outside breweries, anxious for their first taste of legal beer. In Milwaukee, where crowds were said to have been 50,000-strong at the breweries, beer drinkers hauled away their precious kegs and cases in everything from wheelbarrows to baby carriages."

http://www.allaboutbeer.com/features/216gotbeer.html

It is mostly downhill from my local brewpub to my house so I'm thinking about hitching a ride up there (got to find somebody who will my wheelbarrow) and wheeling growlers home to have with dinner tonight.

Bob Skilnik -

Stan,

I think we're all in agreement that weak-ass beer came back on April 7, 1933, but when beer advocates claim that this date signifies the Repeal of National Prohibition, well, that's simply wrong. I don't care how one spins the date or the connection to legalized beer, you can't repeal an amendment to the U.S. Constitution without a new amendment that nullifies it. That took place on December 5, 1933.

Following this sort of logic, let's claim that Easter begins forty days earlier with the first day of Lent or Independence Day begins July 1.

If folks want to celebrate the return of beer that was simply weak beer that was actually brewed for dealcoholization -- but stopped short of that final damaging process -- well, go ahead. But imagine if craft beer was being brewed back then, the strength of beer would have excluded virtually every artisan beer on the market today. The swill wouldn't even have qualified as "session" beer.

That's a celebration?

Alan -

Just make sure you drink an April 7th beer, then, Stan. A nice 3.2% or lower brew.

Stan Hieronymus -

Alan - Will do. 3.2% abw is 4% abv and the folks in Utah make some great craft beer.

I'll probably have to stick to homebrew (a beer inspired by Westmalle Extra, brewed for the monks to have themselves, but not quite as strong. 4% abv, mid 30s on the BUs with all European hops (smooth BUs). Dry hopped with Styrian Goldings. Really dry.

Bob - This celebration started with the Brewers Association of America before the merger and I will admit it struck me as a somewhat strange idea. I only meant in the comment to meant to point out that there was one heck of a party (parties) 74 years ago.

And back to the top, you can make darn tasty beer that is 3.2% abw. Which is not to say what they were drinking then was.

If I were to roll home some growlers (through our current very light snow flurries) I wouldn't be able to find anything less than 5% abv at my local brewpub.

Hey, that should be part of the celebration. Brew a great 3.2% abw beer. It wouldn't be historically accurate but it would be OK by me.

Captain Hops -

be straight with the facts
but celebrate none-the-less
3.2's a start

Lew Bryson -

Bob's right about what actually happened on the dates in question (and I had it right on my site, too). My opinion is that Stan's right about the significance of April 7: whether you call it real beer or swill, what the steaming masses got on April 7 was a lot better than near beer, and they didn't care what the legal reasons were.

Alan, I'm not on-board with you, though. You have to look at this stuff in historical context. It's my reading that no one in 1933 really believed that Repeal had arrived in full force. If you read various repeal legislation, you'll get the feeling that these guys had no idea that Prohibition was deader than a doornail. Prohibition was a hugely powerful political force for decades, and the idea that the guts had fallen out of it would be as strange as the idea that the NRA was suddenly politically powerless today. Repeal legislation was written in the context of the times...and then just never changed, a lot of places.

Which, I think, points up the real take-home of all of this: Prohibition was a hugely significant event in American history, socially, culturally, legally, politically...yet there has been very little serious historical work done on it, there have been very few studies done of its effects, and the average citizen knows precious little about it, and most of what they do know is wrong.

That said...I'm raising a glass. I know that I'd have been damned happy to be able to get a legal beer again, and I'd have been happy to wait 8 months to get bigger ones. Hell, it was the summer of session beers!

Bob Skilnik -

Well Lew,

You almost got it right. April 7 is the 74th anniversary.

beerinator -

This has been an interesting back and forth discussion. But I particularly liked how Lew slipped in the "summer of session beers!" :)

Alan -

Can't I play the Canadian, Lew? I mean we had prohibition up here in Ontario, too, but it was earlier (our national prohibition ended before yours started) and you were allowed to buy beer that was shipped from Quebec, which stayed wet, and Quebec breweries had some sort of depots in Ontario. Figure that one out. But do we celebrate the decisions of bureaucrats and the compromises of politicians that have left us with compromised liberty? Do we celebrate the fact that little Prince Edward Island had prohibition until 1948? I would rather celebrate things like the Moderation League of WWI vets in 1919 campaigning against prohibition and their snowballing of a temperance rally in Toronto under a banner that read "We fought for you. Why deprive us of our liberty?"¹ <p>My real point is only this April 7th really represents the beginning of a new wave of intrusively regulated brewing that is still with the US today. It's like celebrating the invention of the taxation of beer or the restricted hours for pub openings that came in with WWI.<p>On the book front, I heard an interview of the author of <i>Dry Manhattan</i> on NPR and plan to get a review copy if I can: here is a link.<blockquote class="smalltext">¹See <i>Brewed in Canada</i> by Sneath, p.116. That might be a snowball fight that could happen today down south since the imposition of a national age of majority.</blockquote>

Lew Bryson -

Damn. Math again. 3+3 don't equal 7.

Lew Bryson -

Alan,

I meant to hop on here and post that it was asking a lot of a Canadian to know much about American history, particularly of Prohibition. Chauvinistic and USAcentric of me. Sorry.

But yeah, I do think it's worthy of celebration. Certainly the folks in 1933 thought so. And I think you're looking at it from the wrong end of the telescope: April 7 represented a loosening of regulation, not an imposition of more regulation. Sure, not a complete loosening, but we don't have that now, and few places do. Canada? Certainly not; can you say LCBO?

It's also a federal issue. The 21st Amendment made clear that states had the right to write booze law. Are we still "paying" for that? Sure. We're still paying frickin' taxes, too.

But beer is about celebration. And getting it back, legally, was -- and is -- a cause for celebration. If you don't want to celebrate, well, take it and flip it to a springboard for a campaign to give us the "Rest of Repeal," which I'd be all for.

Alan -

That is an interesting idea - finishing the repeal. In Canadian constitutional law there has been a recent line of cases elaborating the concept of liberty that has framed the concept of the autonomous sphere of decision making. There are things into which the state cannot intrude due simply to the inherent dignity of being human. So you can't be told where to live how to make non-life threatening child rearing decisions or who can live with. When I wrote a chapter last fall for the upcoming <i>Beer and Philosophy</i> (edited by Steven Hales) on the philosophy underlying Canadian beer regulation, I think I got into how one's personal relationship with beer, especially in light of the reality of autonomous home brewing, might be a good candidate for protection under liberty. I say I think because I can't find my draft right now on a lazy Sunday morning.<p>It is also interesting to consider the information Bob provides in his book <i>Beer and Food</i> on the volume of malt extract sold in the US during Prohibition. It would seem to me that people had their beer and booze. It was just the law was in line with society. So is it good when law changes to reflect reality? Sure it is. But it would be more meaningful if twinned with a "Finish the Repeal" campaign including incorporation of that movement for lowering the legal age in the US to reflect reality, Choose Responsibility. Otherwise, isn't the celebration merely thanking the state for giving us a portion of that which is already ours?

Bob Skilnik -

Finish the Repeal!

I really think we're on to something here.

Alan -

Yes, and you could prime the pump just by listing all the separate movements to get rid of this dumb law or that dumb law and put them all under the one umbrella of the "Finish the Repeal" movement.

Jay Brooks -

I assume I must have gotten my history passably correct on the 7th otherwise I'm sure Bob would have weighed in on the Bulletin.

I don't see why we can't celebrate April 7 and December 5. The thing I always found odd about both the original name "New Beers Eve" and the new one "Brew Years Eve" is that "Eve" is short for evening and is generally reserved for the night before a particular date. So if April 7 was the date 3.2 beer could be legally sold again, then shouldn't April 6 be "New Beers Eve/Brew Years Eve" and April 7 "New Beers Day/Brew Years Day?"

And as for why bother celebrating, it seems to me if the thirsty people in 1933 thought it worth staying up and cheering about, then why shouldn't we? There are neo-prohibitionists sentiments afoot these days and it would do us all well to highlight just how ignoble this experiment was the last time we tried it.

I've been a calendar geek for many, many years and one of the odd things about the way most holidays were created has very little to do with facts at all. Many of our most cherished holidays aren't celebrated on the day whatever's being commemorated actually happened. Nobody's sure that Jesus was born Dec. 25, Thanksgiving was made up in the 19th century, George Washington wasn't born Feb. 22, 1732 (the 22nd is the date it became after we dropped the Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian in 1752. In his day, GW celebrated on the 11th), and the Declaration of Independence was actually adopted in July 2, 1776. The Continental Congress actually adopted the resolution severing ties with Great Britain on July 2nd but took two more days making changes to the Declaration before ratifying the modified final version on the fourth. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who wrote most of the document, believed that posterity would remember July 2 as America’s birthday. But that's the nature of holidays.

I think what's important is what's being commemorated rather than exactly when. I know that will strike horror in the mind of the average historian (sorry Bob). I'm as anal retentive as the next guy (probably more so) but don't see what good it will do to blast everyone if their intentions are good. Plus the sad fact is we live in a world where many people simply can't be bothered to get their facts right and just don't care. I think that's partly what's ushering in a new dark ages that most people just can't see happening right before their eyes. Read Morris Berman's "The Twilight of American Culture" for more on this. It's frustrating and disheartening but I'm learning I have to just accept it. I agree we should all try to get the facts right wherever possible, but I don't think Bob shbould take it so personally. They're not blowing him off, they're blowing off the idea that it matters to have your facts correct. Maybe that's more depressing, I don't know, but when it comes to holidays I continue to believe the sentiment is what's of paramount importance. I, for one, can use more excuses to raise a glass with friends and family.

Bob -

"They're not blowing him off, they're blowing off the idea that it matters to have your facts correct."

Wow.

Alan -

I think that I agree with both Jay and Bob - not to mention Lew and Stan - in that there is a difference between the historical accuracy aspects of current attempts to enhance public discussion of beer and the aspect that is rhetorical advocacy for the same cause. This is where I think Maureen Ogle primarily lost a bit of balance for me in that there was a great deal of her own interest in promotional zeal set out in the text - she does confirm that she considered the book an enlightening event in relation to the pursuit of the American Dream and, I would say, the role of marketing which I see as even extending to her promotion of her own work in addition to her anaysis of the marketing of the pre-prohibition brewers. But maybe that is natural with consumer goods and what makes it especially difficult for the less populist historian. I gained much from her work dispite this and maybe we all gain through the creation of myth as much or more than from the creation of historic record.

Jay Brooks -

Wow. Wow, indeed, Bob. As I get older and more curmudgeonly (if that's possible) I see this more and more. Personally, I like it when someone points out I've made a mistake on the Bulletin because not only do I learn something but I get a chance to correct myself, too. But I've found that if I correct a younger friend, I'm often astounded to discover that it's simply not important to them to be right with any degree of precision. There are exceptions, of course, I don't mean suggest that everyone fits that profile, but it's happened to me often enough to sense a pattern. I hate to sound like one of those "these kids today" old dudes or even Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man" but the dumbing down of almost every aspect of our society is making this problem worse and worse IMHO. Just look at those scary polls where kids couldn't locate Louisiana on a map right after Hurricane Katrina hit or 6 out of 10 couldn't find Iraq. (See this story from last year.)

Joe -

The libertarian in me actually loves the 18th Amendment for one reason alone: it actually acknowledged that a change in the Constitution was necessary to accomplish the desired goal, rather than just saying the Commerce Clause allowed Congress to do whatever it wants.

That type of governmental restraint will never happen again in the U.S.

Sorry to sidetrack the discussion. Relax, don't worry...you know.

Bob -

Well Joe,

As a libertatian, I imagine you would have wanted to be able to vote on the 18th, however, it was ratified by Congress instead. The 21st Amedment, on the other hand, was the first amendment that was actually instigated by voter referendums on a state-by-state basis and then approved by state legislatures.

You're celebrating the wrong amendment.

Chantelle -

I guess this is a pretty old discussion...but nonetheless, I will comment.

I agree with both sides of the argument (the celebrations that obviously meant something in April and the factually correct aspect as well), but I will acknowledge both aspects, and still celebrate extra on the 7th, since that's my birthday :). At least I'll be able to have a good argument with someone that day...

I began searching for this as the result of a special on the history of Budweiser. Their take was similar but did emphasize the celebration aspect, as they claimed that April 8th, the day after the Cullen-Harrison act went into effect, is when they took the Clydesdales with cases of beer to the White House as a "celebration", "thank-you", whatever you may call it.

So, A) I found it interesting that the Clydesdales are a part of their ad culture for a reason, and B) it gives me reason enough to celebrate. :)

Alan -

On the upside, there is an opportunity to have a second party later in the year when repeal really occurred.