What are you doing for New Beer’s Eve?
At Total Wine & More, we’ll be raising our glasses. Every April 6, also known as New Beer’s Eve, ushers in National Beer Day on April 7. That’s the anniversary of the day beer sales resumed across the United States back in 1933, following the nation’s long, dry spell known as Prohibition.
On March 22 in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, authorizing the sale of beer and wine for the first time in 13 years. This was not the end of Prohibition – that required the ratification of the 21st Amendment later that year – but happily, the beginning of the end, when Roosevelt famously noted, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”
Though the taps opened at midnight on April 7, it took some time for American beers to return to form. Close to 1,400 breweries had operated in the country before Prohibition took effect in 1920, Garrett Oliver notes in the “Oxford Companion to Beer.” Those that didn’t fold outright during the ban scraped by making soft drinks or ice. By 1933, only 164 breweries remained.
“The art of brewing was largely lost,” says Rob Hill, author of “The Total Guide to Beer.” “The old beer-makers had retired, and there was a whole younger generation who’d never even had beer.” Traditional recipes had been forgotten or lost. Quality ingredients were scarce. And adding insult to injury, post-Prohibition regulations required beer to have no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by volume (a modern lager like Budweiser is 5 percent ABV).
And yet. “Today the United States has a world-renowned, world-respected craft beer scene,” Hill marvels. “That’s kind of a typical American success story. In a relatively short period of time, since Prohibition, we came back to make what are considered some of the best beers in the world.”
That’s why we’re celebrating. Why not do the same, enjoying some great American beers that have passed the test of time since the Prohibition era? Like Texas’ Shiner, whose premium golden lager has been brewed since 1909. Or a refreshing Rolling Rock, which began brewing in Latrobe, Pa., in 1939 but sports a mysterious “33” – perhaps in tribute to the end of Prohibition – on its label. Or the iconic Pabst Blue Ribbon, whose Milwaukee brewers turned to cheese-making during the Prohibition years.
Find these storied survivors – and the new American brews they’ve inspired – at your local Total Wine & More. And pick up a free copy of the Total Guide to Beer while you’re in store.