Beer: America’s Tipple of Choice

(Image by Sam via Wikimedia Commons)
(Image by Sam via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is National Beer Day in the United States.

Here are some things you may not have known about the history of beer in the United States.

• The unofficial holiday is celebrated today to mark the anniversary of the 1933 partial repeal of prohibition. It allowed beer to be sold and consumed legally for the first time since 1920.

• A drink resembling beer was brewed by Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans. The first commercial breweries opened in the 1630s in the New York City area. Because of the early British and Dutch influence on the country, beer, rather than wine, became the alcoholic drink of choice. Until the mid 1800s, British-style ales were the dominant brew. The influx of immigrants from Germany meant an increase in the popularity of lager beers. Lager was also more stable and retained more of its quality in less-than-ideal conditions.

• The oldest continually operating brewery in the United States is D.G. Yuengling & Son in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1829. Eberhard Anheuser went into the brewing business in 1860. The business was renamed Anheuser-Busch and in 1876 began producing Budweiser, based on a Bohemian lager from what is now the Czech Republic. Anheuser Busch is not legally allowed to call its product “Budweiser” in much of Europe because of trademark issues. In those locations, it’s sold under the name “Bud.”

•  During prohibition all beer brewing became illegal. The largest brewers managed to stay in business by selling other products like near beer, malt syrup, and soft drinks. Beer was not commonly bootlegged during prohibition because the alcohol by volume was too low to make a large enough profit. Most bootleggers ran rum and moonshine, which provided significantly more alcoholic bang for the buck.

• Following prohibition, massive breweries largely cornered the American market. Breweries such as Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors made lagers that were of the pilsner style with little flavor, which led to the stereotype of boring American beers. The first microbrewery since prohibition opened in Sonoma County, California in 1976. The first brewpub since prohibition was opened by Bert Grant in Yakima, Washington, in 1982. Seventy-five percent of the hops grown in the United States come from the Yakima Valley.

• In 1978, there were 42 breweries in the United States. There are now nearly 3,000, most of them small, independent brewers.

• Beer accounts for 85 percent of the volume of all alcoholic beverages sold in the United States. The top brand in the U.S. is Bud Light with 28.3 percent market share, followed by Budweiser. The best selling imported beer is Corona Extra from Mexico, followed by Heineken from Holland. Anheuser-Busch and Miller have both been acquired by foreign conglomerates. The largest American-owned breweries are now Yuengling and Boston Beer Co. which makes Samuel Adams. Craft beers account for 11 percent of total beer sales by volume in the U.S.

• Globally, the country that consumes the most beer is China, which drinks more than 11 billion U.S. gallons per year. The U.S. is second, drinking a little more than 6 billion gallons annually.

Our question: Which country drinks the most beer per capita?

Today is World Health Day, Women’s Day in Mozambique and Flag Day in Slovenia.

It’s unofficially Metric System Day, Public Television Day and National Coffee Cake Day.

It’s the birthday of poet William Wordsworth, singer Billie Holiday and musician Ravi Shankar.

This week in 1969, the No. 1 song in the United States was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe.

The No. 1 movie was “Goodbye, Columbus” based on the novella by Philip Roth, while Roth also topped the New York Times Bestsellers list with “Portnoy’s Complaint.”


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