Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer

By Amy Mittelman | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Beer is one of humankind’s oldest drinks. There is evidence that humans have been drinking beer since the beginning of civilization. In early modern Europe people considered beer essential for good health. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in part because they were running out of beer.

Taxes on beer have at times provided over fifty percent of this country’s internal revenue and the industry today has a gross national product of $144 billion. Some 84 million Americans drink beer. This is more people than drink milk, according to some estimates. The marketing and drinking of beer are facts of daily American life.

I like to drink beer; I have done so since the age of eleven. In 1965 my father lost his job. My sister was fifteen, my brother eighteen. My mother, an eternal optimist, looked at this as an opportunity for our family to take an extended vacation, while we were all still “home” and able to travel together. The five of us flew to Denver and proceeded to drive across the western part of the United States. Each night at dinner, my father would order a beer, and I would ask for a taste.

Researching this book, I discovered that alcohol and tobacco taxes played a large role in supporting the financial activities of the federal government from 1862 to 1913 and that, in self defense, beer brewers formed the United States Brewers Association (USBA). It turns out to have been the country’s oldest trade association, and it lasted 124 years. The relationship between the federal government and the liquor industry is an important part of the story, but it is the enjoyment beer provides that led me to focus on beer and brewing in the first

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