Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer

By Amy Mittelman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3. DO AS THE ROMANS DO: DRINKERS, SALOONS, AND
BREWERS, 1880–1898

The brewing industry had shaped itself within the context of federal taxes. Consumption of alcoholic beverages had risen since the Civil War. Although the first wave of temperance had subsided in the face of sectional conflict, animus towards liquor did not disappear. Thus, towards the end of the nineteenth century, brewers faced an ever-growing threat: the prohibition movement.

As the nineteenth century unfolded much of the temperance movement’s energy was focused on the saloon. The prototypical saloon, a gleaming wooden bar populated solely by men, evolved from the 1800s on. The colonial tavern, ordinaries, and kitchen bars coexisted for several decades. As new immigrant groups poured into the cities in successive waves, they began anew in developing drinking establishments. The first stages were usually rudimentary home brewing and sparse service at a kitchen table for a few patrons. Women were always involved in these actives. In Irish neighborhoods in Worcester, Massachusetts and other similar places, men and women sat together at kitchen tables and drank beer.135

Saloons, pre-Prohibition drinking establishments, were similar to today’s bars in that they supplied a variety of alcoholic beverages. Although we generally think of the nineteenth-century saloon as a working class, male establishment, in reality people of all different classes drank in a variety of settings ranging from the saloon to the home. Saloons were the primary retail outlet for the distribution of liquor, but people were able to purchase liquor from grocers, drug stores,

135 Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City 1870-1920, 42.

-47-

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