Can prohibition happen again? This is certainly a question that has animated the brewing industry for the nearly seventy-five years since Repeal. Brewers invariably reference the Eighteenth Amendment when they confront taxes or any of a variety of neo-temperance initiatives. Prohibition, in many ways, was the defining moment in the brewing industry’s history. Federal taxation shaped the industry, and it continues to play that role. Although the brewing industry contributes relatively little to internal revenue in 2007, the economic benefits of having legal liquor production is the lynchpin of their arguments about any actual or perceived encroachments on their latitude to operate.
The history of the brewing industry’s attempts to deal with both the federal government and prohibition movements links to the history of their organizations. In 1862, the United States Brewers Association provided an early and very modern way for the brewers to present a unified face to the government and American society. In turn, the story of the organizational life of the industry reflects the story of growth, competition, and consolidation that has marked the years since Repeal.
In the early twentieth-first century the battle between brewers, the federal government, and society over control and individual freedom is essentially at a stalemate. Both the federal government and the states heavily regulate the industry, yet no one questions its legitimacy. Does this mean it is not vulnerable to a more sustained attack such as the prohibition movement? The brewers only have to look to the tobacco industry for an answer. There have always been connections between the two industries, but they have not always shared the same