A Glimpse Into America During the Prohibition Era

We all see the changes that America goes through on a daily basis – but many remain curious about the fate of the American people during the Prohibition Era.

The Prohibition Era started around 1917 after the United States joined World War I. The Prohibition Movement started because of a religious revival.

A temporary prohibition was enacted in order to use less grain to save food. Around the same time, in order to address alcohol abuse, Congress submitted the 18th Amendment, banning the production and transportation of all intoxicating liquors. American states gave the support required to ratify the amendment within eleven months.

Ratified in 1919, the 18th Amendment went into full effect in 1920.
The Prohibition was meant to help advance the American community, although it did the exact opposite. Instead of slimming alcohol abuse, a large amount of Americans ended up drinking more. Even police officers were corrupted, drinking alcohol and taking bribes. During this time, millions of Americans were arrested for drinking illegally.

Those who wanted to continue selling alcohol were known as bootleggers. Usually, bootleggers would make moonshine using homemade moonshine stills, and then go to speakeasies to sell their alcohol. Speakeasies were special clubs used to obtain illegal alcohol.

al caponeGangs were also notorious during the Prohibition Era. An infamous gang was run by Al Capone. His gang, well known in Chicago for bootlegging, earned about $60M annually.

Supporters of the Prohibition believed that a financial boom was on the horizon. However, in 1920, thousands of Americans lost their jobs as restaurants and bars had to close. The government felt the greatest effect of the Prohibition. Many states relied heavily on alcohol sales tax. At the state level, around 11 billion dollars were lost.

Despite the loss of thousands of jobs, many factory owners supported the prohibition to increase efficiency and prevent accidents.

Franklin D. Roosevelt knew how badly the Prohibition was affecting the American people. When he ran for President in 1932, his platform involved ending the Prohibition.

prohibitionAfter Roosevelt took office, the 21st Amendment was passed by Congress on February 20, 1933. This effectively repealed the 18th Amendment. The Prohibition officially ended in December, with Utah being the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment.

Overall, the Prohibition Era was an interesting time for American citizens. In trying to do the right thing, Congress and the states learned a valuable lesson about vices. In the end, the American people got their alcohol.

A Test of Time and Patience

As a follow up to The Great Debate post I have decided to give readers some educational information that will help when purchasing and storing craft beer. We all know that winos have fancy wine refrigerators in their kitchens and expensive wine cellars in their basements, but did you know that craft beer can be stored just as wine? Most beer can be stored for a relatively long period of time but there are certainly styles that taste better with age. So, what is the benefit of aging beer? Simply put, as beer ages it tastes better and becomes more complex. Open up your wallet, buy two bottles, drink one upon purchase and let the other bottle hibernate for a year or more, open, drink and compare.

Beer Cellar

This guy is my hero!!

So, what does it take to build your own little beer cellar? Honestly, it doesn’t take much. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Store your beer upright. You don’t want cork issues to affect your napping beer. Storing your beer upright will also keep the yeast on the bottom of the bottle where it belongs. Upright storage will also decrease the amount of beer that is exposed to harmful light.
  • Store your beer in a cool area away from direct light. Beer and light aren’t friends.
  • Generally speaking, keep the temperature around 50 – 55 degrees and your beer will sleep with a smile on its face. Usually a closet or basement will suffice.
  • Don’t store beer in your kitchen fridge for the long haul. The trusty fridge can dry out your cork. You don’t want a dry cork do you?

What styles of beer are meant to store? I don’t know that there is a specific answer to that question. Add it to the list of great debates. As a general rule, most beer can sit 3-6 months in ideal conditions. Some beers can store for a year and some can store for 20+ years, although do most brewers really know what their beer tastes like after a long storage period? Probably not. Anyway, here are some styles that will store for a year or more:

  • Tripels
  • Quads
  • Barley wines
  • Dark / Browns
  • IPAs
  • Double IPAs
  • Stouts

This is not an all inclusive list. Be patient, store your beer and see how it tastes in a year or more. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Here is a recent NY Times article on the same topic.

Ale v. Lager. What is the difference?

Beer School

What is your relationship with beer? Are you in a casual relationship or a long term love affair? Regardless of your relationship, you should know what you’re drinking. Think of it this way. Would you just date the next person you walk past on the street? Well, maybe you would, but I’m hoping that you’re looking for some more substance in your relationship with beer.

There are many alternatives out there and it’s important that you take time to understand your options. Beer can get confusing when you get into the science so we’ll keep it simple and start with the basics. What are the differences between ales and lagers? Ales and lagers are the only two categories of beer. There are two main differences between ales and lagers. The first is where the yeast does the deed. That’s right, does the yeast prefer the top or the bottom? Ale yeasts are top fermenting while lager yeasts are bottom fermenting. The other main difference is the fermentation temperature. Ales typically ferment at a temperature of 59 – 77 degrees F while lagers ferment at a temperature of 40 – 55 degrees F. Pretty simple, right? Now lets get down to the good stuff.

Ales, the oldest beers in the world, have been around much longer than lagers. Civilizations as far back as Sumerians and Egyptians have been brewing beer that we would call an ale. The beauty of ale is the short period of time it takes to brew. To simplify the process, steep some grains, boil some hops, rack to a fermenter and throw some ale yeast on the top. Within a matter of days you’ll have some ale to throw down the hatch. Ales usually have a sharper, stronger, assertive and more robust taste than lagers. The alcohol level of ale is generally stronger than that of lagers, but this isn’t always true.Here are a few examples of ales:

American Pale Ale (Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%): Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor Liberty Ale, Dale’s Pale Ale, Smuttynose Shoal’s Pale Ale and Magic Hat #9.

American Barleywine (Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 8.0-15.0%): Thomas Hooker Old Marley Barleywine, Blue Point Old Howling Bastard and Treblehook.

India Pale Ale (Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 5.5-7.5%): HopDevil Ale, Dogfish 60 Minute IPA and Hoptical Illusion.

Other styles include Ambers, Blonde’s, Brown’s, Imperial IPA’s and Stouts, StrongAles and Wild Ales to name a few.

Lagers are the most common beers. 99.9% of us probably started our love affair with beer by guzzling lagers. Like ales, there is a large variety of lagers from adjunct lagers to fancy German marzens and bocks. The brewing process for lagers is longer than that of ales due to the cold temperature at which the yeast works its magic. In terms of beer age, lagers are young and have only been around since the mid-nineteenth century.

Although, some beer historians say that lagering may have been “invented” as far back as the Dark Ages, when some European beer gods may have stored their alcoholic treat in ice caves. After all, the word lager comes from the German word ‘lagern’, which means to store. Lagers are usually cleaner-tasting than their older cousin, with less body and less hop flavor, and a lower alcohol level. Lagers also have a much less fruity taste than ale.

Here are a few examples of lagers:

American Adjunct Lager (Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-6.0%): These are your typical beers brewed by commercial brewers such as Budweiser, Pabst, Miller and Coors. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any good adjunct lagers to sample. Here is my suggestion: move on the the next style.

California Common/Steam Beer (Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-6.0%): Anchor Steam Beer, Steel City Steam (John Harvard’s) and Dampf Bier (Victory).

Bock (Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 5.5-7.5%): Anchor Bock and Sam Adams Winter.

Maibock (Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 5.7-8.0%): Dead Guy Ale (Rogue), Stoudt’s Blonde Double Maibock, Smuttynose Maibock and BrooklynBlonde Bock.

Other styles include Euro lagers such as Darks, Pale’s and Strongs, MunichDunkel’s, Marzen’s, Vienna’s, and German Pilsner’s.

So, listen up adjunct lager drinkers, next time you head out to your local watering hole take a look at the beer menu and try something different. Think about what you are drinking and expand your palate. One night stands are acceptable but know that you’ll soon find the love of your life.