If you are a beer drinker, or drinker of any type of alcohol for that matter, today is a very important day to celebrate: Repeal Day. On December 5th, 1933, the repeal of prohibition was accomplished with the passage of the 21st Amendment of the Constitution.
Today we should raise a glass to people such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William H. Stayton, Joseph H. Choate, Jr., the three du Pont brothers (Irénée, Lammot and Pierre) and Pauline Sabin (founder of the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform) for their efforts to bring alcoholic beverages back into our lives.
And of course, on the other hand, we can curse the Congress that sat under Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and passed the absurd National Prohibition Act, despite Wilson's veto.
What many people may not know about Prohibition is how it changed brewing in the United States. Before Prohibition, American beer culture wasn't dominated by major national beer brands like Budweiser, Coors, etc. There were bunches of small, neighborhood brewers, serving a variety of styles to the friends and neighbors close to them.
However, when the National Prohibition Act was passed, many of these smaller brewers were forced to find other occupations and professions to make a living. When prohibition was repealed 13 years later, most of these smaller breweries didn't return, but the larger brewing companies survived and were able to resume operations. Thus, the variety of local and regional styles that existed pre-Prohibition were replaced with the mass-produced, filler-laden 'light lager' style that we've all come to know and hate.
Of course, fortunately for us craft beer drinkers, we've seen the BMC popularity waning over the past few years, and the craft beer presence around the country increasing. The variety of styles available seems to be ever-increasing, more and more micro and nanobreweries are popping up, and we are finally returning to the pre-Prohibition days of appreciating the smaller, hometown brewery.
So how can you celebrate Repeal Day? Well, you could always visit your local brewpub to show some appreciation for the neighborhood brewer. Head to 75th Street Brewery or McCoy's to have a couple beers or take home a growler. Make sure to tell them that you are drinking in honor of Joseph H. Choate, Jr. to thoroughly confuse them.
Or, if you are planning on an evening at home, pick up a six-pack of Anchor Steam. Steam beer (or California common beer, as it is typically called since Anchor trademarked the term 'steam beer') was a popular style of beer on the West Coast in the mid-19th century to early 20th century. The Anchor Brewing Company that we know today was founded in 1896, but was on the verge of closing until Frederick Louis Maytag II purchased it in 1965. Maytag reworked the recipe of the steam beer, and became the first person to brew beer without adjuncts or fillers since the repeal of Prohibition, essentially becoming the first modern craft brewer.
Today is a true beer drinker's holiday. Celebrate beer, celebrate the local brewery. And probably most importantly, celebrate the fact that we don't have to drink a stranger's bathtub hooch in the middle of a filthy underground speakeasy.