Earlier this month, many Americans were wishing themselves “Happy National Beer Day.” It would be interesting to see how many of those people actually knew what they were celebrating, particularly in a nation of beer lovers such as the U.S., where nearly every day is beer day to somebody.
April 7 was the day in 1933 that the federal government lifted the ban on beer sales, helping to end the high crime and unemployment associated with Prohibition. More technically, it was the day the Cullen-Harrison Act took effect, allowing people to buy, sell and drink beer containing up to 3.2 percent alcohol. According to Wikipedia, Americans enjoyed 1.5 million barrels of beer on April 7, 1933.
Social media led to the rise of National Beer Day, a moniker first given to April 7 in 2009, according to CraftBeer.com. But April 7 definitely is responsible for the phoenix-like rise of the country’s beer industry, which was completely gutted by Prohibition. CraftBeer.com notes there were more than 4,100 breweries in the U.S. in 1873 and none less than 50 years later.
While the sale of all forms of alcohol became legal under the 21st Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933, the ban on beer was lifted a full eight months prior, due in large part to the view of regulators that beer was a moderate alternative to spirituous liquor. With that decision, the American beer industry began to rebuild after 13 years of suppression.
And build it did. The Brewers Association recently reported there were more than 7,000 U.S. breweries operating last year. In addition to fueling Americans’ taste for beer, those breweries provide more than 135,000 jobs and make myriad contributions to local, state and national economies.
Upon signing the Cullen-Harrison Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously remarked, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” And Americans have taken that suggestion to heart. Nearly half of the respondents to NationalToday.com’s Beer Day Survey indicated they are beer drinkers, with 18 percent reporting they drink at least one beer a day. Another third drink a beer a week, while 34 percent have two to four weekly. And beer is the most popular bar drink at 47 percent, according to the NationalToday.com survey.
While Prohibition failed to solve the problem of irresponsible drinking, its repeal ushered in a new era of responsible alcohol consumption. The 21st Amendment gave states the right to regulate and control the sale and distribution of alcohol in accordance with what is most appropriate for its citizens. After all, people in Ohio feel very differently about alcohol from those in California or New York.
April 7 — National Beer Day — played a vital role not only in opening the gate to the complete repeal of Prohibition, but also to the revival of the country’s beverage alcohol industry and the responsible way the industry’s products are distributed and enjoyed.