Beer Blogging: Prohibition, Regulation, Homebrew

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Lyle says:

    According to Last Call a history of prohibition, making wine, beer and cider was ok to a householder during prohibition up to 200 gal a year. Large amounts of grapes were shipped east out of CA. Last call says that prohibition only cut alcohol use by 30-40% . The congress and state legislatures did not want to pay for enforcement. In addition you could get wine thru a church or physician.
    The book is an eyeopener on how prohibition was pretty much a sham but that it made the Brofmans rich.
    Actually according to the book before prohibition women did not go to saloons and drank alcohol tonic. The speakeasies were open to both sexes and were populated by them. After 1933 it stayed that way. So at least one result of prohibition is the opening of public drinking to women.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Lyle says:

      @Lyle,

      People did face real criminal penalties for violating Prohibition, however, and this did change the beer industry a good deal, even if loopholes existed that allowed you to get drunk by other means.Report

      • Avatar Lyle in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @Jason Kuznicki, Yes some did much more in the center of the country than on the coasts. Last Call says that plea bargining was big time in NYC because otherwise the courts could not have processed the arrests because the Volstead act required a jury trial. It appears that enforcement was weak on the coasts and strong in the center the original red state blue state divide.Report

  2. There is nothing better in a circle of friends than a brewmaster. It surprises many people when they realize how cheap it actually *is* to brew beer; even one bottle a night, your brew kit pays for itself in a couple of weeks. Even pouring the entire experimental batch out occasionally, you can make more (and better) beer for next to nothing.Report

  3. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Jason, I wrote a little bit about this here. A lot of folks seemed to think that it doesn’t count as deregulation but I disagree. Some more on that, here. I would certainly appreciate your feedback on that second link.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      @E.D. Kain,

      I was aware of the debate but afraid to weigh in directly, as a lot of what I’m talking about above is the stuff of anecdote and personal experience. (True story: During Prohibition, my grandma was a little kid growing up on the shores of Lake Erie. Canadian whiskey came across to “someone” in the family — I’ve never heard who it was. But she’d bring deliveries around the neighborhood in her toy wagon. Who would arrest a little girl with her wagon?)

      Anyway… Homebrewing and its deregulation undoubtedly encouraged several components needed in the revival of mass beer culture:

      –It brought back generalized knowledge about traditional beers and brewing, necessary for future employees in commercially licensed craft breweries.

      –It created a consumer base eager to accept new products. Personally, I rarely buy the same beer twice if a new one is on offer. It’s hard to think of another market where variety is so important, except the markets for music and art.

      –It caused a shift in the class status of beer. Paul Fussell states unequivocally that beer is prole, and a prole beer that costs $6 a bottle just isn’t going to fly. Beer today is for every social class, though the type of beer found in a given class is going to vary a lot, and may still be in flux.

      –Home brewing created new technologies for brewing in small batches, which are also useful at the commercial level when trying new recipes. The commercial brewers I know all make beer using homebrew techniques on the side to test new recipes.

      –Homebrew helped bring about the creation of several new strains of hops, in response to the high demand for them, the difficulty of transporting some hop varieties from Europe, and the curiosity about what other aromas can be wrung from the plant.

      Without these things, we would have nothing like today’s commercial beer industry, and they all came from homebrew.Report

  4. Perhaps a related point that occurred to me last night during my fantasy football draft while sipping New Jersey’s own Flying Fish Brewing Co. Exit 4 Trippel: there are few things that encourage the drinking of beer to excess more than a lack of hoppiness. Hops, while giving a beer real character and flavor, also make the beer exceedingly difficult to drink quickly or to excess. The two Exit 4 Trippels I had last night lasted me a full two and a half hours.

    I suspect it’s no coincidence that the leading per capita beer drinking country in the world, the Czech Republic, is known primarily for its pilsners. Admittedly, one of my favorite beers in the world – an amber pivo served only at the Strahov Monastic Brewery http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g274707-d634219-Reviews-The_Strahov_Monastic_Brewery_Klasterni_Pivovar-Prague_Bohemia.html – is Czech, but IIRC even the beer served there was not overly heavy on the hops, and regardless was very much a stylistic exception rather than the rule.Report

  5. Avatar Will H. says:

    Regarding footnote #1:
    The correct way to test moonshine is to put your hand over the top of the jar and up-end it momentarily to wet your palm. Then you set your palm on fire. Clap your hands to put the fire out before it burns you.
    Alcohol burns blue. If there’s any green at all in the flame, don’t drink it.Report

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