The History of Beer in the United States

Beer is one of the largest industries in the United States today. More than 2,000 breweries manufacture the popular drink in facilities located across the country. Some of these breweries are large corporations; others are small microbreweries. They combine to produce 200 million barrels of beer every year. Only the Chinese consume more beer than Americans.

Beer production has had a long, storied history in the United States. The first beer producers within these borders were Native Americans; they had been doing so before Europeans ever landed on American soil. One Native American recipe included maize, birch sap and water. The earliest record of brewing by non native Americans was in 1587, and the Dutch West India Company, a company that existed from 1621-1792, became the first commercial brewery in 1632.

For the next 150 years, beer production in the United States was influenced by European traditions. British-style ales were popular for much of this time period before Germans brought over the lager styles, and companies became pleased with how profitable this type of beer turned out to be. Its longevity was also improved over what local ales offered.

Steam beer evolved in and around San Francisco in the late 1800s. It was produced as the result of an improvised process in order to ensure that low-cost beer was readily available to all of the people who had headed to California during and following the Gold Rush. Anchor Brewing Company would be the sole provider of steam beer in the United States when Prohibition ended.

D.G. Yuengling & Son started operating in 1829. It is the oldest brewing company that is still operating in the United States. This Pennsylvania-based company is also the largest American-owned brewery. Best Brewing was the first company to transport its beer by ferry and rail to cities outside its own metropolitan area. It was founded in Milwaukee in the 1840s and focused much of its shipping on Chicago and St. Louis.

Another company that received its start around this time was Anheuser-Busch. It was founded in 1860. Adolphus Busch started producing Budweiser beer in 1876. This famous product is named for Budweis, Czech Republic, a city that has been known for brewing beer since the 1200s. The company also expanded on Best Brewing’s transportation plans and introduced refrigerated rail cars. This allowed Anheuser-Busch to become the first national brand.

Prohibition obviously hit the industry hard. It lasted from 1920-33, and all sale, production and transportation of beer and other alcoholic products were banned during this time period. Some companies stayed in business by producing products such as malt syrup and soft drinks. The day that beer sales were legalized again, 1.5 million barrels were sold. The overall recovery, however, was gradual until it started taking off during and following World War II.

The craft beer movement started in the 1970s. New Albion Brewing Company was founded in California in 1976; it was the country’s first microbrewery since the end of Prohibition. Jack McAuliffe, its founder, was influenced by the beer he tasted in Scotland when he was stationed there with the U.S. Navy. Although his company only lasted seven years, McAuliffe influenced Ken Grossman and his Sierra Nevada Brewing Company as well as all of the microbreweries to come.

Those looking to open their own microbrewery or any business that manufactures or sells beer need to procure the necessary licenses and permits that are required by their state. For example, businesses in the country’s second-largest state would need to ensure they have a Texas alcoholic beverage license before they can legally sell these beverages. A Texas license service helps assist businesses located in the state secure a Texas beer license and make sure they are ready to start making beer. The licensing process is similar in the other 49 states.

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