Beer: A Part of America's History


Beer is the reason why, in 1620, the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower dropped anchor at Plymouth Rock – because their beer supply was running low. The seamen forced the passengers ashore to ensure they would have sufficient beer for their return trip to England.

General George Washington’s first order was for every troop to receive a daily ration of beer. He also entered a beer recipe in his notebook in 1754.

In 1775, the Revolutionary War measures by Congress included rationing one quart of Spruce Beer or Cider to each soldier per day.


Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence over a cold pint in a Philadelphia tavern. Most of the Founding Fathers, including Washington and Jefferson, were brewers.


As the country expanded westward, the pioneers took their families and their beer with them. Breweries and taverns sprouted along the way. Beer quickly became an important part of American fellowship and tradition.


The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, which marked the beginning of Prohibition, was ratified on January 19, 1919. Prohibition took effect on January 19, 1920.


Nine days after taking office on March 4, 1933, President Roosevelt sent a directive to Congress urging them to settle Prohibition. In the end, the figure of 3.2 percent alcohol by volume was agreed upon as the new allowable limit for beer under the Volstead Act (much lower than the 6-7 percent of pre-Prohibition days).


The 18th Amendment still remained in full effect at that point, but Congress had modified the definition of an "intoxicating beverage." But that decision meant that beer was back after 13 years of Prohibition.


2008 marks the 75th anniversary of the full repeal of Prohibition and the beginning of effective, state-based alcohol regulation.


PilgrimsToday, Americans enjoy more than 13,000 labels from coast to coast. America’s beer distributors remind you to enjoy America’s beverage in moderation and to be responsible if you chose to drink any alcohol beverage.


*Article reproduced with permission from the NBWA, The National Beer Wholesalers Association.