Some Big Breweries that Survived Prohibition
Before Prohibition started, there were over 1,300 breweries in the States. When it ended there were about 100. Today we’re going to learn about what a few of our well-known breweries did during the “driest” 13 years in America. This is basically the guys that survived and lived to tell the story. Prohibition did not happen overnight, as we have learned the last few weeks, so a lot of these breweries that made it, were prepared ahead of time.
Many who did not survive, anticipated this nonsense lasting only a couple of years, and they thought they could survive that. Others who did not make it, relied solely on “near beer,” which is basically nonalcoholic beer. They were not anticipating so many law-abiding citizens to prefer bootleg beer over “near beer.”
Miller – The Champagne of Beers!
Let’s start with Miller. Apparently the ‘Champagne of Beers’ barely survived. They even tried to sell in 1925, but no one wanted it. They tried near beer and soda, but what really saved them was having invested in so many other areas! Real Estate, mortgage loans, international bonds…They also owned many saloons before Prohibition and were able to actually sell some of them. Thank goodness it all worked out. Where would we be today without ‘Miller Time?’
Annheuser Busch – The Self-Proclaimed KING OF BEERS!
Next, is the self-proclaimed King of Beers, Annheuser Busch! They saw this coming decades before, unlike Miller apparently. They even started selling a nonalcoholic beer a few years before Prohibition called Bevo, and it was actually popular. Ironically though, during Prohibition people lost interest, and they discontinued it.
Bud sold some of their real estate holdings, but also branched outside beer. While they started selling soda, baby formula, coffee, tea, ice cream, and other random food and beverage products, one product they sold seemed a bit vengeful, but also genius. They sold police vans intended to capture bootleggers and moonshiners. They also sold a vehicle that can go on land and water, and campers for Ford Trucks, but that Volstead Violators Van, is pretty damn clever. They couldn’t make beer, so they didn’t want anyone else to either.
They also sold yeast and malt syrup. A few breweries did this, but Bud did it the best. These were ingredients to make beer at home. These could also be used to make bread, and much like the beginning of quarantine, people got real “interested” in making bread. The reason Bud did it best was their advertising. Right before Prohibition, Bud had run an anti-prohibition campaign stating that beer was “liquid bread.” Then right after Prohibition started, they sold yeast and malt syrup next to a cardboard cutout of a guy winking. So, the ad was basically saying, “you can make bread at home…wink wink.” We see what you did there! 😉 Well played Bud!
Right before Prohibition ended, Bud got special permission from the government to start brewing so that their beer would be available to drink the day it became legal to do so.
Yuengling -America’s Oldest Brewery (Thanks to Prohibition)
Yuengling’s saving grace was ice cream! This wasn’t uncommon, since a lot of the brewing equipment could be used to make ice cream, and they had cold places to store ice cream, and refrigerated trucks. Yuengling’s ice cream though, got so popular that they continued to sell it after Prohibition. They took a hiatus in 1985, but came back in 2014. Today you can buy flavors like Black & Tan, and Butterbeer. They take online orders, and for just $8 a pint and $30 in shipping, you can now have Yuengling ice cream mailed to you on dry ice!
Pabst - PBR
Pabst did the whole soda and malt syrup thing, but they also leased space to Harley Davidson, and did the most Wisconsin thing possible. They started a cheese company. Pabst was able to age the cheese in their beer cellars and ended up selling 8 million pounds of cheese during Prohibition. Once it ended, they wanted to get back to beer, and sold their cheese company to Kraft! So, Prohibition gave us Kraft Mac and Cheese?!!
Our local Mellow Mushroom sells delicious Beer Cheese sauce made with PBR, and I now have a new appreciation for their beer of choice. PBR also works for baked brie. I learned this when I didn’t want to waste any good beer on the cheese. We always have PBR in the fridge for my brother. I had to mention that, to maintain my street cred as the Hoppy Mommy.
Coors – Brewed with Rocky Mountain Spring Water
Coors surprised me the most. They were making bottles in house, and had a lot of clay deposits around their brewery, so when Prohibition started they created a ceramics company. I instantly thought they were selling fancy cups and plates, but it was and IS so much more! They are still open today, and sell materials for agriculture, aerospace, lab equipment, the auto industry, etc. The company is called CoorsTek, and they are worth a google, if you did not know this.
Anchor Brewing- Drink Steam!
This one is my favorite. They did “nothing.” There are no records during Prohibition, but the day it ended they were selling beer.
During this Noble Experiment Prohibition Agents picked up on the whole malt syrup and yeast, and tried to shut that down. Fortunately, the Courts sided with the breweries, and they got to keep selling those “bread making ingredients.” There were quite a few breweries that did that. It allowed them to sell ingredients they already had. Some breweries also started making dyes, or got special permission to make medicinal beer. Some sold their equipment and cut their losses, and some tried to go the bootlegging route.
All in all, we lost a lot of breweries during those 13 years, many of which were German, but these guys I just mentioned, survived and are still enjoyed by many today. The purchase of Anchor Brewing by Fritz Maytag in the 1960s, is believed to have started the craft beer revolution we all love so much today. So! In conclusion to my Prohibition series, Fuck You Teetotalers! This Bud’s for you! Cheers!