All toast the Chief

Posted on February 17, 2011 by Mary Ellen Brewington

Monday is Presidents’ Day, a day on which we honor all past United States presidents. We all know that Presidents’ Day isn’t usually counted among holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and New Year’s Eve, which customarily are celebrated by enjoying an adult beverage.

What you may not know is that there are a few presidents who would be suitably honored by toasting a beer or two. Today, On Tap offers a unique history lesson about a few of our past presidents that may really whet your whistle.

Some of our nation’s greatest leaders who were elected into office – perhaps touting their commitment to improve the economy or protect personal freedoms – also supported a simple, customary pleasure that many Americans value today: throwing back a cold one. A few presidents in particular paved the way for beer to be brewed, sold and enjoyed in America:

George Washington – Records indicate that Washington loved beer; English-style porter was his drink of choice, and it was stocked regularly at Mount Vernon. Washington was also a homebrewer. A 1757 30-gallon “small beer” recipe in a personal notebook belonging to Washington is now housed at the New York Public Library.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – In 1919, America entered into The Noble Experiment when the Eighteenth Amendment established Prohibition. Over a decade later, the country realized that the ban had increased the very crime and devastation it was supposed to eliminate. Prohibition also had destroyed the American brewing industry and had negatively impacted businesses such as restaurants, hotels and taverns. By 1932 the Democratic Party platform included an anti-Prohibition plank, and Franklin Roosevelt ran for the presidency promising repeal. Roosevelt kept that promise once elected, and on March 22, 1933, he signed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act, which allowed the federal government to collect taxes on alcohol and gave states the right to regulate the sale of the beer, wine and spirits. Roosevelt is quoted as saying “I think now would be a good time for a beer!” after signing the legislation. On Dec. 5, 1933, the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.

James Earl Carter Jr. – In 1978 Carter signed a bill that launched the largest home brewing movement since the days of Prohibition. The law exempted homebrewed beer produced for personal and family consumption from excise taxes. The law still allowed states to prohibit citizens from making beer, wine, cider and mead, but soon homebrew shops started to open across the country and thus began America’s love affair with fresh, homemade beer. Just weeks after Carter signed the bill, Charlie Papazian and Charlie Matzen formed the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) in Boulder, Colo., and released the first issue of Zymurgy magazine. The magazine publicized the federal legalization of homebrewing and called for entries in the first AHA National Homebrew Competition. Those few weeks in 1978 helped jumpstart America’s craft beer movement.

Thanks to these leaders, we have the thriving beer industry that we do today. Not only does it produce the beverages you and I enjoy at our neighborhood pub or at a backyard barbeque, the beer industry is a large economic driver in America.

According to the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), the industry includes more than 2,000 brewers and importer establishments, more than 2,800 beer distributor facilities and more than 521,000 beer selling retail establishments across the country. Directly and indirectly, the beer industry employs approximately 1.9 million Americans, paying them almost $62 billion in wages and benefits. In the state of Tennessee, the beer industry directly employs more than 18,500 people, providing more than $450 million in wages.

Cherokee Distributing is proud to be part of the beer industry in East Tennessee, to distribute a portfolio of great products to wonderful local customers and to be part of this community.

Next time you pop open a beer, toast to the people who made it possible – from the waitress or bartender who served you to the guy who drives the beer truck to perhaps even a few great American presidents.