Today marks the 75th anniversary of the official end of the failed social experiment known as Prohibition. On December 5, 1933, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment. With two-thirds of the states ratifying the amendment, 13 years of Prohibition came to an end. (It’s ironic that 75 years later the residents of Utah are still fighting to legalize home brewing.)
21st Amendment Brewery has posed the questions, “What does the repeal of Prohibition mean to you? How will you celebrate your right to drink beer?”
To me personally, the burgeoning US craft beer movement is the greatest result of the repeal of Prohibition. This blog and the Culture of Beer, both of which are near and dear to me, wouldn’t exist without the craft beer movement. Of course there was a flourishing craft beer industry prior to 1920 that was made illegal by the 18th Amendment. It took 50 years or so after repeal for the craft beer industry to really start to make a comeback and only in the past couple of years has craft beer started breaking into the mainstream.
If alcohol had not been legalized, we would still be drinking. Despite the intentions of the temperance movement, both then and now (yes, they are still around), criminalizing alcohol does not stop people from imbibing. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a prohibitionist, admitted this in 1932:
When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.
The “evils of alcohol” include health benefits, social change and empowerment, and economic benefits. Plus, modern society is the result of beer drinking so it can’t be that bad. I’m not condoning abusive use of alcohol but I don’t condone the abusive use of vitamins, prescription drugs, or any other of a myriad of beneficial substances that can be less than beneficial when abused.
Something else important to me that wouldn’t be possible without the 21st is home brewing. Home brewing wasn’t explicitly legalized until November 1978, and it is still illegal in some states, but that wouldn’t have been possible if alcohol in general weren’t legalized. There is an intimate knowledge of beer that can only come from making your own. I remember smelling hops and malted barley for the first time and having a eureka moment when I finally understood where the deliciously complex flavors of beer come from.
So, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, I can’t think of a better way to excercise my right to drink than at my local pub, which supports the local economy as well. I’ll also be brewing a batch with a friend this weekend. We’ll have to come up with a special anti-Prohibition recipe.
What are you doing to celebrate?