Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Day in Booze:  Homebrew Legalized

What is the greatest day in booze history? And you can't say the invention of alcohol. That's a cop-out for unimaginative plebeians who bicker about how Poke-mon is so much better than Yu-Gi-Oh, and argue for three hours on how the two are nothing alike. You're better than that. Many would say the obvious answer; the day that Prohibition was repealed. But for all its obvious downfalls, Prohibition actually did a lot to fuel growth and innovation in the booze industry and promote new social ideals. There were these hip little places called speakeasies. Let’s just say you aren't going to find any tacos at a sausage fest.

Another possible answer would be the invention of the cocktail. Yes, those candy sweet concoctions, which since their inception have been primarily used for the purpose of removing clothing from women. They are quite tasty and are very good at doing what we all hope. But they are rooted deeply in having the original purpose of masking all that was bad about alcohol of old, like rat feces. Also we here at JABB would like to start a petition to get the word -tini stricken from the English language. Nuff Said. There are probably even a small few readers out, who are on this site looking for fodder to fuel your immeasurable contempt and hatred of all things fun, who might say the day Prohibition was enacted. I hear they also kill puppies.

For me, my answer would have to be the day they legalized homebrew beer, which I shall defend as best I can in my current inebriated state. But first the details.

When prohibition ended, everybody and their grandmother wanted to make beer. It was a guaranteed money maker after nearly 13 years of sobriety. The problem was everybody wanted to cash in, and quick. Combine this fact with the limited availability of resources due to the war, and you wind up with the wonderfully bland and unexciting light golden lager we all grew up with. Over time, as some businesses succeeded and others flopped, the world of American beer was soon dominated by the big breweries. As long as these corporate giants were making money, they didn't care about the quality of their product, so long as it sold. Any new upstarts that tried to get a hand in on things were either forced out or bought up. Thanks to this consolidation, there were only 42 breweries operating in the United States in 1978, and most sucked donkey balls.

On October 14, 1978 that all changed when President Jimmy Carter signed a bill that removed the restrictions on Homebrewers and allowed your average citizen to brew (tax free) beer in small quantities for their own consumption.

Able to brew beer at home, craft brewers were allowed to develop their beer without the influence and meddling of the big conglomerates. The legalization of homebrew finally allowed creativity and originality to be explored freely. And if you don't think that that is important, in 2006 congress passed a resolution commemorating American Craft Brewers for supporting American Agriculture, providing jobs, and improving the balance of trade. The resolution also supported the establishment of an "American Craft Beer Week". By 2008, forty years after the legalization of homebrew, there were 1493 breweries reported to be operating in the United States, 1420 of which were considered craft brewers (smaller, independent, traditional brewers) by the Brewers Association. Take that, Budweiser.

Cranberry Nut Crunch Fuck'n Ale!

OK, it's true that with the microbrew and craft beer movement there have been some bad ideas. There have been some flops and some jokes and I think the term "yuppie" got thrown around quite a bit. But that is all part of the experimentation process that makes average citizens like us get together on a Saturday afternoon with a box of ingredients, a tub of no-rinse, and a handle of Vladimir. We are free to create something original, even if it's just a new strain of blue fuzzy goodness that later is found to be the cure for male pattern baldness.

And look at the industry now. All the big name brewers are struggling to keep up with the Great Lakes and Magic Hats of the beer world, especially the King of Beers. In recent years we've seen Anheuser-Busch try to market such beers as their Budweiser American Ale and Bud Light Golden Wheat. And then there is the Michelob seasonal line including their Bavarian Wheat, Märzen, Porter, and Pale Ale. The little guys have taken the lead, and the big guys can only follow. Any time the large breweries try something new on their own we wind up with such wonderful concoctions as Michelob ULTRA Tuscan Orange Grapefruit and Pomegranate Raspberry....really?!?

But in the end, we the consumers are the winners. The gates have been opened and great beer is pouring out like the Johnstown Flood.

Just about anywhere I go, I have to opportunity to taste something I've never tasted before, to enjoy something new, and to throw up a new color of the rainbow I never knew existed. Woohoo!

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