Beer Me, Barack. Mitt, You Can Hold The Glass.Posted: September 13, 2012
Unless you’re living under a rock these days (if you are, go you for sustainability and rent control), you probably know that this is an election year. Even I, who admittedly is one of the most politically inactive people in her country, knows this and I eschew most news like the plague. It is on. presidential go time.
As the candidates slather on that chapstick to kiss every baby from Maine to the Yukon Territory, I noticed an interesting thing the other day. President Obama likes beer. (Shocking!) As in “I like it so much I’m going to make it”, not as in enjoying it like you would a sunny afternoon with a book. The Atlantic reported that he’s been brewing his own at the White House featuring honey from the FLOTUS’s beehives out back. Awww… patriotic and sweet.
Of course, being from deep inherently conservative Mormon country myself, my eyebrow raised just a shade when I read this. Presidents aren’t supposed to be, like, normal people, right? They’re supposed to be ultra people with perfect haircuts- never doing things like forgetting to pay a parking ticket and always sober as judges. Right? I mean, if there’s nothing else universally accepted about the United States it’s that we’re all a bunch of Puritanical sticks in the mud that are led by the stickiest stick in the mud killjoy. Am I right?
Actually, no. Although President Obama is pretty crafty with his hobby beer of choice, America has a rich history with drinking homebrews.
Domestic beercraft started hundreds of years ago before the country was even a glimmer in the forefather’s eyes. The first batches of not-yet American homebrew can be dated back to Virginia in 1587 where the colonists started brewing their own ale using corn. The first domestic brewery was established 25 years later in Manhattan and ever since the beer trade has only gained in popularity. Even George Washington had his own beer recipe written in a 1754 notebook of his.
George Washington loved his domestic porter, as did many other presidents to come. Thomas Jefferson was a noted
lush tippler throughout his life, finding great pleasure in home brewing beer after his time in the White House. (As you may remember, TJ was also a wildly unsuccessful budding vintner.)
For all these early interests in beer, James Madison really picked up the ball and ran with his love of the hops when he tried to appoint a Secretary of Beer to congress and establish a national brewery. An admirable thought, but ultimately it went over like a fart in church with congress. Although this maneuver made Madison look like the freewheeling party president he didn’t want to establish breweries in the United States for happy fun times all the day long, it was really so that tariffs could have been added to imported beers. Smart and sassy.
Anyways, you get the idea. Most POTUS’s have liked a beer or two since the wayback. However, noting the other side of the presidential debate, we’ve also had a rich history of trying to ban drinking outright in the country. (As you may know, Mitt Romney is stone cold sober all the time as his religious beliefs prohibit
anything fun drinking.)
Most people are familiar with American prohibition during the 1920′s. As an entire nation we were forced to endure near beers and blinding liquor for thirteen years. Thirteen years of sober bad decisions were made! Most people think it was a flash in the pan movement, but really the first temperance society was founded in Philadelphia back in 1808. The American Temperance Society was founded in 1826 and three years later had about 100,000 members. It seems that as the popularity in domestic drinking increased, so did our duality with drinking guilt slash elimination.
Throughout the 19th century many states prohibited liquor sales and public consumption entirely. Early prohibition adopters included Maine (1846), Vermont (1852), Rhode Island (1852), Massachusetts (1852-68), Minnesota Territory (1852), Michigan (1853), Connecticut (1854) New York (1855), Nebraska Territory (1855), Delaware (1855), Indiana (1855), Iowa (1855) and New Hampshire (1855). Although not all of the states stuck with their prohibitive liquor measures, we can see that some of our countrymen wanted to make sure that we were going to have bitter tears in our illegal beers.
The temperance movement revolved mostly because of a large faction of people concerned with the morals and physical health of Americans. As the 19th century progressed, so did the strength of the prohibition movement politically. The 18th amendment was passed in December 1917, ensuring total abstinence for the country and was enforced with congress passing the Volstead Act (AKA the National Prohibition Act) in January 1919. To note, Woodrow Wilson was vetoed on this.
In the end prohibition was proven to be more trouble than it was worth to enforce and caused organized crime to flourish. (Also, the Kennedy’s built their wealth thanks to prohibition!) After giving it a good solid try, President Roosevelt ended up repealing prohibition with the addition of the 21st amendment in December 1933. All in all, alcohol consumption was curbed to at least half of the levels that it had been prior to prohibition and actually remained fairly low until the 1940′s nationwide.
So! As election season rages forward and stances are made, you can relax with confidence, knowing that historically our nation’s leaders weren’t nearly as no-fun as they have usually been percieved to be.