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History of American Beer

The following is a growing list of key milestones throughout the history of American beer.

Year Beer Milestone
1587Virginia colonists brew ale using corn.
1607First shipment of beer arrives in the Virginia colony from England.
1609American "Help Wanted" advertisements appear in London seeking brewers for the Virginia Colony.
1612Adrian Block & Hans Christiansen establish the first known brewery in the New World on the southern tip of New Amsterdam (Manhattan).
1614The first non-native American is born in New Amsterdam, (perhaps the first non-native American male born in the New World) in Block & Christiansen's brewhouse. Jean Vigne grows up to become the first brewer born in the New World.
1620Pilgrims arrive in Plymouth in the Colony of Massachusetts aboard the Mayflower. Beer is extremely short on board ship and the seamen force the passengers ashore to ensure that they will have sufficient beer for their return trip to England.
1632The West India Company builds a brewery on Brewers Street in New Amsterdam led by Governor Van Twiller.
1633Peter Ninuit establishes a brewery at Market Field on Manhattan Island.
1634Samuel Cole is the first to be licensed in Boston to operate a tavern.
1637First authoritatively recorded brewery in the Massachusetts Bay Colony under the control of Captain Sedgwick.
1639Sergeant Bauleton is placed in charge of a brewhouse in Providence, Rhode Island.
1670Samuel Wentworth of Portsmouth obtains the first license to brew beer in New Hampshire.
1683William Penn's colony erects a brewery at Peonshury near Bristol, Pennsylvania.

William Frampton erects the first brewery in Philadelphia on Front Street between Walnut and Spruce at the Dock Street Creek.
1734Mary Lisle, the first known "brewster" in America, takes over her late fathers Edinburgh Brewhouse in Philadelphia, which she operates until 1751.
1738Major William Horton builds the first brewery in the deep south at Jekyll Island, Georgia.
1754George Washington enters a beer recipe in his notebook.
1762The Theory and Practice of Brewing by Michael Combrune is published. This is the first attempt to establish rules and principles for the art of brewing.
1765The British Army builds a brewery at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh, PA). The first brewery west of the Allegheny mountains.

A brewery is built in the French colonial settlement of Kaskaskia in what is now Illinois. It is the first brewery outside the 13 colonies.
1772A mixture of dark to light malts called "Porter" is concocted in England. Exports begin to America but it fails to gain popularity.
1774Robert Smith begins a modest ale brewing venture at Saint John & Noble Streets in Philadelphia. Through relocations and buy outs, the Robert Smith brand will survive until 1986 - 212 years.

The Single Brothers Brewery and Distillery opens in the Noravian religious settlement of Salem, North Carolina.
1775Revolutionary War measures by Congress include rationing to each soldier one quart of Spruce Beer or Cider per man per day.
1789George Washington presents his "buy American" policy indicating he will only drink porter made in America.

Massachusetts passes an Act encouraging the manufacture and consumption of beer and ale.
1792New Hampshire agrees not to tax brewing property.
1793Philadelphia produces more beer than all the other seaports in the country.
1808Nembers of the Congregational Church in Moreau, Saratoga County, New York form a temperance society.
1810132 operating breweries produce 185,000 barrels of beer. Population of the country is 7 million.

Jacques Delassas de St. Vrain begins brewing in St. Louis, Missouri (brewery destroyed by fire in 1812).
1815The American Brewer and Maltster by Joseph Cappinger is published.
1819A steam engine built by Thomas Holloway is installed in the brewery of Frances Perot in Philadelphia. This is the first engine to be used in beer production in America.

Nathan Lyman starts the first brewery in Rochester, New York.
1820Brewers report business off due to increased consumption of whiskey.
1826American Society for the Promotion of Temperance formed in Boston (also known as the American Temperance Society).
1829American Temperance Society has 100,000 members.

David G. Yuengling opens a brewery in the Pennsylvania coal town of Pottsville. It continues in 1995 as the oldest operating brewery in the United States, still owned by the Yuengling family.
1830Jacob Roos builds the first brewery in Buffalo, New York.
1832Secretary of War Lewis Cass cancels the ration of liquor to the military.
1833William Lill & Co. (Heas & Sulzer) start the first commercial brewery in Chicago and produce 600 barrels of ale in their first year.

Membership in the country's five thousand temperance societies exceeds one and one quarter million.
1836United States Temperance Union meets in Saratoga, New York and changes name to American Temperance Union. Principle of total abstinence or "Teetotalism" is introduced.
1837Rice and Kroener establish the first brewery in Evansville, Indiana.
1840Philadelphia brewer John Wagner introduces lager beer.
1844The Fortmann and Company Brewery introduces lager beer to Cincinnati.

Jacob Best starts a brewery in Milwaukee which later becomes the Pabst Brewing Co.
1846Maine passes prohibition law.
1847John Huck and John Schneider start the first lager beer brewery in Chicago.
1848John Roesele starts a lager beer brewery in Boston.

Unrest in Germany causes many Germans to emigrate to America.
1849August Krug forms a brewery in Milwaukee which evolved into the Schlitz Brewery.

Adam Schuppert Brewery at Stockton and Jackson Streets in San Francisco becomes California's first brewery.
1850Mathias Frahm establishes Davenport, Iowa's first brewery.

431 breweries in the country produce 750,000 barrels of beer (31 gallons per barrel). The population is 23 million.
1852George Schneider starts a brewery in St. Louis, Missouri. This brewery is the seed of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.

San Francisco has 350 bar rooms to serve the hard-drinking population of 36,000.

Henry Saxer starts a brewing business (City Brewery) in Portland, Oregon Territory. This brewery was later owned by Henry Weinhard.

Prohibition comes to Vermont.

Prohibition adopted in Massachusetts (repealed in 1868).

Rhode Island enacts prohibition (repealed in 1863).

Territory of Minnesota enacts a short-lived prohibition.
1853Prohibition voted in for Michigan.
1854Prohibition begins in Connecticut.
1855German brewer William Menger starts a lager beer brewery in San Antonio, Texas. This is the first brewery in that city.

Prohibition adopted in New York, New Hampshire, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, and the Nebraska Territory.
1856The Benedictine Society of Saint Vincent's Abbey opens a commercial brewery in their Monastery near Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
1857The largest brewery in the West is the Chicago brewery of William Lill and Michael Diversey.
1859Solomon, Taecher & Co. start Colorado's first brewery, the Rocky Mountain Brewery.
18601269 breweries produce over one million barrels of beer for a population of 31 million. New York and Pennsylvania account for 85% of the production.
1861Internal Revenue System introduced.
1862Ernest Weisgerber builds Idaho's first brewery (in Lewistown).

Internal Revenue Act taxes beer at the rate of one dollar per barrel to help finance the government during the Civil War.

37 New York breweries form an association that would officially become the United States Brewers Association in 1864.
1863161,607 barrels of beer are produced in the New England states.

Thomas Smith, Christian Ritcher, and Henry Gilbert found the first brewery in Montana Territory (Virginia City).
1865Mathew Vassar, a prominent Poughkeepsie, New York brewer, founds Vassar College, the first privately endowed school for women.

National Temperance Society and Publication House formed in Saratoga, New York.
1866Internal Revenue issues stamp regulations requiring application of tax stamps to barrels of beer leaving the brewery.

Levin & Co.'s pioneer Brewery in Tucson is the first to operate in the Arizona Territory.
1867Prohibition efforts in Iowa and New York fail.

3700 breweries in operation in America producing 6 million barrels of beer.
1868John Siebel opens a brewing school which later becomes the Siebel Institute of Technology.

Publication of the monthly magazine The American Brewer begins in January.
1869Prohibition Party organized in Chicago.

Another prohibition law enacted in Massachusetts (repealed 1875).

Best Brewing Co. (later Pabst) begins expansion in Milwaukee with the purchase of Charles T. Melms' Brewery.
1871A number of Chicago breweries destroyed by fire started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow: Doyle & Co., Huck, Jerusalem, Lill & Diversey, Metz, Mueller, Sands, and K. G. Schmidt.
1872Anheuser adopts A and Eagle trademark.

First brewery workers' strike in New York City.

Prohibitionist presidential candidate James Black draws 5608 votes.
18734131 breweries (record number) produce 9 million barrels of beer.

Adolphus Busch begins bottling of beer for large scale shipments at the Anheuser Brewery in St. Louis (bottling was not new - only the magnitude of this venture).
1874Woman's Christian Temperance Union formed.
1875First lager beer in California brewed by Boca Brewing Co. in Boca.
1876Louis Pasteur publishes "Studies on Beer" showing how yeast organisms can be controlled.
1877George Ehret of New York is the largest brewer in the country.
1879Ballantine adopts three ring trademark.
1880Frederick Salem authors "Beer, Its History and Its Economic Value as a National Beverage." The book is his argument for beer as a temperance measure. It offers the motto "Beer against Whisky."

Internal Revenue Department records indicate 2830 ale and lager breweries in operation.

U. S. Brewers Academy established.
1880-1910Number of breweries declines. Improved methods of production and distribution mean fewer breweries can manufacture more beer. By 1910 number of breweries drops to around 1500.
1882National Brewers' and Distillers' Association formed.
1884Adolphus Busch of St. Louis and Otto Koehler establish the Lone Star Brewing Co. in San Antonio, Texas.
1885An injunction closes the John Walruff Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas which had flaunted prohibition laws for five years. He appeals on the basis that prohibition laws constitute illegal confiscation of property.
1886John Walruff wins appeal in lower courts. Case taken to Supreme Court.

National Union of the Brewers of the United States established.

Abraham Cohen establishes the first brewery in Alaska at Juneau.
1887United States Supreme Court rules in John Walruff case that Kansas was not depriving Walruff of his property, but merely abating a nuisance and prohibiting the injurious use of that property.

Master Brewers' Association organized.

Tuscarora Advertising Company formed in Coshocton, Ohio producing a wide variety of advertising items.
1888Standard Advertising Company founded by H. D. Beach in Coschocton, Ohio in competition with Tuscarora Advertising.

Brewery employees strike in New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

A British syndicate under the name New York Breweries Co. is formed through the purchase of H. Claussen & Son Brewing Co. and Flanagan, Nay & Co.
1889One of the first big brewery mergers takes place. Franz Falk Brewing Co. and Jung and Borchert in Milwaukee merge to form Falk, Jung & Borchert Brewing Co. This brewery was taken over four years later by Pabst.

A British syndicate proposes a plan to merge Schlitz, Pabst, and Blatz in Milwaukee. Schlitz and Pabst decline the offer. Blatz sells part of its business to Milwaukee and Chicago Breweries Ltd.

Eighteen St. Louis breweries merge into the English syndicate St. Louis Brewing Association.
1890Six New Orleans brewers combine to form the New Orleans Brewing Co.
1892British syndicates start price wars. Prices in Chicago decrease from $6.00 per barrel to $3.50 and $4.00 per barrel.

Crown cap invented by William Painter of Crown Cork and Seal Co. in Baltimore.

Wood pulp coaster invented by Robert Smith of Dresden, Germany.
1893Anti-Saloon League founded by Rev. Howard Hyde Russell with the goal of suppressing the saloon.
1898Beer barrel tax raised to $2.00 during Spanish American War. Beer sales decline.

The Royal Brewery is the first to operate in Hawaii.
1899The Pittsburgh Brewing Company formed by the consolidation of twenty one Pittsburgh brewers.
1900Woman's Christian Temperance Union member Carrie Nation does a hatchet job on the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas.
1901Ten Boston brewers merge into Massachusetts Breweries Company, Ltd.

Sixteen Baltimore brewers consolidate into the Gottlieb-Bauernschmidt-Straus Brewing Company.

Barrel tax on beer reduced to $1.60.
1902Barrel tax on beer reduced to $1.00.
1905Independent Brewing Company formed by fifteen Pittsburgh breweries.
1909United States Brewers Association yearbook discusses the problems of poor conditions in saloons and the need for a cleanup.
1912Nine states vote dry.
1913Webb-Kenyon bill passed prohibiting the interstate shipment of alcoholic beverages to dry states.
1914Resolution to prohibit liquor through a constitutional amendment loses in the House due to lack of required two-thirds majority vote (197 for, 190 against).

Fourteen states dry.

Secretary of Navy Josephus Daniels orders prohibition of alcohol on Naval ships and Naval installations.
1916Twenty-three states dry.

Six San Francisco breweries consolidate.
1917District of Columbia passes a prohibition law.

Distilleries closed by Food Control Law.
191918th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified on January 16 calling for national prohibition to take effect one year from the date of ratification.

House of Representatives Bill No. 6810 presented in May by Rep. Volstead establishing the apparatus for the enforcement of prohibition. The bill was passed October 10, vetoed by President Wilson on October 27. The veto was subsequently overridden by Congressional vote.
1920sNear beers brewed during prohibition: Pablo by Pabst, Famo by Schlitz, Vivo by Miller, Lux-O by Stroh and Bevo by Anheuser.-Busch.
1920Association Against the Prohibition Amendment organized by William H. Stayton.
1921300 million gallons of "near beer" produced.
1922Prohibitionist Volstead defeated in Minnesota elections.

Anthony & Kuhn Brewery of St. Louis sold to a laundry.
1923The Moderation League is formed.
1926Montana votes to repeal the state prohibition enforcement law. Other states follow suit.
1929The Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform started.
1930The Crusaders formed protesting the lawlessness, crime, and corruption brought on by Prohibition.

American Brewers Association formed.
1931American Legion votes for a referendum of national prohibition.
193286 million gallons of near beer produced.
1933The Cullen Bill is passed in March allowing states which did not have state prohibition laws to sell 3.2% beer. It also instituted a $5.00 per barrel tax on beer. On April 7, 1933 the legalization of beer takes effect via the 21st Amendment repealing the 18th.

31 brewers back in operation by June.
1934756 brewers back in operation.
1935Canned beer introduced by American Can Company and Krueger Brewing Co. of Newark, New Jersey on June 24.

Schlitz introduces cone top can produced by Continental Can Company.

Falstaff Brewing Co. of St. Louis leases the Krug Brewing Company of Omaha, Nebraska. This touches off a wave of acquisitions by large brewers.
1936United Brewers Industrial Foundation formed.

Brewing Industry, Inc. formed.
1940Beer production at level of preprohibition years with half the number of breweries in operation as in 1910.

Barrel tax raised from $5.00 to $6.00.
1941All brewers' associations united under the United States Brewers' Association.
1943Brewers are required to allocate 15% of their production for military use.
1944Barrel tax raised to $8.00.
1949-1958185 breweries close down or sell out.
1950407 breweries in operation.
1951Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis builds a new brewery in Newark, New Jersey starting a trend for expansion of breweries.

Barrel tax raised to $9.00.
1953Anheuser-Busch buys the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
1954First l6oz can introduced by Schlitz.
1959Aluminum can introduced by Coors of Golden, Colorado.
1960Aluminum can top introduced.
1961230 breweries in operation. Only 140 are independently run.
1962Tab top can introduced by Pittsburgh Brewing Company.
1964Haffenreffer brews the last beer in Boston. After 300 years of brewing history, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts found itself without an operating brewery.
1965"Ring Pull" can introduced.
1969Canned beer outsells bottled beer for the first time.

Fritz Maytag takes ownership of the Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco, CA. It is not obvious at the time, but a revolution has begun. He brews high quality beer for non-main stream tastes.
1970A small group of collectors of brewery advertising items form the first club in the nation devoted to that hobby - The Eastern Coast Breweriana Association (ECBA).
1971Philip Morris Co. acquires Miller Brewing Co.
1972State of Oregon becomes the first state to adopt a container deposit law.
1977The first ale is served in a new brewery in Sonoma, CA. Jack McAuliffe's venture is short lived, but the New Albion Brewery will become known as America's first "Micro Brewery", or "Craft Brewery".

President Jimmy Carter's brother debuts his "Billy Beer."
1978Homebrewing made federally legal in the United States.
1981First ever Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is held in Colorado -- now America's oldest and largest beer tasting and competition.
1982For the first time since prohibition, a brewery is allowed to open that not only sells its' beer at its' own bar on premises, but serves food to boot. In Bert Grant's Yakima Brewing and Malting Co., Inc., the Brew Pub is born.
1983In January, 51 brewing concerns are operating a total of 80 breweries. This is the low water mark for breweries in the 20th century.

The top six breweries (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Heileman, Stroh, Coors, and Pabst) control 92% of U. S. beer production.
198444 Brewing concerns are operating a total of 83 breweries.

Micro Breweries begin to spread: Riley-Lyon (AR): Boulder (CO); Snake River (ID); Millstream (IA); Columbia River (OR); Kessler (MT); Chesapeake Bay (VA).

Manhatten Brewing Co., in New York City's SOHO section, becomes the first Brew Pub on the east coast.

Jim Koch establishes the Boston Beer Company.
1990307 years after William Frampton opened his brewery on Philadelphia's Dock Street Creek, he is memorialized through the opening of the Dock Street Brewing Co.

Producing 31,000 bbls. of beer, the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, CA becomes the first start up micro brewery to break out of that classification (considered 25,000 bbl or less).
1994It becomes legal to put the alcohol content of beer on containers.

California begins the year with 84 Micro Breweries or Brewpubs in operation - one more than there were breweries in the nation 10 years earlier.

Attendees at the Woman's Christian Temperance Union convention are admonished to recapture the spirit of Carrie Nation.

Year end production figures rank the top 5 brewers as: Anheuser.Busch (87.5 million bbls.); Miller (42.6 million bbls.); Adolph Coors (20.3 million bbls.); Stroh's (11.8 million bbls.); G. Heileman (8.4 million bbls.)
1995Approximately 500 breweries are operating in the United States, and they are estimated to increase at a rate of 3 or 4 per week.

Todd Alstrom writes his first beer review on a napkin in Northampton, MA; Berkshire's Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale.
19961,102 craft breweries produce 5.3 million barrels; a record 333 new brewpubs and microbreweries open in one year.

BeerAdvocate.com launches.
19971,315 craft breweries produce 5.5 million barrels of beer.
19981,376 craft breweries produce 5.5 million barrels of beer. A crowded industry feels the strain of such a large number of producers and begins to correct itself, resulting in the closing of many brewpubs and microbreweries across the nation.
19991,147 craft breweries produce 5.8 million barrels as the craftbrewing industry begins a period of more stable, consistent growth.
20001,147 craft breweries produce 6.1 million barrels of beer.
20011,458 breweries produce 6.2 million barrels of beer. Annual dollar volume for craft beer is $3.4 billion. US brewing industry total is $51 billion.
Timeline partially compiled using American Breweries II, written by Dale P. Van Wieren and facts from the Institue of Brewing Studies.