Hopped up Part 1 took us on a journey that explored how alcohol reached America and about its initial foray into what is now New York. Part 2 delved deeper into the New York beer scene and chartered its meteoric rise. Part 3 chronicled the misguided failure that was prohibition along with New York’s staunch rebellion against it. Today’s 4th and final installment of Hopped Up: NY Beer Then and Now will take us from post prohibition to the modern day craft beer scene.
As we saw in the previous installment, prohibition achieved very little other than giving rise to organized crime. The lesson was clear, if people want to drink they will find ways to drink and that includes policeman and politicians alike. With the country mired in the Great Depression by 1932, creating jobs and revenue by legalizing the liquor industry had an undeniable appeal. Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for president that year on a platform calling for Prohibition’s appeal, and easily won victory over the incumbent President Herbert Hoover. Essentially his pro-booze stance was one of many that the American public found favorable. FDR’s victory meant the end for Prohibition, and in February 1933 Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th. Though a few states continued to prohibit alcohol after Prohibition’s end, all had abandoned the ban by 1966 (history.com).
After Prohibition was repealed, it was left up to the states to decide how to govern alcohol consumption. Most states made 21 the legal drinking age, although a handful required drinkers to be only 18. No national drinking age existed until 1984, when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed. One major catalyst behind the creation of this law was the increase in deaths related to drunk driving. Throughout the 1980s and '90s there was a significant movement to decrease drunk driving. This was spear headed by Candy Lightner who founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) after a drunk driver fatally hit her daughter in 1980. Since then, alcohol-related driving fatalities have decreased substantially. In 1982, 60 percent of automobile-related fatalities involved alcohol. By 2005, that number had dropped to 39 percent (history.howstuffworks.com). The message and the lesson here were unshakeable, don’t drink and drive. Period.
Here’s a BTBT PSA: It’s not worth it, call a cab, bug a sober friend or take a train or bus or tram, trolley or tractor if you have to. Whatever’s around you that’s mobile is a better option than getting behind the wheel after you’ve had one too many.
For those of us who are quasi responsible drinkers who may forgo the occasional harmless indiscretion in the name of the sanctity of this libation, the craft beer boom was a welcomed renaissance. Regardless of the skill that it takes to reproduce a dull and uninspiring beer the world over, and make no mistake that is a skill, the populace clamored for more. More flavor, more variation, more hops! Perhaps it was the Universe or the Gods (insert one of your choosing) or perhaps it was the quest to go beyond what was considered mainstream that allowed us to be graced by the craft beer boom; regardless of how or why, we are thoroughly pleased by the subsequent results.
There are now roughly 4,300 breweries in America, according to the Brewers Association, and in 2015 21% of all money spent on beer in the U.S. went to the craft segment. Craft beer's market share has soared from 5.7% in 2011 to 12.2% in 2015 (time.com/money). Some say craft beer has hit its apex and cite examples of breweries doing well but not being able to sustain the momentum, but I reject such a hypothesis. There will always be a market for good beer, and so long as good beer is made, it will be consumed. We may be phasing out of the ‘build it and they will come model’ and trends will likely require breweries to invest more time, effort and dollars in brand awareness and marketing but the mantra of quality over quantity will always remain.
The Current State of NY Beer
The number of New York State breweries grew from 95 in 2012 to 320 in 2016. New York State craft beer is currently 4th in the country with an Economic Impact of $4 Billion dollars. In 2016, New York State was the 5th largest beer producing state behind California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Oregon New York State craft breweries increased production by 26% from 557,436 in 2011 to 1,089,536 barrels in 2016 (newyorkcraftbeer.com).
With local love in our heart, we fondly look back at an excerpt from our Rockaway Brewery Feature Blog that nicely sums up the Queens craft beer boom: The Queens, NY craft beer renaissance began in 2012 with the opening of the Rockaway Brewing Company in Long Island City. And oh what a glorious moment it was. It was akin to the big bang of the modern day Queens beer scene and paved the way for nearly a dozen (and counting) other Queens breweries. Deeply rooted in the fine arts of home brewing, this craft beer explosion evolved faster than expected to the delight of many and Rockaway is one of the breweries at the forefront.
And thankfully it didn’t stop there! Transmitter, Big Alice, LIC Beer Project, Bridge and Tunnel, Singlecut, Finback Brewery, Descendant and Iconyc all opened up locations and Rockaway even opened a second location in Rockaway. The good news there are more on the way like Fifth Hammer which is soon to be in LIC! And that news is reason enough to bring a smile to any craft beer drinker’s face.
If you’re interested in delving deeper into the history of beer I recommend following acclaimed books:
The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to beer
The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World's Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today's Craft Brewing Revolution
The United States of Beer: A Freewheeling History of the All-American Drink
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BTBT will be attending the Wartega Brewery Grand Opening in Brooklyn, NY on Friday May 31st 2017
BTBT will be attending The Spring Craft Beer Festival at Belmont on Saturday April 1st 2017
BTBT will be at KCBC in Brooklyn, NY on Saturday April 22nd 2017
Stay tuned for more official dates and BIG NEWS coming about Queens Beer Week 2017 #queensbeer #qbw17
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Don’t forget to check out the BTBT YouTube Channel. A BRAND NEW content showcase series is in the works! More on that soon!
- BTBT Episode 45 - Strong Rope
- BTBT Episode 44 - BierWax
- BTBT Episode 43 - Controlled Chaos Art Show
- BTBT Episode 42 - The Pittsburgh Take Over pt2
- BTBT Episode 41 - The Pittsburgh Take Over Part 1
- BTBT Episode 40 - Absurd Conclave Charity Event pt2
- BTBT Episode 39 - Absurd Conclave Charity Event Pt 1
- BTBT Episode 38 - Island to Island Brewery
- BTBT Episode 37 - 2017 Brew For A Cure
- BTBT Episode 36 - Zocktoberfest ‘17
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