Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

"The Drink of Democracy."

This one's on me.

Finally, an historical essay that resonates with our times: Beer and America.

It's long, but worth it. Here's a couple of glasses from the hospitality room:

In the history of American beer, the modern period begins on the spring day in 1882 when the short-lived American Association of baseball teams opened for business. The establishment-leaning National League, aiming for a tonier clientele, had recently doubled ticket prices and banned gambling, Sunday playing, and—most important—beer. Franchise owners in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and other brewing centers refused to accept the new rules and seceded from the league. Several of them were brewers themselves, and they had learned to count on a sizable increase in collective thirst on home-game days. So, banding together, they formed the American Association. Dubbed the Beer and Whiskey League by the competition, it scorned the toffs and made its pitch directly to the average workingman, keeping the ticket price an affordable 25 cents, playing on the Sabbath, his only day off, and serving what had already become his signature drink.

Though there were strange days ahead for the mostly German-born beer barons, here, in this heady mix of beer, baseball, and fun, were most of the elements that would come to define beer’s role in the American living room and the American imagination: its connection to sports and other places men go to escape and to bond; its connection to leisure, especially of the American working class; and its implicitly rebellious, nose-thumbing attitude toward the tastes and rules of social “betters” and other authority figures.

There's also an interesting note on how beer was promoted as an alternative to hard liquor by some of the Founding Fathers:

The second reason for the promotion of beer was a desire to wean Americans away from their taste for the hard stuff —“temperance” in its original sense, before it was redefined by evangelical reformers several decades later as a synonym for abstinence. Both reasons were cited by the newly arrived Joseph Coppinger, who in 1810 petitioned President Madison to establish a national brewery in Washington, D.C.: “As a National object it has in my view the greatest importance as it would unquestionably tend to improve the quality of our Malt liquors in every point of the Union. And serve to counter act the baneful influence of ardent spirits on the health and Morals of our fellow Citizens.” Madison passed the letter on to Jefferson, who had recently begun experimenting with home brewing for the needs of Monticello (a job he assigned to Peter Hemings, the brother of Sally). Jefferson replied: “I have no doubt, either in a moral or economical view, of the desirableness to introduce a taste for malt liquors instead of that for ardent spirits… .


Preferably with a tall cold one.

No comments:

Post a Comment