celebrate our independence, our history, our “American-ness” in
This July we can celebrate being Americans while watching the
Olympics and the Stanley Cup finals.
July is the month we celebrate the birthday of the United
States. Even before we were our own country, beer was essential
to American life.
Native Americans brewed beer long before we declared our
independence. The first record of non-native brewing dates from
1587 in Virginia, while the first shipment of beer arrived from
England in the Virginia colony in 1607.
In 1614 the first non-native American baby was born in a
brewhouse in New Amsterdam. Jean Vigne grew up to become the
first brewer born in the New World.
The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in the Massachusetts Colony
in 1620. The Mayflower was close to running out of its supply of
beer, and the crew sent the passengers ashore to ensure they had
enough beer for their return trip.
Brewing, and breweries, spread throughout the colonies. In
1765 a brewery was built in a French colonial settlement in what
is now Illinois, the first brewery outside the thirteen original
In 1772, back in England, a mixture of dark to light malts
called Porter was first brewed, though it failed to gain
popularity in America.
The American Revolution was fueled by beer. Congress
authorized a ration of one quart of spruce beer or cider for
each serviceman each day.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had breweries on their
estates. John Hancock was known to enjoy a well-crafted brew,
going back to his student days at Harvard. Patrick Henry owned a
tavern where he tended bar. Of course, we already know about Sam
After the Revolution, George Washington would only drink
Porter brewed in America.
During the 1800s two major factors shaped the role of beer in
American history. The first was unrest in Germany which
encouraged significant German emigration to the United States.
This wave of immigration included a large number of experienced
German brewers and German brewing methods. These immigrants
brought with them a style of beer which would become synonymous
with American brewing, the Pilsner.
The second factor was the development, state by state, of a
temperance movement which pushed for prohibition of all
alcoholic beverages, including beer.
By 1880, the number of breweries in the United States was
declining, though industrial methods of production and
distribution meant fewer breweries could produce more beer.
As the United States developed from an agricultural society
to became more industrial, families moved from farms into cities
and towns. Their habits, such as beer for breakfast, raised
concerns about workplace safety. One safety proposal was
prohibiting the consumption of beer and other alcoholic
In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution calling for
Prohibition was ratified. In 1933, the 21st Amendment, repealing
the 18th, was ratified.
It was not until 1978 the United States legalized the home
production of a small amount of beer or wine for personal
consumption. The home brewing community sparked the explosion of
small craft breweries.
Craft beer has even been brewed in the White House.
In 2016, the number of breweries in the United States
surpassed 5,000 for the first time.
Beer has played a pivotal role in the development and history
of the United States.
In addition to celebrating beer’s role in American life, July
is also conducive to tasting beer because it is a long, warm
Now, I tend to prefer darker, heavier beers like Porters and
Stouts. I also enjoy many of the winter seasonal beers many
breweries produce. It is difficult to argue, though, the heat of
July does not make drinking beer a pleasant way to spend time.
Warm weather enhances the experience of drinking cold beer.
It brings out the flavor of lighter beers and increases my
enjoyment of hoppy IPAs. Visiting the nearest brewery or tasting
room is a great way to experience the joys of July for yourself.
There are, of course, many other ways to taste summertime
craft brews. Reopening beer bars and restaurants, picnics, and
grilling at home are all great ways to try new beers. I
understand some people even drink beer at baseball games.
July is an excellent opportunity to try lighter beers, but
remember the flavor, and the alcohol content, of the beer do not
always coincide with its color. Beer which looks lighter is not
necessarily lighter tasting, or lower in alcohol by volume.
Celebrate like an American and try something new this July.
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor in Pasadena,
California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and
monks and monastic life. Greg has served as an assistant
district attorney and an associate university professor.
Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com
and he writes a blog for the Contemplative