Chicago beer consumption: Raise a glass toasting National Beer Day April 7th

By Caryl Clem:

Reflecting on American traditions, my mind travels back to stories of Johnny Appleseed and George Washington cutting down a cherry tree as told in the McGuffey Readers.  To my surprise, I just read that George Washington created his own beer recipe and owned the largest producing brewery. Since George was a military buff, he must have taken seriously Napoleon’s quote about beer, “On victory you deserve beer, and on defeat you need one.”Several founding fathers were beer fans, the beer industry outpaced whiskey consumption during colonial times.

During the 1800’s beer production was in full swing, a beer culture was thriving. Harvard had its own brewery run by undergraduates.  In 1873, statistics prove the growth in beer production; over 4,000 breweries are in operation.  Beer giants, Anheuser Busch, Pabst Brewing Company and (Fred) Miller Brewing Company were the favorites. German flavored lagers outsold British recipe ales.

After the Chicago fire, Fred Miller sent 25 beer filled trains daily to quench Chicago beer drinkers thirst.  He opened a Chicago Branch Brewery in 1875 which sold more than his home base Milwaukee location.  By 2000, Anheuser-Busch and Miller’s with Colorado based Coors ranking third. Coors is the only major brewery to be family owned and controlled sticking to their recipe demanding Colorado spring water.  Until 1981, it was not legal to sell Coors past the Mississippi. In 2008, the second place and third place production breweries merge to reduce costs creating MillerCoors beers.

The Prohibition Days introduced near beer substitutes and underground moonshine bootlegging leaving beer drinkers wanting more flavor. In 1933, passes Cullen-Harrison Act on April 7 reestablishing the 3.2 % alcohol by weight limit as legal. Beer is served mostly on tap. By 1877, American breweries were employing the “steaming process” that allows beer in a bottle to retain clarity. Bottled beer was more expensive and considered a luxury. In 1935, American Can Company starts canning beer and by 1969 it is outselling bottled beer. In 1975, Jimmy Carter legalizes brewing beer at home inspiring DYI drinkers to create their own versions.

Beer consumption in Chicago is thriving. One. seven breweries per 100,000 people  are competing for your empty glass. Chicago has the largest variety of beer tasting possibilities than anywhere in the U.S. The Chicago Tribune supplies a link to discover all the available locations. Not only can a click reveal where to go in Chicago, there is a Chicago beer festival event calendar.

For all of you beer enthusiasts, Chicago is full of opportunities. As my favorite beer quote states, “A fine beer can be judged by a sip but it’s better to be thoroughly sure”, Czech proverb.