Friday, December 5, 2008

The Session #22 – The End of Prohibition

Today's a big anniversary – and no, I'm not talking about Columbus' arrival on Hispaniola, Walt Disney's birth or Mozart's death.

It's even more important than all that. On Dec. 5, 1933 – 75 years ago – the 21st Amendment was ratified, thereby repealing Prohibition and making it legal to produce, transport and sell alcohol for the first time since the 18th Amendment took those rights away some dozen-plus years prior.

Most appropriately, this month's Session is being hosted by none other than the 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. The guys at 21st Amendment asked us: "What does the repeal of Prohibition mean to you? How will you celebrate your right to drink beer?" They'll be compiling the results soon on their blog.

The first one is an easy question for me, and anyone else who cares enough about beer (or any of the "intoxicating liquors" that so offended Andrew Volstead and his many collaborators) to share our love of it with anyone with an Internet connection.

What does Repeal mean to me? It means all the growth and innovation we've seen in the beer industry over the past 20, 30 years wouldn't have been possible otherwise. It means I'm thrilled that we have more than 1,400 craft breweries in the U.S. (but I'd like to see even more) that continue to explore new flavors, refine time-honored styles and make today and every day the best time to be a beer drinker in America.

It means we don't have to cross oceans and borders (not that we shouldn't) to explore the amazing and unique beers being made in places like Belgium, England and Germany.

And of course, it means that the most fun and rewarding hobby I've ever had – making beer at home – won't earn me a visit from some latter-day Elliot Ness. And on that note, the irony is not lost on me that in Utah, the state whose ratification of the 21st Amendment made it official, homebrewing remains illegal.

Above: Proud to brew

So how did I celebrate my right to drink beer? First off, by starting this post on Friday only to shelve it so I could judge homebrew at the Palmetto State Brewers' annual competition Friday night and all day Saturday. It's now Sunday, and I feel no remorse in neglecting this post so that I could spend a weekend celebrating beer.

I'd be shocked – shocked – if we ever see a return of the widespread temperance movement that lead to Prohibition the first time around. But anything's possible. We need to stay vigilant for efforts to undermine the right of responsible adults to enjoy beer, wine and liquor safely and sensibly, and push for more sensible alcohol regulation at every opportunity.

Here's hoping that in another 75 years we'll still be celebrating Repeal, common sense and beer.

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