The New York Timesreported on May 31, 2011 that housing prices had hit their new all time low; similarly consumer confidence has hit a six month low according to Bloomberg, and unemployment remains high . Americans have become disenchanted with the economic stagnation; headlines reading “a new low”, has been applied to the economy more than to Congressman Anthony Weiner. Americans looking for relief and a way back to prosperity have looked to the stimulus package, omnibus, the Federal Reserve, Republicans, Democrats and a soiree of people and schemes to save our sinking economic ship. After all of these solutions have failed, there is only one place Americans can safely turn in order to seek salvation from our economic woes: beer.
The beer industry has had as many ups and downs as the American economy during the last three years. American beer of the 1970’s and 1980’s was bland, tasteless and featureless. The world saw American beer then as offensively as they see American foreign policy today. American beer’s return to greatness in regards to taste, affordability and connection with localism during the early part of the 21st century is only possible within a free market. The beer industry remains one of those last bastions of free enterprise.
From the end of the Civil War to 1910, a little more than 50 years, beer production sky rocketed to a 1600% increase. More than 1,500 American breweries were producing close to 60 million barrels of beer a year. The local brew soon became a pastime in taverns across the country. The railroad systems allowed for easy transportation of beer and brand names soon emerged, the likes of Pabst and Anheuser-Busch were being enjoyed in brothels, taverns, ball games, and family gatherings from New York to San Francisco.
Needless to say, not every American loved the taste of beer, Prohibition was the law of the land from 1920 to 1933. It ended just in time for a depression and a World War. Many local breweries faced bankruptcy due to government intervention in both the stock market and the beer industry. As usual when big government intervenes, big business gets the upper hand; after prohibition large beer companies were still in existence while their smaller competition were either annihilated during prohibition or as inconsequential to the market as Poland was to stopping an advancing German invasion. From 1940 to 1980 the top 10 largest brewing companies saw their share of the market grow from 28% to 94%. By 1981, only 100 breweries were still operating in America.