Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The History of National Beer Day

So we all know that April 7th is the celebration of when beer became legal again in the United States after the Cullen-Harrison Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on March 23, 1933. That law was enacted on April 7th allowing the brewing and sale of beer in the United States again as long as it was < 3.2% (4% ABV). It's said that people waited in line overnight on April 6th outside Milwaukee breweries in order to legally buy beer for the first time in over 13 years. April 7th is a very beer specific celebration since prohibition did not officially end until December 5th later that year. We all know that......but when was the holiday created, and when did we start to celebrate it every year as National Beer Day?

It all started, when back in 2009, someone wished me a "happy National Beer Day" on March 1st. Thanks to my friend, Jason Harris, I had grown into a huge fan of beer (another story for another blog post), and later that night did some searching on the Internet to find out what important event in American history occurred on March 1st to warrant it being celebrated as "National Beer Day". Come to find out, it was an Icelandic holiday.

Now, I'm not one to begrudge anyone a reason to drink beer, even if it is another country's holiday. After all, we celebrate Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day, so why not the National Beer Day of Iceland? After mentioning the new found reason to celebrate beer to my friends, it was suggested that America should have a National Beer Day too. I brushed the idea off as silly, as I am opposed to just randomly creating a day and calling it a holiday. We have enough random, meaningless holidays out there just because someone loves, let's say, bacon, and decides that their birthday should be celebrated as National Bacon Day every year. Holidays should carry some meaning. We celebrate July 4th to celebrate our independence from Britain and the birth of our nation. We celebrate January 1st as the start of the New Year and the future that the new year holds. We celebrate Thanksgiving as a time to remember to thank God for friends and family and the blessings that He has given us. There are significant reasons why we celebrate these days every year. There is a deep rooted history that is attached to these dates every year. I did not want to cheapen beer by just picking a random date.

But one of my friends, Mike Connolly, would not let the idea go. He kept on pressing for the idea of an American National Beer Day. Interestingly enough, Mike was not even American. He is in fact from England and was visiting for a few months, but still refused to let the idea go. I finally told him that I would do some research into American history and see if there was a date that was worth calling National Beer Day. I figured that the Icelandic holiday celebrated their end of prohibition, so there might be something there in our history as well worth celebrating. I was still not convinced that there would be such a date because in my mind, if there were a reason to celebrate beer, it would already be celebrated, but after some brief searching on the Internet, I found April 7th and the Cullen-Harrison Act. There had to be a reason why we weren't celebrating this great day in history! After all, Aptil 7th is the date we should celebrate the ability to drink beer the other 364 days a year!

I started searching beer blogs and news articles and came upon the name "Brew Years Eve," but it had not been formally celebrated in some time. I emailed the Brewers Association of America, who had originally coined the phrase "
Brew Years Eve," and asked them why they did not celebrate the holiday anymore and got this reply from Andy Sparhawk:

"The Brewers Association use to celebrate April 7th under the name Brew Years Eve. The last time we helped coordinate celebrations by members brewers was a couple years ago for the 75th Anniversary or 75 Years of Beer. We’ve since turned to recognizing the day, but no longer devoting time to getting our members to celebrate it because it is so close to American Craft Beer Week." [sic]

After telling Mike what I had found about about a viable day for an American National Beer Day, we decided to start a facebook group. Using social media a a free means of letting others know about the glorious new holiday, we simply just invited our friends and posted on many of the other beer related groups already on facebook. From that simple facebook group, National Beer Day was born. Some Internet news sites and beer blogs picked up on the facebook group and it just blew up from there.

Now you can google "National Beer Day" and find many many different articles and posts about the holiday. Here is one of our favorites:

National Beer Day

It's impossible to fathom that a mere 77 years ago a person couldn't legally drink beer in this country. But for 13 years - from the moment "The Great (Failed) Experiment" was enacted on January 16, 1920 through 1933 - that was precisely the case. Although the actual repeal of Prohibition occurred on December 5 of that year, beer drinkers got a reprieve a full eight months beforehand. On April 7 then President Franklin D. Roosevelt repealed the Volstead Act (aka the National Prohibition Act), legalizing 3.2% alcohol by weight beer. In the first 24-hours after Roosevelt signed on the dotted line over 1.5 million barrels of beer were consumed. The country was thirsty... for beer!
Over the years there have been a few - rather failed - attempts at recognizing April 7 as the historic day it is. And not just because it ironically happens to also be my day of birth. In 2003 the Brewers' Association (then known as the Brewers' Association of America) announced a national promotion called New Beer's Eve. "People need to be reminded of the single biggest cause of brewery closure," said Daniel Bradford, who was the President of the BAA then (he's now the publisher of the prestigious All About Beer magazine). "Prohibition lead to the demise of thousands of breweries and the creation of a violent criminal element. We need to remember this travesty, because it could happen again." While truer words were never spoken, this campaign never really took off. In 2008 there was a big deal made about 75 Years of Beer, complete with "Celebrate April 7th" posters, but then that got morphed into a "Celebrate December 5th" thing instead, which made it all confusing. A few weeks ago I found something on the new website called Brew Years Eve. Personally, I'm not a big fan of that name. It's too kitschy and doesn't really impart the significance of the day.
Then I stumbled onto two guys - one from the United Stated, the other from Europe - who have taken grasp of the aforementioned concepts and turned it something that garners our attention - National Beer Day. Justin Smith from Richmond, Virginia, and Mike Connolly from Liverpool, England have formed a group on Facebook that is over 4,000 fans strong (and growing). This is the description of their endeavor, which for obvious reasons, I endorse completely:
We've decided that we need a day to celebrate the awesomeness that is beer. In 1933 during the prohibition era, the Cullen-Harrison Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on March 23rd. That law was enacted on April 7th allowing the brewing and sale of beer in the United States again as long as it was < 3.2% (4% ABV). It's said that people waited in line overnight on April 6th outside Milwaukee breweries in order to legally buy beer for the first time in over 13 years. Henceforth April 7th will be known as National Beer Day and April 6th will be called New Beers Eve. So this April, tell all your friends about this glorious new holiday, and raise a glass, bottle, can, or mug to the deliciousness that is beer.
I couldn't have said it any better. Click on over to the Facebook page, become a fan, and let's all put our support into making this a big deal. And if you're a lover of the liquid gold, at some point today be sure to raise a pint in remembrance of this beery special day.

You can even get a beer badge from Untappd every year on April 7th by posting your beer.


  1. Happy National Beer Day! Cheers!

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