Continuing on from our last entry, The History of the U.S. brewing industry: Vol. 1, we begin in the 1850s, during which time hundreds of small, local breweries popped up throughout the previous decade and many were subsequently lost due to the terrible tragedy of the Civil War. During these years, it was not uncommon for breweries to be set ablaze, destroying not only the brewery but much of the surrounding landscape. Thus are the trials of war and the Civil War has many well-documented events such as this throughout the entire period.
However, there is a lot to be learned about this period of time. For example, why did so many breweries start to show up? The answer to this lies within documents of immigration during that time. With many new immigrants coming the U.S. to try their luck in the “Land of Opportunity”, it was only natural that craft breweries would begin to show their presence in greater numbers. Also, during this time, the industrial revolution was afoot, bringing forth new production methods and improvements that immigrants took to very quickly.
With heavy influence from Britain, Germany, and Ireland, production increased in these breweries faster than ever before and the popularity of bottled craft brews began to see a positive rise. However, this was not the only change in the country. Wages were on the rise, allowing hard-working men and women to enjoy more of the tasty brews than they could afford previously. All of these factors, together, formed the groundwork for a community of craft beer enthusiasts across the country and led to where we stand today.
Throughout the 1800s this trend continued on an uphill climb, with per capita consumption rising from 3.4 gallons in 1865 to 18.7 gallons in 1915, a pretty steep rise over time. With such a large demand to accommodate, breweries increased production to numbers that seemed astronomical at the time, but would barely cover the demand in our current era. With such high demand for their products, breweries that started out as small-scale local taprooms were suddenly pushed to expand their facilities and increase production ten-fold.
Pabst Brewing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was one of the first breweries to open large-scale production, eventually producing more than one million barrels per year. Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis, Missouri, was pushed to compete, running neck-and-neck with Pabst, making the two breweries the top producing breweries in the entire country by the late 1800s. The two companies still hold strong today, with Anheuser-Busch taking steps into the craft beer market in recent years that have communities rolling their eyes.
Please check back over the next week as we continue on with the history of the craft brewing industry in the upcoming Vol. 3!