Since this column is once-a-month, I usually touch upon an important date or event. This month is no different. I wanted to write about big craft bottles, but that will have to wait until next month. So, look forward to eventually seeing an article comparing larger bottles of beer to champagne. Why? Who knows, but big bottles of beer are fancy.
The Fourth of July is a few weeks away. It’s probably the most important holiday for Americans, so I had to write about it. Independence Day is more than just an over the top Hollywood blockbuster starring Will Smith, it’s a special day, not just because it’s the celebration of the Independence of the United States, but because it’s officially the beginning of summer. The fourth of July is also more than just the sparklers and Apollo Creed’s amazing American flag shorts and top hat, it’s a time for families and friends to get together to enjoy the beautiful weather and maybe watch some fireworks.
In last month’s article I wrote about grilling and barbequing for pretty much the whole column, so I’ll do my best to try not to regurgitate old information. But I will point out that, in my opinion, the Fourth of July is probably the best grilling day of the year. If you don’t grill any other day this year, do it on the fourth. Watch some baseball, grill some steaks (or beer can chickens), drink some beer, even have some apple pie. It’s America’s birthday, buddy. It’s time to celebrate 233 years in our nation’s history. Can you imagine how big the cake would be? That’s a lot of candles.
Since it’s an important holiday for the U.S., it makes sense we should have a history lesson or two. Get out your text books and turn to page 154. We learned all about the Continental Congress and the birth of the nation in Social Studies class as youths, but what do we really know about our rich brewing history? They made no mention of it in my eighth grade social studies book, but I can understand why. Personally, I would have loved to take a U.S. brewing history class in college. The course could cover colonists brewing, brewing in young nation, prohibition, the big beer conglomerates, and go all the way to the craft breweries of today.
Well, here’s the scoop. Brewing has long been a part of United States history. The continental congress, made up of members from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and eight other states signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. A gentleman from Massachusetts named Samuel Adams was one four from that state to sign the document. Known as “The father of the American revolution” because of his political career, Adams was also a well-known brewer and beer lover. The Boston Beer Company in Boston now carries on his legacy by naming their beer after this important American historical figure.
Before this was even officially a country, our ancestors landed on Plymouth Rock. Some people believe that the only reason the pilgrims dropped anchor was because they ran out of their beer rations and just couldn’t go on without the tasty brew. The story is actually not entirely true (they actually ran out of food), but it’s still a neat legend that adds to the mystique of beer in early America.
According the BeerAdvocate.com, the first year of any official brewing activity in America was 1587. Colonists in Virginia used corn to brew the first batch of beer in the new land. But the history of beer worldwide dates back a lot longer than that.
Here’s a quick run-down of the history of beer. According to Fosters.com, the history of brewing dates back to china some 5,000 years ago. They brewed a beverage called “Kui.” The Mesopotamians considered beer brewing to be a “highly respected profession.” Also, 4,000 year-old tablets claim that “the master brewers were women,” not men as us macho males would like to believe. The Egyptians were well-known brewers and they taught the Greeks to brew. The Greeks then taught the Romans to brew beer, who in turn taught the “savage tribes in Britain the art of brewing.” Beer brewing was wildly popular and quickly spread all over Europe. In medieval times, beer became a staple at meals and celebrations. The rest, as they say, is history.
Let’s fast forward to the young nation of America to continue our beer journey. George Washington, commander of the Continental army in the Revolutionary War and our first president was also a respected beer brewer himself. He didn’t actually have wooden teeth as is a widely popular legend, but he did enjoy imbibing in a brew or two.
So, even though this wasn’t the most thorough overview of America’s brewing tradition, and I may have jumped around a bit, you still get the jist. American history is equally as rich in beer brewing as most anything else. In fact, beer might be as American as cheeseburgers, apple pie, or the designated hitter.
So, on the fourth, hoist a brew for our country and give three cheers for independence. As another famous signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Image credit: Steve Woods, SXC
30 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist and sports editor. He also writes about fine beverages for drinkingmadeeasy.com and Chilled Magazine. On top of that, he writes about college and professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, throw him an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chrisosburn