Mug Shots: Good beer isn’t hard to find

“None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”
                      —H.L. Mencken

Prohibition was a uniquely American-styled mistake unlike any other, before or since, but chances are that unless you’re an unreconstructed zealot, you already knew that.

Chances are you didn’t know that in 1933, as the cherished day of Repeal drew ever nearer, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt persuaded Congress to alter the detested Volstead Act and permit low gravity beer to be consumed by a grateful public. It would be another eight months before wine and liquor joined the queue.

The date was April 7, 1933, and 74 years later, this important “Brew Years Eve” anniversary of beer’s liberation will be celebrated by America’s resurgent craft breweries. According to the Brewers Association, “Sales of craft beers — beer made by small, independent and traditional brewers — are at an all-time high. 2006 marked an 11.7 percent increase for the category.”

Fewer than 100 American breweries remained during beer’s nadir in the early 1980s, but now there are more than 2,000. Taken collectively, they lead the planet in creative output.

The leaden weight of America’s self-defeating swillocracy — the saturation marketing techniques of industrial brewing, long ingrained cultural proclivities and the seemingly natural human condition of fear and timidity — certainly remains a formidable barrier to progress, and yet it has been weakened immeasurably.

These are good times for honest men and women who seek quality in beer. Good beer is out there. Look for it.

Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. He writes about beer for Food & Dining magazine. Visit for more beer.