As many Americans plan to celebrate April 7th as the unofficial holiday known as National Beer Day, the story behind how it came to be goes back to the 1930’s.
The occasion is a cause for celebration, and the best way to do so is by drinking beer, of course. But for a 14-year period before 1933, cracking open a cold one wasn’t allowed in the U.S. due to prohibition.
Thankfully, those days are long gone because of one, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who fought to legalize beer. A battle that became personal as the country was still recovering from World War I, along with the ravaging effects of the Great Depression.
What many people don’t know is the 32nd President of the United States developed a taste for alcohol at New York cocktail parties as a young politician. Roosevelt enjoyed attending the social (and semi-political) functions with gin-based martinis or Bermuda rum swizzles in hand. It was those mixed-crowd events which essentially shaped his opinion on alcohol consumption.
FDR was later elected Governor of New York in the middle of the dry spell of prohibition, and was often outspoken to his supporters about the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act. For clarity, alcohol consumption itself wasn’t banned during prohibition, just making it, selling it, and shipping it for mass production and consumption.
One of the President’s own favorite personal valets was said to have struggled with “drunkenness on the job.” Enough so that Roosevelt refused to fire him and considered a repeal of prohibition “of the highest importance for its potential to generate much-needed federal funds.” He also knew a sweeping set of New Deal policies that included a tax on alcohol was designed to vault the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression.
On March 22, 1933, The Cullen–Harrison Act was signed by FDR to authorize the sale of 3.2 percent beer. The contents were considered to be “low alcohol” and “non-intoxicating.” It made way for the first legal beer sales since the beginning of Prohibition on January 16, 1920, and was done in FDR’s first 100 days in office.
It took an unusual method of calling for state conventions to vote on the amendment, instead of submitting it to state legislatures. States across the country started to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed Prohibition.
Both North and South Carolina rejected the 21st Amendment, so the vote was not unanimous. Another eight states, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, had no intentions of meeting before Dec. 5. In fact, Mississippi kept prohibition laws on the books until 1966.
The Amendment was fully ratified on December 5, 1933 and federal laws enforcing Prohibition were repealed. The first team of Budweiser Clydesdale horses was sent to the White House to give President Roosevelt a ceremonial case of beer to commemorate the event. Anheuser-Busch survived the years of prohibition by manufacturing everything from soft drinks and ice cream to car parts.
Decades later, the popularity of America’s favorite alcoholic beverage became mainstream with National Beer paying a whopping $42,000 for the first-ever Super Bowl commercial in 1967. Anheuser-Busch has had exclusive rights to beer advertising during the NFL’s biggest event since 1975. They bought up four minutes during this year’s big game to runs ads for Coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.
According to YouGov research, Budweiser remains the fifth most-poplar beer in the U.S. behind Guinness, Heineken, Corona and Samuel Adams.
Here’s a list of national chains celebrating National Beer Day, according to Delish.com.