Beer Law Mashing

Beer before Liquor

FDR Beer Speech (2)

Did you know the United States legalized beer before the end of Prohibition? I didn’t!

It was the height of the Great Depression, and the government needed revenue. On March 13, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the following message to Congress:

I recommend the passage of legislation for the immediate modification of the Volstead Act, in order to legalize the manufacture and sale of beer and other beverages of such alcoholic content as is permissible under the Constitution; and to provide through such manufacture and sale, by substantial taxes, a proper and much needed revenue for the government. I deem action at this time to be of the highest importance

Nine days later, he signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, legalizing the manufacture and sale of “3.2 beer” (about 4 percent by volume). The Act became effective on April 7, 1933, which is now celebrated as “National Beer Day.”

North Carolina followed suit and legalized 3.2 beer and wine statewide effective May 1, 1933. In 1935, North Carolina increased the alcohol limit for beer to 5 percent by weight (about 6 percent by volume) and legalized naturally fermented (i.e., higher alcohol) wines.

Prohibition was repealed in December 1933, eight months after the legalization of beer. North Carolina legalized liquor and heavier alcoholic beverages, subject to a “local option” and tight regulatory control, in 1937.

For some reason, history seems more interesting as I get older.

For additional information, see What’s All the Fuss about North Carolina’s Beer Distribution Laws? Part II—The Three-Tier System, notes 61-79 and accompanying text.

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