Written by Martin H. Stack, Rockhurst University, courtesy EH.net
1650 to 1800: The Early Days of Brewing in America
Brewing in America dates to the first communities established by English and Dutch settlers in the early to mid seventeenth century. Dutch immigrants quickly recognized that the climate and terrain of present-day New York were particularly well suited to brewing beer and growing malt and hops, two of beer’s essential ingredients. A 1660 map of New Amsterdam details twenty-six breweries and taverns, a clear indication that producing and selling beer were popular and profitable trades in the American colonies (Baron, Chapter Three). Despite the early popularity of beer, other alcoholic beverages steadily grew in importance and by the early eighteenth century several of them had eclipsed beer commercially.
Between 1650 and the Civil War, the market for beer did not change a great deal: both production and consumption remained essentially local affairs. Bottling was expensive, and beer did not travel well. Nearly all beer was stored in, and then served from, wooden kegs. While there were many small breweries, it was not uncommon for households to brew their own beer. In fact, several of America’s founding fathers brewed their own beer, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (Baron, Chapters 13 and 16).
1800-1865: Brewing Begins to Expand