How Jimmy Carter Sparked the Craft Beer Revolution


Posted by Caleb at

beer historyAll of this buzz about Obama’s beer had me and a few coworkers thinking; while we’re down with Obama and his sweet honey homebrew, he’s merely a participant in an age-old tradition of making beer in the comfort of one’s own home. In fact, he doesn’t even do it himself. He has the White House kitchen staff doing the bulk of the brewing.

Our 39th President, Mr. James Carter, is the true homebrew hero; he and a lesser known man by the name of Alan Cranston, a veteran democratic senator from California. How so, you ask? Well, on October 14, 1978, Jimmy Carter signed the bill H.R. 1337, which contained an amendment sponsored by Alan Cranston. That amendment created an exemption from taxation of beer brewed at home for personal or family use. Essentially, it lifted regulations imposed by Prohibition laws over 50 years previous.

If you look at the chart pictured below, you’ll see that the number of US craft breweries started to take off in 1988, and skyrocketed in the 90s. While we can’t say this growth resulted solely from the Carter-Cranston bill, it’s hard to deny the correlation.

Brewery Count Graph
Graph from

Many have pointed to the flaws in this Carter glorification. To be fair, Carter legalized homebrew on a federal level, reserving the right for states to deny it. Homebrewing is still illegal in Alabama and Mississippi, although advocates in both states are working to change that.

With that said, pushing the bill got the ball rolling, and without Carter’s advocacy, we may not be where we are today, as most craft breweries get their start in someone’s home. So regardless of how you feel about Carter as a President, you have to respect what he did for the craft beer industry. And if you can’t stomach that, then give the credit to Mr. Cranston.

One Reply to “How Jimmy Carter Sparked the Craft Beer Revolution”

  1. I started homebrewing right after this. The amount of press was dismal. I watched the news and read two papers and heard squat. As a security guard at the time I just walked past a store and the lady who ran it told me that story and then saw me through my first few batches.

    Carter did a fine thing and, at the time, I didn’t care for him. Less politics than the Rose Garden strategy and all the cute stuff the press pushed about his kids. Looking back I think he was far better than most of us gave him credit for.

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