THE Democrats had made it a part of their platform, and...

Salmagundi

March 31, 1993

THE Democrats had made it a part of their platform, and now that they were back in the White House after a long hiatus, they made good on the promise: Prohibition was repealed officially on Dec. 5, 1933.

But for brewers, happy days were here again on April 7, 1933, just a couple of weeks after Congress passed the Cullen-Harrison Bill legalizing 3.2 percent beer.

The Beer Can Collectors of America are going all out to celebrate the 60th anniversary, noting that repeal of the Volstead Act (enacted in 1919 over President Woodrow Wilson's veto) not only whetted a nation's appetite; it also paved the way for the beer can. The technology that made possible the long-term storage of liquids in cans was developed during Prohibition, and the first beer cans, containing Kreuger Beer and Ale, appeared in 1935.

The BCCA's March-April News Report shows a 1933 postcard proclaiming "Beer Is Back!" -- under a Falstaff beer truck surrounded by a large crowd (of men, all in hats). Anheuser-Busch didn't miss a marketing trick 60 years ago, either. The company issued "certificates of priority," dated April 7, 1933, to the first buyers of cases of Budweiser. "Budweiser Beer made its initial bow to the public in 1876," says the certificate, "and returns to you in the same ideal form in 1933."

Not all was happy in '33, though. The nation was, after all, in the depth of the Depression, and dozens of undercapitalized breweries that were founded or reopened after Repeal folded in short order -- breweries like the Mt. Wilson Beer Co., of Los Angeles, which called its brew "the peak of them all." It peaked only through 1936.

In a related development, the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. has signed an agreement to export beer into parts of the former Soviet Union. Although the first brew to be exported will be American and American Light, not Iron City, it seems appropriate that Pittsburgh be the first to venture behind the former Iron Curtain. It's always been a plucky little brewery that (unlike National Boh) still supports its local teams -- and still puts out its suds in steel cans, not sissy aluminum.

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