Myth: Prohibition Killed Local Breweries

Many people assume that Prohibition was responsible for the demise of the local breweries. Of course, during Prohibition the number of legal breweries in the country fell to zero, but the decline actually started 45 years before national Prohibition took effect. The chart above shows the decline in the number of breweries from the 19th century until the trend reversed in the last quarter of the 20th century.

The black dashed line extrapolates what the number of breweries might have been if Prohibition had never happened. You can see that Prohibition was just a blip in the long-term trend in the demise of local breweries. It was actually the growth of large-scale, factory breweries that forced local breweries out of the market.

When Aldophus Busch pioneered the use of refrigerated rail cars in the 1880s to ship beer around the country, Budweiser began a century-long movement in which nationally distributed beer pushed local  beer out of the market. That trend continued until the 1980s, when the renaissance of local breweries began.

Look for our Valentine’s Day post on how beer and good lovin’ tamed the wild man.