Monday, April 6, 2015

Oshkosh Welcomes Back Beer

On the evening of April 6, 1933, Oshkosh beer lovers were in a state of high anticipation. The return of legal beer was just hours away. The Daily Northwestern reported on what occurred when midnight arrived.

Ad from April 11, 1933
Although Whistles Scream and German Band Plays, Celebration is Marked By No Disorder
The welcome accorded legal beer after its absence of more than 13 years, was a calm and collected one in Oshkosh.

Citizens may have decided to await the date set for the formal celebration, which is to be the day following Easter, because of a desire not to interrupt the observance of the Lenten season.

Whatever the cause, most of them were in their regular places at home at midnight last night, when the act of congress legalizing the manufacture of 3.2 per cent beer officially went into force.

German Band Plays
At the three Oshkosh breweries there were impromptu celebrations of crowds and in on place a German band. The remainder of the city was kept awake at 12 o’clock by the sounding of whistles. One whistle blew for five minutes.

There were no disorders of any kind reported by police, and business today followed its regular routine.

There was, however, the hum of activity of the brewing industry, as breweries attempted to fill hundreds of orders, not only from taverns, hotels, and restaurants, but for private homes. Beer was being served in the dining rooms of hotels, as well as over the bar.

Further observance of the return of beer is scheduled for tonight, but it is expected to be a quiet one.
  –Daily Northwestern, April 7, 1933

Seems almost anticlimactic. I’ll bet the celebration would have been more robust if they’d had something more invigorating than “3.2 per cent” beer. By the way, that’s 3.2% by weight, which equates to just a hair over 4% ABV. Mild stuff, for sure.

The reason for the weak beer was that the 18th Amendment, which brought us Prohibition, had yet to be repealed. But under the The Beer Revenue Act, beer with an alcohol content of up to 3.2% by weight was deemed non-intoxicating and therefore became legal. On December 5, 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed and the 3.2% limit was lifted.

If you’re awake tonight when the clock strikes 12, hoist yourself  a glass of good beer. Toast our forebears who had a basic human right stolen from them by zealots. If they could see us now!

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