Milwaukee’s brewing industry

Wisconsin has always been a beer state even before 1830. However, by about the early 1890s almost every town in Wisconsin had at least one brewery.Others has two or three much like the same communities and towns had schools, churches and social halls.It was about 1850 when Milwaukee started its brewing beer competing with with the breweries in New York City, specifically the New Amsterdam brewery. Owen Brewery in Milwaukee managed to open in 1840 and became one of the most successful breweries in the whole of Wisconsin.

There were smaller breweries in Milwaukee though, some beer historians claim, even before the Owen Brewery existed though these breweries were small ones. As more European particularly German immigrants flowed into the state of Wisconsin, Milwaukee’s breweries multiplied to about 40 while there were about more than 200 in the whole state of Wisconsin.

Milwaukee’s economy was practically tied up with the brewing industry then. The more the beer drinkers, the more brewing prospered which also meant more employment for brewery workers, more grain purchased from the local farmers. The grateful farmers of course fed their livestock with brewery by-products which generally made Milwaukee a rather rich town of contented beer drinkers.

During the start of the 20th century however, there were puritan activists who lobbied against too much beer drinking plus there was the Prohibition. These anti-Saloon activists reasoned that drinking was a “sin” and led to myriad of crimes such as child abuse, wife beating, marital problems. Supporting their cause were industrialists like Henry Ford who argued that those who indulged in alcohol became lethargic and lazy workers.

Since most of the Milwaukee immigrants who loved beer were of German descent, some activists called the Milwaukee brewers “the worst of our German enemies”. It was admittedly an irrational surge of nationalism during a time of war that severely affected Milwaukee’s beer industry.Thus, the 18th Amendment was ratified criminalizing the sale of any ‘intoxicating liquor.”

Despite the Prohibition however, there were breweries in Milwaukee who operated secretly and smuggling and bootlegging were prevalent during this period. It was during this period also when because of the Prohibition, Milwaukee’seconomy suffered and the people began to protest that they had a right to have their beer, because beer drinking was not a vice they reasoned, more than it was a cultural tradition. Bars also continued to operate in secret until December 1933 when government authorities themselves realized that Prohibition would not work because it was an unimplementable law. In fact, the Prohibition did more damage to the national treasury because secret breweries bootleggers, smugglers and illegal pubs continued to operate without having to pay taxes. Also, gangsters like Alcapone a.k.a Scarface where glorified because they somehow managed to provide the people with their beers during the Prohibition period.

To this day, brewing remains an essential part of the life of Milwaukee locals and Wisconsin as a whole. Despite the so-called recession, brewers are still in business and there are tourists who visit Milwaukee to taste the different flavors of beer offered by the pubs and taverns in the area.Milwaukee is known as the “beer capital of the world” because it is the home of famous beers like Pabst, Schitz, Miller which is exported all over the world.

Milwaukee has always and will always be known as the place where the best beers are brewed because other brands and flavors of beers, even organic and fruit beers, are now being developed in their breweries. Also, export is easy because of Milwaukee’s proximity to Chicago where beer drinkers also have learned that a life without beer is a life not worth living.