April 7th is celebrated as National Beer Day. On this date 83 years ago Cincinnatians and Americans alike reveled in the repeal of Prohibition. The law had a particularly detrimental effect on Cincinnati, which in the in the latter decades of the 19th century, and the initial decades of the 20th century had more bars and saloons per capita than any other city in the nation, and possibly the country, at one bar for every 41 persons. in 1893, Cincinnatians consumed an average of 40 gallons of beer for every man, woman, and child, nearly 250% the national average for the day. Those lofty numbers really express the importance of the brewing industry to the city, as Cincinnatians drank mostly Cincinnati-brewed beers. The industry employed nearly 40,000 workers at the turn of the century through way of hops dealers, malt houses, barrel makers, grain dealers, saloons, and of course the breweries themselves.
Prohibition began in January of 1920, and only a handful of Cincinnati breweries would survive those dark times. Some brewers were granted federal licenses to produce alcohol for medicinal purposes, however most had to make due with selling near-beer, ice, ice cream, and other products and services for which they already had the infrastructure.
On April 7th,1933 Congress officially repealed the Volstead Act, thus ending the federal prohibition of alcohol. Citizens in Cincinnati and all across America rejoiced, and on that first day alone, more than 1.5 million barrels of beer were consumed nationwide.
The Bruckmann Beverage & Products Company, known as the Bruckmann Brewing Company before prohibition, was one of the few Cincinnati breweries that remained open during prohibition by producing mostly “Aristocrat Cereal Beverage,” more commonly known as a near-beer, containing less than 0.5% ABV. Since the brewery had remained open through the prohibition years, and it’s repeal, they were able to be the first brewery in Cincinnati to ship beer at 12:01 am on April 7, 1933. It may not be as patriotic a tale as Paul Revere’s midnight ride, but to us Cincinnatians who take great pride in the great brewing history of Cincinnati, it may have been every bit as important.