Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Beer Post: The Cullen-Harrison Act

This past Wednesday marked the 77th Anniversary of the Cullen-Harrison Act. WTF is the Cullen-Harrison Act, you ask? Cullen-Harrison legalized the sale of 3.2% (Interestingly, common thought beer in the United States. While that may not sound like something to celebrate, you have to remember that in 1933 Prohibition (BOOOOO) was still in effect.

(The cover of the Cincinnati Post celebrating the return of beer)

On January 16, 1919, the legislatures of Utah, North Carolina and Nebraska became the 34th, 35th, and 36th states to ratify the 18th Amendment, passing the threshold required by the Constitution. (I'd like to give a nod to Connecticut and Rhode Island for being the only states to reject Prohibition. Huzzah!) 13 days later, Prohibition became law of the land, and a year later the Nation's taps ran dry.

The Amendment, which was a reaction to the Progressive Era and the Temperance Movement intended to "improve society," was a national codification of an increasingly fervent series of state-wide movements. For all the high-minded ideals which spawned the 18th Amendment, for the most part all the country received was a higher incidence of organized crime and a serious need for a drink. When the Great Depression arrived at the end of the decade, with it's falling stock prices and brokers, there finally began a strong movement to repeal what temperance hath wrought.

(I didn't want to touch your sober-ass lips anyways)

FDR, when running for his 1st term, promised repeal of the 18th Amendment (it was a plank of the Democratic Party's platform that year). 3 weeks after his election, FDR began to make good on that progress when Cullen-Harrison landed on his desk. (He had previously sent a message to congress requesting the legislation.) He was more than happy to sign it into law, and the Act took effect on April 7th, 1933. It was the first governmental crack at Prohibition. While it left it up to the individual states weather or not to enact the provisions, the Act allowed for the brewing and sale of the nation's first legal beer since 1920.

(The man loved his booze, making probably the worst martinis in the history of the world.)

Today, 3.2% beer (derisively called "near-beer") is mostly a joke amongst serious beer drinkers. Personally, I refer to it as "Super market piss." But 77 years ago, I would've hailed it's arrival as a glorious sign of the end of Prohibition. Beer in any form is better than no beer at all, of course.

Happy Friday!

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