“I think this would be a good time for beer,” Roosevelt said–and the entire nation cheered.
Roosevelt’s Beer-Wine Revenue Act allowed for sales of 3.2 percent beer in the U.S. beginning at 12:01 a.m. on April 7, 1933.
The authors of the new law carefully defined that 3.2 percent as “non-intoxicating”.
On the evening before, crowds packed hotels, restaurants and other less official drinking establishments.
In Chicago, police were posted outside breweries in an effort to keep the roads clear for beer trucks.
Across the land, people waited for the second hand to tick one minute past midnight: New Beer’s Eve!
It was the first time in 13 years that beer was legally consumed in America.
Goodbye, Medicinal Whiskey
During the ban on alcohol distribution, drug stores were still allowed to sell “medicinal whiskey”.
This could treat anything from toothaches to the flu.
With a physician’s prescription, “patients” could legally buy a pint of hard liquor every ten days.
This pharmaceutical booze often came with doctor’s orders such as:
“Take three ounces every hour for stimulant until stimulated.”
According to Prohibition historian Daniel Okrent, Walgreens has legal alcohol sales to thank for its growth from 20 to 500-plus locations.
So long, wine bricks
During prohibition, Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch refitted their breweries to make ice cream.
Coors doubled down on the production of pottery and ceramics.
Others produced “near beer”—a legal brew that contained less than 0.5 percent alcohol.
Most brewers kept the lights on by peddling malt syrup, a legally dubious extract that could be easily made into beer by adding water and yeast and patience.
Winemakers sold chunks of grape concentrate called “wine bricks.”
On the morning of April 7, newspapers in the 19 states that had already repealed the prohibitions proclaimed:
“Beer Flowing Freely in Pennsylvania,” “Compromise Beer Bill Reached,” “Beer Given Boisterous Welcoming.”
Not surprisingly, the next day’s headlines included:
“Nation Has Beer Shortage; 1,000,000 Barrels Consumed; Rush Brings in Big Revenue.”