The Rise and Fall and Rise of Beer in the U.S.

Travel Blog  •  David Farley  •  12.22.08 | 6:52 PM ET

Hhmm…beer. It’s hard to believe now, but in 1873, there were 4,000 breweries in the United States. Brooklyn alone boasted 50. But Prohibition followed by industrialization wiped out nearly all the breweries. And by 1965 there were only a couple megalithic beer factories serving watered-down suds and just one craft beer maker in the country (Anchor Steam). This info comes to us from a recently published New Yorker piece by Burkhard Bilger on Dogfish Brewery.

Coincidentally, Czech beer buff and author of The Good Beer Guide Prague & The Czech Republic, Evan Rail, recently wrote about the numerous (and long-gone) breweries in 19th-century Prague. But let’s not start weeping in our pints of PBR just yet. According to Bilger there are now 1,500 breweries in the United States, and when I checked in with Evan Rail, he had this to say about brewing in the country that consumes more beer per capita than anywhere in the world: “When my book was published, there were about 102 (plus or minus) total breweries in the Czech Republic, counting brewpubs, micros and industrial brewers. Now it’s 122. That’s a gain of just under 20% in 18 months.”

We’ll most certainly toast to that.

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