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Jimmy Carter, Founding Father of the Beer Revolution


I don’t even know if Jimmy Carter drinks alcohol, but this Tom Philpott piece on the struggles of the beer conglomerates to keep control over the market suggests that no one did more to facilitate the microbrew revolution than our favorite Baptist president.

First, this interesting chart on the rise and fall of beer variety:

The United States used to produce a huge variety of different beers. Most breweries never reopened after Prohibition, but there was still a good variety (though mostly of homogenized lagers by this point). Still, most regions of the country had several local beers to compete with the growing conglomerates.

By 1979, most of these local brewers were no more. I remember a few from growing up in the Pacific Northwest–Henry Weinhard, Olympia, Rainier, Lucky. Friends of mine a bit older could remember beers like Great Falls Select. But most were gone. However, in that year, President Carter deregulated the beer industry, allowing the sale of malt, hops, and yeast to home brewers. Thus began the microbrew revolution. From the perspective of Miller executives, this sucks because they have to produce an ever-increasing number of beers to keep control of the market. I mean, if everyone just drank piss, we could make so much money!

From my perspective of course, this is an unadulterated good. Not only has it allowed the United States to become second only to Belgium in the production of quality beer (and I’ll take an argument that the US is #1), but it has opened the minds of even people who would normally be happy to drink crappy beer. I mean, Shock Top and Blue Moon are not good beers, but they are better than Bud Light.

And thus we make a mark in the good column when discussing Carter.

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