The Art of Repeal: Exploring America’s Post-Prohibition Beer Labels

Joshua Malin The Art of Repeal: Exploring America’s Post-Prohibition Beer Labels

1 minute Read

The 21st Amendment, which rolled back Prohibition in the United States, was ratified on December 5, 1933. Although many states and counties continued to block the sale of alcohol — for years and even decades — most Americans rejoiced over a cold one. Former breweries that had bided their time selling “near beer,” soda, and even products like cheese (Pabst), to upstarts, anticipating Prohibition’s repeal, were ready to provide that beer. To see what those beers looked like, we dug into registered product label case files from 1933 to 1936 at the federal Patent and Trademark Office. The labels offer a window into a short, unique period of American history — post-Prohibition, during the Great Depression, in the years leading up to Word War II, which saw rationing and campaigns that cemented the link between patriotism and America’s brewing businesses.

Amber Glo Beer

When Prohibition came to an end, Milwaukee quickly picked up where it left off as 19th- and early 20th-century America’s brewing capital.

B Happy Beer

According to Old Breweries, Southern Breweries, Inc. was founded in Norfolk, Va., just after the end of Prohibition and turned out beer there for eight years.

Blumers Golden Glow

This brewery, based in “the Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA,” took an interesting approach to marketing the “benefits” of its beer.

Esslinger's

With predecessor breweries stretching back to 1879, Esslinger’s was ready to roll out a repeal-themed beer.

Iron City Beer

Pittsburgh Brewing has a long, winding history, which included surviving Prohibition by producing other products like soft drinks.

North Pole Beer

North Pole Brewing embraced chilly marketing long before Coors Light positioned its brand as the “coldest” beer around.

Old Faithful Beer

Although this small brewery survived Prohibition, it only made it to 1939 before closing up shop.

Old Heidelberg

Like many Milwaukee-brewed beers, this offering from Blatz Brewing embraced the city’s German heritage.

Old Milwaukee

A budget brand that’s still familiar to today’s beer drinkers, this offering from Schlitz was available in the immediate years after Prohibition’s repeal.

Picnic Beer

According to Encyclopedia Dubuque, Picnic Beers were foot-tall, half-gallon glass bottles brewed by large brewers, intended to serve everyone at a small picnic.

Sierra Beer

The Reno Brewing Co. was founded in 1903. According to the Reno Historical Society, the company survived Prohibition and flourished in the decade following its repeal.

Yuengling

Still one of America’s most popular breweries, Pennsylvania’s Yuengling survived Prohibition by producing ice cream and “near beers,” among other activities.

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