Mudshark Brewery and Public House is one of the oldest craft breweries in Arizona. It also a destination for locals and visitors alike. And it is a tangible link to the post Prohibition renaissance of the American brewing industry. And it is a manifestation of a legacy dating to WWII in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

After the dawn of the 20th century, temperance organizations and support for them grew incrementally. But with the onset of WWI prohibitionists were able to cloak temperance in patriotism.

With German immigrants flooding into the country after tumultuous homeland revolutions in the 1840s, the American brewing industry was forever transformed. By 1890, the largest breweries in the country were owned by first or second generation German families.

John Strange, a leader in the temperance movement and Lt. Gov. of Wisconsin in the late teens said, “We have German enemies across the water. We have German enemies in this country, too. And the worst of all our German enemies, the most treacherous, the most menacing, are Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz and Miller.” 

German-American brewers vainly fought back and tried to prove their patriotism. The Anheuser-Busch brewery redesigned its labels using English instead of German language. They also removed the family crest that featured Germanic imagery.

But anti German sentiment was a tsunami. On April 4, 1918, a German immigrant named Robert Prager was lynched in Collinsville, Illinois after being accused of being a spy. Breweries with German sounding names were forced to shutter their doors. Those that survived were crippled with the introduction of Prohibition.

Then in 1933, less than thirty days after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential inauguration, the president signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which legalized the sale of beer containing up to 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. Beer was back in fashion.

But it was WWII that ensured a new generation would become passionate consumers of beer. Rationing boards curtailed the use of gasoline and regulated manufacturing as well as food production. The government also mandated that the brewing industry allocate 15% of its products to the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Corps.

In 1942, the U.S. Army Air Force established a headquarters at the Harvey House in Kingman, Arizona, and initiated construction of the Kingman Army Airfield as a school for gunners as well as navigators. Seven auxilliary fields were also built. One of these was Site Six, now the island in Lake havasu City.

In mid 1943, Site Six was transformed from a dusty and remote emergency landing field, into a rest and recreation center. A barracks, mess hall and officers’ quarters were built at the site. Recruits were flown to the site for fishing or swimming, boating on Lake Havasu, and hiking. And, of course, the PX with its cold beer, juke box, and occasionally live music, was a popular part of a holiday at Site Six.

The next time you are enjoying a cold craft beer and a Technicolor sunset at Mudshark Brewery and Public House, take a minute to give thought to the legacy of relaxing with friends on the shore of Lake Havasu.