Residents of Arizona often quip that is is a dry heat when visitors complain as temperatrues soar past one hundred degrees. When I hear that, all that comes to mind is that so is the oven.
It is hard to imagine survivng a summer on the shores of Lake Havasu without a cold craft beer from Mudshark Brewery and Public House. For more than twenty years this oasis in the desert has been quenching thirsts.
But there was a time, long before Lake Havasu City was even a dream, that residents of the Grand canyon State literally suffered a dry heat.
This black chapter in American history is known as Prohibition. From 1920 to 1933, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the production, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. But by 1920, folks living in Arizon had been enduring dry summers since 1915. In 1914 voters had approved a state constitutional amendment that prohibited the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors, effective January 1, 1915.
Needless to say, Prohibition had a devestating impact on the brewing industry. Breweries were forced to close or to devise a new product to produce.
One of the earliest and most successful breweries in Arizona was founded by Alex Levin in 1864. Initially Levin’s Park Brewery supplied beer to miners, soldiers and settlers in the old presidio of Tucson. But business was so brisk, Levin began selling his beer throughout southeastern Arizona. And then he expanded into the small farming village of Phoenix along the Salt River.
Fortunately Levin had used his profits to invest in real estate, ranching, mining and other assorted enterprises. That enabled his brewery to survive the early years of Prohibition. But after its sale to Columbus Glasmann it was converted it into a soda bottling plant.
The Arizona Brewing Company, established in Prescott in 1904 by German immigrants John Raible and George Walter was another pioneering territorial brewery. The company produced a popular lager beer called A-1 that was distributed throughout northern Arizona. It was the company’s large ice plant that allowed it to survive Prohibition. Raible and Walter also produced “near beer”, a low-alcohol beverage that was legal under Prohibition restriction.
Many breweries in Arizona were unable to survive Prohibition and closed permanently. This included a number of pioneering breweries such as the Phoenix Brewing Company, known for popular Gold Spot beer, established in 1898 by Emil Ganz.
Other breweries tried to diversify. Rather than make near beer, Globe Brewing Company, which was founded in 1906 by John Wanner and produced a beer called Globe Beer, attempted to make ice cream, candy and malt syrup during ProhibitionThe company closed its doors and declared bankruptcy in 1929.
By 1933, the Arizona brewing industry had been devastated. The Arizona Brewing Company that was resurrected in Phoenix in 1933 by Martin Hensley and Ermal Fraze. The brewery revived the A-1 brand name and logo made famous by the orignal Prescott brewery. For decades, until it was acquired by Anheuser-Busch in 1964, this was the dominant regional brewery.
Levin’s Park Brewery closed in 1936, after Glasmann sold it to a group of investors who failed to revive its fortunes. The ice plant continued to operate until 1952. The Globe Brewing Company reopened briefly after Repeal, but closed again in 1935. The Phoenix Brewing Company also reopened after Repeal, but struggled to regain its market share and closed for good in 1942.
The history of breweries in Arizona during Prohibition is a fascinating story of innovation, adaptation and resilience. Despite the hardships and losses caused by Prohibition, some breweries managed to survive and even thrive by finding new ways to serve their customers and communities.
Today, Arizona has a vibrant craft brewing scene. Mudshark Brewery honors the legacy of their pioneering predecessors by producing quality beers that reflect the diversity and spirit of Arizona.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America