Great American brew is a tradition dating to the dawn of the American colonies. The story of beer and breweries in the American colonies is the legacy that the modern craft beer industry is built upon.

Beer, the beloved beverage that has quenched the thirst of millions for centuries, played a pivotal role in the daily life of Colonial America. From the earliest settlers to the spirited revolutionaries, beer was more than just a drink; it was a staple of economic survival and a symbol of community.

When the English colonists set foot on the North American continent, they brought with them a tradition deeply rooted in their culture—brewing. The importance of beer in colonial society cannot be overstated. It was a safe alternative to water, which was often contaminated and could cause illness. The process of brewing, which involved boiling water, inadvertently sanitized the liquid, making it a healthier option.

The early colonists were quick to establish brewhouses as one of their first structures. They recognized the necessity of beer for their well being, and as a profitable commodity.

In fact, the lack of a skilled brewer could lead to long suffering, as was the case with the inhabitants of Jamestown, Virginia. Their desperation for a brewer led them to seek skilled individuals from England to join their colony.

Surprisingly, women often played a crucial role in the brewing scene of Colonial America. They were the unsung heroes who brought their home brewing skills across the Atlantic. There is some historical evidence that some women were even ‘imported’ for their expertise in brewing, among other domestic skills. Both skill sets were essential for the establishment of a stable colony.

Beer was not just a drink; it was a part of the colonial diet, consumed by all. In prosperous colonies it was common for drinking to start before breakfast and continue with every meal throughout the day. This democratic beverage transcended social classes and became a unifying element of colonial life.

As the colonies grew, so did the brewing industry. Several breweries were established, and by the mid-17th century, New York alone had at least ten breweries serving a population of about 1,600. These breweries often became an economic backbone of the community. Some brewers rose to wealth and influence, and actively participated in government.

The American Revolution saw beer playing a role as well. It was a comforting presence in turbulent times, a reminder of the familiar amidst the chaos of war. The beverage continued to be a dietary staple, and the breweries that had been established continued to serve their communities.

The history of beer and breweries in Colonial America is a rich tapestry woven into the very fabric of the nation’s foundation. It is a story of survival, ingenuity, and community. Beer was more than just a beverage; it was a vital part of colonial life, a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the early American settlers.

The brewers at Mudshark Brewery and Public House in Lake Havasu City, Arizona are proud to carry on the tradion of the great American brew. Cheers to the colonial brewers, who laid the groundwork for us to play a role in the evolution of the diverse American beer culture!

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America