Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

We celebrate our independence, our history, our “American-ness” in July.

This July we can celebrate being Americans while watching the Olympics and the Stanley Cup finals.

July is the month we celebrate the birthday of the United States. Even before we were our own country, beer was essential to American life.

Native Americans brewed beer long before we declared our independence. The first record of non-native brewing dates from 1587 in Virginia, while the first shipment of beer arrived from England in the Virginia colony in 1607.

In 1614 the first non-native American baby was born in a brewhouse in New Amsterdam. Jean Vigne grew up to become the first brewer born in the New World.

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in the Massachusetts Colony in 1620. The Mayflower was close to running out of its supply of beer, and the crew sent the passengers ashore to ensure they had enough beer for their return trip.

Brewing, and breweries, spread throughout the colonies. In 1765 a brewery was built in a French colonial settlement in what is now Illinois, the first brewery outside the thirteen original colonies.

In 1772, back in England, a mixture of dark to light malts called Porter was first brewed, though it failed to gain popularity in America.

The American Revolution was fueled by beer. Congress authorized a ration of one quart of spruce beer or cider for each serviceman each day.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had breweries on their estates. John Hancock was known to enjoy a well-crafted brew, going back to his student days at Harvard. Patrick Henry owned a tavern where he tended bar. Of course, we already know about Sam Adams.

After the Revolution, George Washington would only drink Porter brewed in America.

During the 1800s two major factors shaped the role of beer in American history. The first was unrest in Germany which encouraged significant German emigration to the United States. This wave of immigration included a large number of experienced German brewers and German brewing methods. These immigrants brought with them a style of beer which would become synonymous with American brewing, the Pilsner.

The second factor was the development, state by state, of a temperance movement which pushed for prohibition of all alcoholic beverages, including beer.

By 1880, the number of breweries in the United States was declining, though industrial methods of production and distribution meant fewer breweries could produce more beer.

As the United States developed from an agricultural society to became more industrial, families moved from farms into cities and towns. Their habits, such as beer for breakfast, raised concerns about workplace safety. One safety proposal was prohibiting the consumption of beer and other alcoholic beverages.

In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution calling for Prohibition was ratified. In 1933, the 21st Amendment, repealing the 18th, was ratified.

It was not until 1978 the United States legalized the home production of a small amount of beer or wine for personal consumption. The home brewing community sparked the explosion of small craft breweries.

Craft beer has even been brewed in the White House.

In 2016, the number of breweries in the United States surpassed 5,000 for the first time.

Beer has played a pivotal role in the development and history of the United States.

In addition to celebrating beer’s role in American life, July is also conducive to tasting beer because it is a long, warm month.

Now, I tend to prefer darker, heavier beers like Porters and Stouts. I also enjoy many of the winter seasonal beers many breweries produce. It is difficult to argue, though, the heat of July does not make drinking beer a pleasant way to spend time.

Warm weather enhances the experience of drinking cold beer. It brings out the flavor of lighter beers and increases my enjoyment of hoppy IPAs. Visiting the nearest brewery or tasting room is a great way to experience the joys of July for yourself.

There are, of course, many other ways to taste summertime craft brews. Reopening beer bars and restaurants, picnics, and grilling at home are all great ways to try new beers. I understand some people even drink beer at baseball games.

July is an excellent opportunity to try lighter beers, but remember the flavor, and the alcohol content, of the beer do not always coincide with its color. Beer which looks lighter is not necessarily lighter tasting, or lower in alcohol by volume.

Celebrate like an American and try something new this July.

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg has served as an assistant district attorney and an associate university professor.

Greg’s website is and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at, and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel on

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