Urban Explorations Urban Explorations

Where to Go to Visit the Oldest Breweries in America

To commemorate National Beer Day, throw back a cold one for history

How will you celebrate National Beer Day? (© SuperStock/Corbis)

Eighty-two years ago, at 12:01 a.m. on April 7, 1933, celebrations broke out at breweries across the country—it was finally once again legal to open up a cold one. The Cullen-Harrison Act (signed into law by President Roosevelt a few weeks before) went into effect that night, allowing for the sale and consumption of beer of up to 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. While the act also allowed certain low-alcohol wines to be produced, it was the beer industry that truly celebrated this fortunate turn of events. When the clock struck a minute past midnight trucks emerged from the breweries, ready to deliver cases of beer to a thirsty nation. The famed Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales also made their first appearance that day, clattering down the streets of New York City, beer in tow and thousands cheering them on. While Prohibition wouldn’t officially be overturned until few months later, April 7 has been marked by beer enthusiasts as the day to celebrate, and is now known as National Beer Day.

Historians seem to agree that President Roosevelt signed the act in an effort to create jobs and tax revenue, not out of his own love for beer. That said, a myth persists that President Roosevelt exclaimed “I consider this ought to be a high-quality time for a[n] ale” upon adding his autograph to the act.

As President and CEO of the Beer Institute Jim McGreevy points out, no one is quite sure when or who first celebrated National Beer Day. “We are not sure of the exact origin of the day, but it certainly celebrates an important moment in American history,” he notes. That said, McGreevy knows exactly where he’ll be: “I’m going to be in a bar with some folks, raising a glass to the signing of the Cullen-Harrison Act.”

Here are five of the oldest breweries in America that would be happy to have you celebrate National Beer Day with them: 

DG Yuengling & Son Inc.

It may come as a surprise that Yuengling is actually the oldest brewery in America. Founded in 1829 by German immigrant David G. Yuengling, it was originally called Eagle Brewery. To get through Prohibition, the company made ice cream, which can still be purchased. Since 1831, the building on Mahantongo Street in the small Pennsylvania town of Pottsville has acted as the company’s headquarters and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. You can still visit the nearly 200-year-old beer-making facility today.

About Matt Blitz

Matt Blitz is a history and travel writer. His work has been featured on CNN, Atlas Obscura, Curbed, Nickelodeon, and Today I Found Out. He also runs the Obscura Society DC and is a big fan of diners.

Read more from this author |

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus