How Breweries Like Coors, Yuengling And Anheuser-Busch Survived Prohibition
Prohibition crippled a thriving brewing industry in the United States. Between 1900 and 1913, beer production in the United States rose from 1.2 billion gallons to 2 billion gallons. By 1916, there were approximately 1,300 breweries in the country. But four years later, a nationwide ban on alcohol went into effect.
Only a handful of breweries were still standing when Prohibition lifted in 1933. Their secret? Switching production to something other than beer. These breweries made everything from ceramics and ice cream to barely alcoholic “near beer,” which used the same machinery as brewing beer. Some of these products were so successful that the breweries continued making them long after the end of Prohibition.
Here’s a look at what some of these breweries did to survive:
Faced with the looming threat of Prohibition, Coors started a ceramics business, taking advantage of the clay deposits around the brewery’s headquarters in Golden, Colorado. Today, Coors’ ceramics business, called CoorsTek, makes more money for the Coors family than its beer business does, according to Dan Alexander’s FORBES feature story on CoorsTek. With $1.25 billion in sales, CoorsTek is the world’s largest engineered-ceramics manufacturer.
Founded in 1829 and owned today by billionaire Dick Yuengling, the brewery weathered Prohibition by opening the Yuengling Ice Cream & Dairy plant, which operated until 1985. It resumed making ice cream last year.
Its two dozen nonalcoholic Prohibition products included a nonalcoholic malt beverage called Bevo, ice cream, soft drinks and truck bodies.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
This Wisconsin-based brewery switched from making beer to making cheese. Aged in the brewery’s ice cellars, Pabst-ett cheese was sold to Kraft in 1933 at the end of Prohibition.
Family-owned Detroit-based Stroh’s made malt syrup and ice cream. The brewery survived Prohibition, but the family-once one of America’s richest-hasn’t been able to hold onto its fortune. Stroh’s Brewery was sold in pieces to Miller and Pabst in 1999.
Schell’s Brewing Company
Founded in 1860, the Minnesota-based brewery kept its beer-making machinery busy producing soft drinks, candy and near beer during Prohibition.
Minhas Craft Brewery
Wisconsin-based Blumer Brewing Company (as Minhas Craft Brewery was known in 1920) became Blumer Products Company during Prohibition. The company distributed case tractors, separators, silo fillers and road machinery.
Utica Club soft drinks and other non-alcoholic products helped the brewery, which was founded in 1888, stay in business through Prohibition.
Pittsburgh Brewing Company
Pittsburgh Brewery survived Prohibition by making near beer and ice cream, in addition to running a cold storage facility.
Stephens Point Brewery
Wisconsin-based Stephens Point Brewery kept busy during Prohibition selling near-beer and soft drinks.