Seventy-Five Years Ago: FDR Asks for Beer

Counting Down to April 7, the Anniversary of the Return of Legal Beer

On March 13, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt sent Congress a short message: Please amend the Volstead Act to allow the sale of beer with an “alcoholic” content.

Americans had elected FDR the previous November because the nation was mired in the disaster that we now call the Great Depression. The new president promised to get the economy up and running again.

Bringing back beer was part of the plan: Legalize beer and brewers could re-open their doors. In doing so, they’d hire thousands of workers (whose paychecks would then circulate through the economy), spend millions of dollars refurbishing their dilapidated breweries (more workers, more paychecks), and deposit hefty tax revenues into federal, state, and local treasuries.

Congress had laid the groundwork the previous December, when a committee in the House of Representatives discussed the details, including the all-important matter of how much alcohol beer ought to contain. (Brewers urged Congress to allow at least 3.2%.)

Now it was up to both the House and the Senate to agree on the legislation and send the bill on to the president. An impatient nation urged them to move quickly.

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