Historical Tidbits: Beer. Foreign Investors, 1889

In the 1880s and 1890s, British investors enjoyed what can only be described as an excess of cash. No surprise, they hunted for places to invest it: Africa, Asia (especially China), South America. And, of course, the United States, where they poured money into railroads, mines, cattle ranching — and brewing. Dozens of American brewing companies passed into British hands, including Blatz Brewing (for $3 million in stock, or $60 million in today’s dollars). Many brewers applauded this trend, including the editor of the nation’s most important brewing trade journal, Western Brewer

:

“Though it may conflict with the American idea of patriotism that the breweries of this country should pass to . . . the control of foreign capitalists,” he wrote, the British invasion should be seen as evidence that “the brewing business is in good substantial condition, that beer is becoming the popular beverage of Americans and that intelligent . . . foreigners with money to invest believe that the fanatics” who favored prohibition were “fast losing ground.”

Indeed, he added, rising sales indicated that beer was on its way to becoming “the national beverage.” Moreover, the fact that Americans preferred beer to “hard liquors” indicated “steady progress” toward “rational temperance.” This, the editor concluded, was likely the “leading factor in the calculation of the [British] investors.”

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Source: “The Lesson of the Syndicates,” Western Brewer 14 (June 1889): 1294.

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