A Brief History of Beer Laws

Current Events, Exploring HeinOnline, Law Journal Library, Statutes at Large, Subject Compilations of State Laws
Shannon Furtak

It's American Craft Beer Week! With locally-owned breweries popping up in cities all over the country, the small-business beer industry is booming and rejuvenating formerly abandoned industrial areas in the process. Of course, beer is (usually) alcohol, and alcohol and the law have had a rather contentious relationship throughout American history. Check out this brief timeline of events, and click the available links to access the laws in HeinOnline:

  • On January 28, 1919, the Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment was enacted, creating the Prohibition Era. The amendment took effect officially on January 29, 1920. The intention was to legislate morality and eliminate alcohol, which was seen by many as a destructive force in families and marriages. The actual result was increased illegal production and sale of liquor, the creation of speakeasies, which were clandestine illegal drinking spots, and a rise in gang violence and other crimes related to Prohibition.
  • Prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.
  • On October 14, 1978, Public Law No. 95-458 was enacted, legalizing the home production of a small amount of beer or wine for personal consumption.
  • On July 17, 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by Congress, forcing all states to raise the legal drinking age to 21 by threatening to withhold federal funds.

HeinOnline's Subject Compilations of State Laws database contains beer as one of its hundreds of subjects; browse an extensive list of resources available which compare subject-specific laws among states. Other related subjects will also display:

Check out this page from the Buffalo Evening News in the Legal Classics library, which discusses multiple aspects of beer law, prohibition, and state law comparisons in 1933:

Run an advanced catalog search for beer in the publication title field, and receive results from Legal Classics, U.S. Congressional Documents and more. A general search across all HeinOnline collections for documents with the words "beer AND law" in the article or section title reveals scholarly articles in the Law Journal Library, congressional hearings, and public laws on this topic. A more specific search for "craft beer" AND regulat* produces several on-point articles pertaining directly to the craft brewing industry:

For help researching any topic in HeinOnline, contact our dedicated support team at (800) 277-6995, email us, or chat with us. We hope all craft brewing and beer aficionados enjoy this celebratory week!



Comments 2

  1. Extremely helpful resource for my law course in Practice Ready Research Skills, which uses Beer Law as the vehicle to teach research.

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