Beer (& More) In Food

Beer: The Condiment With An Attitude!

Archive for December, 2007

Tales From The Other Side (of the bar)

Posted by Bob Skilnik on December 29, 2007

gleasonjoebartender.gifI stored this awhile ago and now I can’t remember where it came from, but if you’re venturing out this New Years Eve, here’s a little advice on how to conduct yourself…from the perspective of your bartender(ess); 

Someone once pointed out to me the fact that there seems to be a micro-economy in the service industry. Restaurant workers take their tip money out to bars and clubs at night and give it to the bartenders, who promptly return it to the waiters and waitresses the next day at lunch. The cycle is almost self-sufficient and is mutually beneficial. Knowing the pain of waiting on customers, each group tips the other well and never raises a fuss. These people do not need to be educated. The rest of you do.

Many of us have stood in a noisy, crowded bar and asked, “What’s a guy got to do to get a drink around here?” Well, you’re about to find out. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that will keep the relationship between the bartender and bar patron running smoothly.


Fail To Have Your Money Ready

We’re waiting on you. Everyone else is waiting on us. Therefore, by the Transitive Property of Equality, everyone is waiting on you. Rule #1: Have your shit together. Not only will following Rule #1 get you served quicker in a bar, it’s a good general rule to adopt in life and is especially helpful in Central American border crossing scenarios.


This is an absolute No-No. You whistle at dogs and pretty ladies, not people.

Wave Money

Oh, you’ve got a dollar!! I’ll be right over!! Hopefully I won’t break an ankle in my fevered rush to get you your “curz lite.” Well, at least you’re not breaking the next rule.

Yell Out The Bartender’s First Name

There’s something deeply psychologically disturbing about hearing your name called out, turning around and seeing a complete stranger. That’s one of the reasons strippers use stage names. Bartender’s do too. Mine is Pixie.

Say “Make It Strong!” or “Put A Lot Of Liquor In It”

Oh, you’re one of the rare drinkers that like their drink strong! When you say this, you’re assuming I make weak drinks (which is insulting) and you’re assuming that I’ll stiffen this one up for my new best buddy, you. This is the best way to get a weak drink.

Give The Ever-Expanding Drink Order

You want a Bud. I go get it. I come back and now you want a Margarita. Okay, no prob. I come back, and (oh yeah!) now you want a shot of Tequila, too. You really could have told us this all at once. See Rule #1.

Pull The Redirect (Or The Bait ‘n’ Switch)

Usually used after the money wave or the whistle, this is when the gentlemen passes his turn to the lady behind him. Yeah, um, don’t do that, okay? Chances are she’s not ready, and your weak attempt at chivalry just cost you your turn. See you in 30 minutes.

Try The Confused, Lost Look

This is usually accompanied by the question “What kind of beer y’all got?” while looking at all the beers we have. You did know you were in a bar, right? You didn’t just appear here, did you? Refer to Rule #1.

Order High Maintenance Shooters

Example: “Lemme get an Alabama Slammer, a Red Snapper, two Kamikazes, a Buttery Nipple and a Lemon Drop.” Usually followed by a small tip. People, these shooters are fine by themselves, but there are multiple steps involved with each one. Translation: Time Sink. You may get them this time, but you’ll probably be waited on last the next time we see your face. Here’s a clue as to whether or not you’re high maintenance; if two bartenders are working and they see you, and they flip a coin and the loser comes over to take your order, pretty good chance you’re high maintenance.

Assume We Know You’re In The Band

We know, we know, you’re gonna be really famous, but you’re not there yet, tiger. Tell us you’re in the band and which band you’re in. By the way, if you are in a band and get free/reduced drink prices, feel free to tip, as most bartenders are also in bands! It’s not like we don’t know how it is. Oh, and our bands will smoke your band.

Assume We Know You, Period

Unless you’ve followed the first “Do” rule below, we don’t remember you. You are one of a thousand faces for us, and when you point at an empty glass or a beer bottle that’s invariably facing away from us, your attempt at a shortcut backfires. Tell us what you want.

Apologize For Sucking

Don’t apologize for not tipping. Acknowledging that you suck is not the same as not sucking. Oh, and don’t say “I’ll get ya next time.” We know all about you.

Assume Soft Drinks Are Free

Are they free at McDonald’s? Are they free at Wal-Mart? Are they free anywhere? I blame M.A.D.D. for this myth.

Put Pennies And Nickels In The Tip Jar

We don’t want that crap in our pockets any more than you do. We don’t have anything smaller than quarters. Have you ever ordered a drink that cost $3.17?

Be “The Microbrew Aficionado”

Usually a pseudo-hippy who can’t tip a quarter but can’t bring himself to drink “schwag,” and who has to sample some new berry-wheat-harvest-ale that he heard about at Burning Man. “Do you have the new Vernal-Equinox Special Welcome-Fest?” “Does Anyone?” Here’s your Newcastle. Go.

Be “The Daddy Warbucks”

Dressed in classic day-trader wear, this loud, boisterous guy smokes cigars and orders Martinis and generally exudes an air of money. Until the tip. We hate you.

Be A “Whiney Baby”

Under no circumstances should you ever whine to a bartender when asked to see your ID. Our jobs depend on them, and when we spot a fake/expired ID, don’t argue; we’ve seen and heard it all a million times before, and it will get you absolutely nowhere. If you “don’t have one” or “forgot it,” forget it; you don’t belong out on the town in the first place. That’s the law, plain and simple. If we don’t have the law, the terrorists win. You don’t want the terrorists to win, do you? Bring your ID. Remember Rule #1, from a minute ago?



Tip heavy right off the bat, and you’re the first person we aim for every time you come up to the bar. Did you get that? Go back and read it again. The word will spread to the other bartenders and you’ll be treated like a prince. It will pay off in better drinks and the occasional free one.

Be Patient

All you really need to do to get waited on is make eye contact. We see you, and we’ll get to you before the guy right next to you waving money and whistling. Remember, this isn’t insulin we’re passing out here. If you really need the drink that bad, you’ve got a problem to address, Jack. The meek shall inherit the bar.

Be An Attractive Female (Or If You’re Cruising Chicago’s North Halsted), An Attractive Dude

As in life, this goes far.

If this comes across as a little petty, remember: bartenders are a jaded lot.


Posted in Drink In General | 1 Comment »

Help Gambrinus Media Get Off The Ground

Posted by Bob Skilnik on December 27, 2007

beer_tramp.gifI’ve been writing and watching my books get published with varying degrees of success since 1999. Between ’99 and the present, I’ve been on ABC’s “The View,” ESPN2, the Fox News Channel,” local Chicago TV and have done more radio programs than I can remember. I’ve also done about one-hundred paid lectures and presentations about beer, beer and brewery histories, and the occasional consultation on how to get published.

My bio states that my latest book, Beer & Food: An American History is my seventh book, but that’s a little white lie. I actually put together a 100-pager a few years ago that was done as a work-for-hire job, a move that can pay well up front but you lose any and all rights to the  publication after it goes to press. Basically, you whore yourself out for the almighty dollar, but if you have the time and can crank out a small book at double-time, it can be worth a fiscal shot in the arm. For about forty-hours worth of work over one month, I picked up a couple of grand plus change.

Eight books, five with traditional publishers, two through vanity presses (some people call this approach Print-On-Demand…POD, incorrect since printing is a process, not a publication approach) and one work-for-hire option. That leaves one avenue that I haven’t dealt with (at least not yet!)…self-publishing. I don’t mean going with 1st Books, iUniverse or any vanity presses that newbies think are independent self-publishers. I mean actually starting up my own publishing house, Gambrinus Media. My next book will be published through Gambrinus Media, and after I digest the whole process, I’ll begin to solict manuscripts from budding authors-to-be that deal with all aspects of beer, wine and spirits; that means cooking with, enjoying, history of, etc.

I do this because I’ve seen it all, especially this year. Barricade Books, publisher of Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago, declared Chapter 11 protection in October, i.e., bankruptcy. Jefferson Press, publisher of Beer & Food: An American History, promised me the world in terms of marketing and support for the book. Having been doing this for awhile, I knew that publisher talk is cheap; unless it’s in the contract, it ain’t gonna happen. My agent had faith. I didn’t. I was right.

During the week before Christmas, you couldn’t buy this book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble because none were available. The biggest book-buying season and Beer & Food: An American History was not available on the biggest online book stores. It might have been the fault of the distributor. It might have been the fault of Jefferson Press. Owning your own publishing house means the only one you can blame is yourself. I think I’ll take my chances with myself.

But in order to do this properly, I need seed money. Since most of the liquour store owners around my house know me, knocking over one of their stores is out of the question. If you’ve got a book in you and need some advice, I do consult and my hourly fee is extremely reasonable. Drop me a line at  and I’ll give you almost ten years worth of advice on publishing approaches, including how to get published…and once your are published, how to sell your book. HINT: Getting published is a hell of a lot easier than getting people to buy your book.
Phase II of this overal plan is a website devoted entirely to videos of food recipes prepared with beer, wine, sakis, liquor and liqueurs as ingredients. In addition, I will be doing audiocast interviews of the mover and shakers in the drink trade, including brewers, vintners, distillers, distributors and importers. This new Web 2.0 site will open around the end of July. At the moment, the links are working, but it’s really a soft opening. There’ll be much more to come.

So far, I’ve tried to get the cooperation of home cooks to send videos we could use for Beer (& More) In Food and the response has been a dismal failure. While I agree that posting videos to sites like is great, there are too many categories or channels, diluting the impact of your video of making a vodka red sauce, for instance, or something like a nice tiramisu using a milk stout. These kinds of videos get lost on the shuffle. But if let us know you’ve posted a nice beer/wine/booze food recipe to youtube, or Yahoo or Google, let us know so that we can also download your video to our upcoming site. If people want to show their cooking skills to a receptive audience, this new site will be the place to come to.

You won’t get lost in the shuffle.

If you’re a brewer, vintner, distiller, cook or chef, or an importer, distributor or ad agency looking to reach a dedicated and growing audience of food and drink enthusiasts looking for “how-to” advice, whether making a great recipe or drink, then you’ll be coming to the right place!

Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV is looking to foster relationships with people and businesses in the food and drink trades. With your help, we’ll be extending our reach and activity into the huge community of equally fervent food and drink enthusiasts, people at home who want to try new dishes, taste new wines, beers, and liquors and liqueurs, whether in their home kitchens, their home bars or at your establishments.

Sponsorship opportunities exist in a number of places — but we want to add options beyond traditional “radio ad spots” or “banner ads,” although these tried-and-true and affordable approaches will work as well for our current format.

Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV wants to make sponsors an active part of our Web 2.0 community as well. We’re not looking for just ads, but short videos that offer genuine advice—how-to videos as information and entertainment vehicles to demonstrate your expertise and the key selling points of your business or product. Some might call these efforts “infomercials,” and that’s fine with us, as long as the “sell” is soft and the informational and educational aspects of your video presentations firm.

Sponsorship at Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV is more than advertising; it’s about opening up lines of communication with the Web 2.0 community, and finding out what they really want. And we’re flexible in terms of how this sponsorship will work; it may include doing guest video segments on our shows, podcast interviews promoting your business or product, links back to to your website, or product and information downloads from Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV with targeted advertising…and more. Let’s talk!

We want to work with sponsors that we ourselves believe in; so we can truthfully and honestly promote your products and services. That means sending us samples of your products that we can also use in our video and audio productions, adding additional  Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV support to your efforts.

Our advertising rates are reasonable and we have a number of low-cost ideas that will get your products noticed by site visitors. If you’re interested in more information, please contact author, guest speaker, and TV and radio personality, Bob Skilnik at

I’m now in the process of interviewing a couple of respected brewers, chefs and book authors for upcoming podcasts about food and drink, and soon beginning video productions in our Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV kitchen of exciting new food and drink recipes. As I continue to build site content, it will be the place that food and drink enthusiasts will constanly be coming back to. Why search the web looking for this kind of content when Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV will be the One-Stop, the only stop, that you’ll need for this kind of info?

End of July and I’ll be ready to unveil the new site. Stay tuned.

Posted in Editorial | 2 Comments »

Hop-onomics 101

Posted by Bob Skilnik on December 21, 2007

hop-cones.jpgI’ve been watching the brewing industry revelations with interests that hops and apparently barley too are in short supply. Looking past the next few years, most industry insiders predict things will get worse before they get better.

Why such a low hop (and barley) supply? Long story short, weather conditions, a free market, political considerations that encourage farmers to switch to high-yield and higher-profit corn (“Let’s go green with ethanol! Sure it’s tax-subsidized so any savings are a wash, but it makes us feel warm and fuzzy!”) and a further demonstration that most craft brewers still look at brewing beer as an art, rather than the business it is. The majority of craft brewers never thought of locking in prices with speculation in the hops futures market. The big boys do it, ensuring that they will know the future price of hops not yet harvested while also giving themselves a decent estimate as to what kind of future expense to expect for future hop supplies. More importantly, hop futures also give the smart brewer the ability to lock-in a future supply of hops.

There is a risk with hops futures speculation; if the hop prices prove lower, the brewers still have to pay whatever price they’ve locked themselves into, even if it’s higher than the so-called “spot market,” the current price of hops, but you’ll still be assured a supply of hops, when other “artists” won’t. It’s a risk, but at least you’ve not only planned for a future brewing expense, you’ve also ensured your brewery an adequate supply of hops to be. As a craft brewer whose cash flow is often less than tentative, you’d think that more of them would have jumped into the hops futures market as a planned and controlled expense-to-be. Instead, they’re out in the market right now, begging for hops, and either paying a high price for them or foregoing certain types of hops all together. Supply and demand; feast or famine.

From a historical perspective, a glance through 100-year old issues of The Western Brewer, arguably the most renowned and available of the old brewing trade journals, clearly demonstrates that hop supplies have fallen short of brewers demands throughout the history of brewing in the U.S. When the nineteenth century brewing industry was emerging as a big business, newspapers often reported the brewing business like newspapers today talk about Apple or Microsoft. Back in the day, you could pick up any big city newspaper, especially in a brewing center like Chicago or New York, and read all about hops futures and the old brewers’ problems with supply and demand. Pick up a copy of my Beer & Food: An American History and you’ll see that brewing in the English colonies, the young United States, during the food control acts of pre-Prohibition, National Prohibition itself, in World Wars I and II, and even the post-World War years, there has always been a struggle in the brewing industry between the feast or famine effect of supply and demand.

Current brewing newspapers, magazines, blogs, and such, are filled with stories of brewers who have had to chase high hop prices with the limited funds they have. The more interesting story, as I historically see this playing out, is something that no one’s talking about; will beer styles disappear? As hop production moved from the East Coast to the West during the 1880s-1890s, hop prices skyrocketed in the form of shipping charges as most of the country’s beer production was still in the Midwest and East. As a result, brewers were forced to lower the amount of hops they used.

Already we’re reading stories about brewers cutting back on the production of their IPAs and other high-hopped beers. Jim Koch at The Boston Beer Company has had to defer the brewing of this years winning LongShot homebrewers’ competition entry because the recipe’s hop bill was a bit too esoteric in its scope, indicative that the rarer hops—prized by some craft brewers—will be the most affected by current market conditions. Perhaps of most importance will be a shift in buying patterns as the big brewers, who yes, have always worked the hops and grains futures market, entice craft beer drinkers with their own interpretations of craft beers…something like a Coors Blue Moon or a Leinie Sunset Wheat, backed by deep pockets for advertising and marketing efforts. Having customarily worked the supply futures market as a part of doing business, and having the advantage of economies of scale, they might also crank out pseudo-Belgians, muted hop-monsters, and lower-alcohol “Imperials” with ease. While craft brewers either cut brands or start to try to recoup high hops (and let’s not forget barley) prices by making “adjustments” to the price of their beers, price-sensitive craft beer drinkers might mossy over to a nice 50-pack stack display of CoorsMillerBud-brewed “Imperial” Stout cases in the middle of the aisle of their local liquor store and kick its tires, so to speak.

Supply and demand has “helped” change the U.S. beers of 1792 into the kinds of beers that about 80% of American beer drinkers purchase in 2007. There’s no reason to believe that the craft beer sector is impervious to change, either voluntarily or not.
On a side note; how will the lack of hops affect the too-contrived beer style guidelines hammered together by those folks in Colorado (C’mon…What the hell’s a “Light Hybrid Beer?” Really; who comes up with this stuff?) When guidelines are calling for hop International Bitterness Units (IBUs) between 50-90+ or describing a beer with “Medium to aggressively high bitterness,” what’s going to happen if brewers decide that they can no longer afford to brew that type of beer? I see beer judges in upcoming beer competitions sipping on more “Light Hybrids” than “Russian Imperial Stouts,” or for that matter, anything with the word “Imperial” on the label.

How about some of the more hard-hitting beers that are to be entered into next year’s homebrewing contests? If Jim Koch, of all people, can’t find hops for homebrewer Mike McDole’s LongShot winning double IPA, when will the ripple effect take place with homebrewers and their contest entries?

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer History | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Nutritional Info For Some Sierra Nevada Products

Posted by Bob Skilnik on December 15, 2007


Sierra Nevada                                                                

Bigfoot      12 oz    20–24.7 g carbs     Varies according to season

Pale Ale     12 oz      14.13 g carbs     160 calories      4.82% abv

Porter       12 oz      18.39 g carbs     170 calories      5.34% abv

Stout        12 oz                        199 calories      5.10% abv


Posted in Beer And Calories, Beer And Carbohydrates, Beer Nutritional Info, calories in beer, carbohydrates in beer, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

National Prohibition; Its REAL Anniversary

Posted by Bob Skilnik on December 4, 2007


Unloading beer behind the Hilton, April 7, 1933

December 5, 1933 notes a “first” in constitutional history. It was on this day, 75 years ago, that American voters, through state referendums, added the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It was the first time in our history that a constitutional amendment was passed, not simply by the will of legislators, but instead through popular mandate, i.e., the power of the U.S. citizenry. For some of us, December 5, 1933 will always be remembered as the end of National Prohibition. Unfortunately, there are too many writers and trade organizations who should know this, but have chosen, instead, to revise U.S. history for their own purposes, and if I might, usually for self-promoting ones.

You might recall my rants back in April when organizations like the Brewers Association, the A & E network and Anheuser-Busch, with its pimping of “The American Brew” an hour-long movie commissioned by the St. Louis brewery, and beer geek sites like Beeradvocate proclaimed April 7 as the day that Prohibition was “repealed today in 1933.” The Jacksonville Business Journal went so far as to proclaim that “The 21st amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect April 7, 1933…” , an amazing feat since the states hadn’t even gotten around to setting up constitutional referendums and state conventions to vote for delegates who would set the constitutional change into effect. They weren’t alone in repeating this historical inaccuracy, but the list of offenders would probably be longer than this entire blog entry.

So once again, let me beat this dead horse one more time. The passages below are from my book, Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago, (I have NEW copies, signed, available at Amazon under the NEW/USED link) and gives the story of events leading up to December 5, 1933 from a Windy City perspective. But throughout the story, the thread leading up to the end of Prohibition can be found.

On another note, keep in mind that April 7, 1933 brought back beer, and only beer with an alcoholic strength of 3.2 % alcohol by weight. Although somewhat an arbitrary alcohol level, it was the result of a modification of the Volstead Act that was passed by Congress on October 27, 1919 in order to put an end to the brewing industry’s question, as it pertained to the 18th Amendment, of what constituted an “intoxicating beverage.” Typical of laws that Congress passes—even today—it usually falls into the robed lap of courts to sort out a vague bill or amendment that is the result of compromise or simply a rush to get something passed. In the case of the 18th, the brewers claimed that the mandated cessation of the manufacturing of “intoxicating beverages,” as proclaimed in the amendment was too vague, and until a legal definition of what constituted an “intoxicating beverage” could be determined, the 18th Amendment would be open to challenge. Before this predicament dropped into the lap of courts, Congress went back and defined the alcoholic strength of any beverage with a content of 1/2 of 1% of alcohol to be considered “intoxicating.” This was done through the passage of the Volstead Act in the fall of 1919.

What brought 3.2% beer back on April 7 was merely a rewriting of the Volstead Act. There was no consitutional amendment, no nullification of the 18th nor passage of the the yet-to-be-voted-on 21st Amendment. A month earlier, on March 13, President Roosevelt used the bully pulpit of his office to formally recommend to Congress a looser interpretation of the Volstead Act, which limited alcohol in beer to one-half of one percent. “I recommend to the Congress the passage of legislation for the immediate modification of the Volstead Act, in order to legalize the manufacture and sale of beer…”

On March 21, 1933, the United States House of Representatives completed action on the Cullen-Harrison bill, permitting the resumption of the manufacture and sale of 3.2% beer and light wines in those states that were now legally considered wet. The next morning, President Roosevelt was scheduled to sign the bill, but a bureaucratic mix-up postponed his signing until March 23. If the bill had been signed by FDR on March 21, as originally scheduled, 3.2% beer would have actually returned on April 5, since the bill stipulated a 15-waiting period before it could go into effect. 

With 3.2% beer’s return on April 7, 1933, that still left wine, liqueurs or liquor to deal with. It actually meant that stonger beers would also have to wait for their return. Nobody was toasting April 7 with a barleywine in hand. There’s also an interesting sidenote here, suggested by the dates of the Cullen-Harrison bill and FDR’s delay in signing the bill until March 23.

At this time in U.S. beer history, the brewing industry was still under the influence of German and German-American brewers. Lager was the most popular beer, not a surprise with wide-girthed Braumeisters still turning out the golden brew. One demonstrated point of their pride of product during the pre-Prohibition era was the brewers’ insistence of a lagering period of at least one month. Now with events as chaotic as they were prior to April 7, and with FDR’s delayed signing of the C-H bill on March 23, they would have had to be clairvoyant to have good-quality and properly aged beer conveniently ready for April 7.

So how did they do it? They used weaker, and I would go as far as to claim, inferior beer. In Chicago alone, there were 5 legally-licensed breweries that were pumping out real beer and then extracting the alcohol from the beer and selling it as “cereal beverage,” in other words, near beer. I made an earlier reference back in April that the beer was “weak-assed” and some beer blogger made the remark with some disdain that there was nothing wrong with weak beer, or as geeks like to put it “session beer.” I agree; there is nothing wrong with lighter-alcohol session beers. If your group is babbling at the bar after something like 3 barleywines or Imperial Stouts, it might be an early end to your little bier klatsch…and that’s no fun. But think about what you would do if you were a brewer back then. How would you handle the grain and hops bill if you knew that in the final process, you would be required to boil the hell out of the beer and collect the vapors of alcohol for shipment to a government-bonded warehouse where alcohol was stored? Would you start with a nice heaving load of fine Moravian malts, maybe throw some crystal malt in for color and a little more body, and then dip into your supply of “noble” hops for character; maybe some for bittering and then topping off the batch with a touch for some added nose?

Of course not! You’d probably use some indifferent malt—and certainly not a lot—and most likely the minimum amount of hops (and who knows how old those hops were?) Why strive for a quality brew when you knew that the beers would be stripped of alcohol and then, either at the local speakeasy or on the delivery truck, the beer would be injected with alcohol through the bung-hole of the wooden barrel, giving rise to the Roaring Twenties speakeasy standby, “needle beer?”

To give you another example of the quality of the beer that was consumed on April 7 and somewhat beyond, city and federal agents were hitting the streets and testing beers in Chicago on April 7, 1933 to make sure the brewers were conforming to the 3.2% alcohol by weight limit, about 4% alcohol by volume (abv). Not one beer sample was in violation. On the contrary, the agents remarked that the beers were well below the legal limit. Why? Because the beer that rolled into the streets of the U.S.A. on April 7 was the indifferent beer that had been brewed for alcohol extraction, brewed to be near beer. It was brewed with the least amount of grains and hops and probably hard to argue that it had been aged for at least a month. What would be the purpose?

After the euphoria and initial beer supplies ran out throughout U.S. breweries, the suds factories started turning out “green” beer, beers that demonstrated little lagering, if any at all. It became so bad that Blatz (and others) began running full-page newspaper ads, thanking FDR for bringing “Democratic” beer back to the masses while pledging to the President and all beer drinkers in the country that they would release no beer, despite the demand, until it had gone through a proper period of maturation. That wasn’t “session beer,” my blogging critic, that was shit beer that they were drinking in the aftermath of April 7, 1933.

But boy, did I digress. Ah yes, December 5, 1933…

As required by Congress, Illinois was busying itself in late April of 1933 in preparation for a state election and convention to act on the 21st Amendment, hopefully to repeal the disastrous 18th Amendment. After Congress had refused the state’s request for a special cash grant to fund state elections for Repeal, Illinois decided to incorporate a June judicial election with the Repeal election, combining the expenses of two separate elections. Downstate democrats, however, worried that incorporating the judicial election and the vote for Repeal might bring about a backlash from local dry advocates and hurt the chances of some of their Democratic judges running for reelection. As a result of this political concern, the Illinois State Senate, led by these wary Democratic forces, unbelievably voted to postpone the election for Repeal until April of 1934. 

Republicans had a field day with the Senate vote, expressing disbelief that the same party that had been swept into the Oval Office on a platform of repeal, the party of “democratic beer,” was now voting to delay the state ratification of Repeal. “Evidently,” sneered State Senator Martin R. Carlson of Moline, “you Democrats don’t care to repeal the 18th Amendment.”

Colonel Ira L. Reeves of Chicago, Commander of the anti-Prohibition organization called the Crusaders, and a pro-Repeal lobbyist, thought he saw a darker explanation for the actions of the Democrats. “Naturally they (the brewers) want to prolong their present monopoly as long as possible, and apparently they are lining up the downstate dry legislators to accomplish that purpose.” Reeves went on to suggest that brewers had made a pact with Prohibitionists. Reeves singled out the boisterous State Senator Frank McDermott with his brewery in Bridgeport, owned by McDermott since 1923. How could McDermott go back to his Stockyards constituency and tell them he voted to defer Repeal until next year, Reeves wanted to know?

The logic of Reeve’s argument seemed solid. Other Repeal advocates affirmed his contention. Since years before Prohibition, brewers and distillers had maintained an adversarial relationship. Their divisiveness was one blatant reason that later prohibitionist efforts had so been so successful. Commenting on the charge that brewers wanted to continue a monopoly on the drink trade, Captain W. W. Bayley, Chicago Chief of the Association Against the 18th Amendment said, “…it would not be surprising to have proof show up that such is the situation now.”

It was too much for editors of the trade magazine, The Brewer And Malster And Beverageur, who demanded an apology from Reeves. “It is unthinkable that they (the brewers) would ally themselves with the bootleggers and gangsters and the fanatics of the Anti-Saloon League.”

Days later, with pressure from all sides and a chance to rethink their positions, the Democrats capitulated. The Illinois Senate voted to restore June 5, 1933, as the day for the election of delegates to the State Repeal Convention. Additional pressures from Governor Henry Horner and various lobbyists groups, including the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform, had persuaded the Senate to wisely reverse their ill-advised prior decision. Without protest, the Illinois House of Representatives concurred with the Senate’s actions.

On the morning of June 5, expectations were high for the repeal of the 18th Amendment. With chances for thunderstorms forecast throughout Monday, a voter turnout for a Chicago judicial election would normally have been predicted to be low. Historically, this pattern of a small voter turnout was in Chicago, and still is, typical for such an election. But, this was no simple judicial election. With reports coming in from ward headquarters throughout the city, the Cook County Democratic Organization was predicting an unprecedented turnout of 710,000 votes. Nonetheless, ward heelers continued to heavily canvass the city during the day. As a further enticement to get constituents out to vote, local Democratic leaders pragmatically stressed the household economics of Repeal. As part of their door-to-door strategy, it was pointed out by Democratic party officials and ward heelers alike that unless the 18th Amendment was repealed, $6 to $10 out of every $100 earned in a weekly paycheck would revert back to the Federal Government in new taxes. Repeal meant beer, booze, and no new taxes—one hell of a “read my lips” argument that any tax-paying voter could understand.

Democratic Party leader Patrick A. Nash wasted no words in his final communiqué to Chicago voters before the polls opened. “Support President Roosevelt. Repeal the 18th Amendment. Elect judicial leaders. Vote the Repeal ticket straight. Vote the Democratic judicial ticket straight.”

Republican County Chairman William H. Weber was not quite as direct or forceful in his party’s approval of Repeal. “Vote the Republican judicial ticket straight and destroy the receivership ring,” taking a final shot at the Democrats. Although the parties shared an equal amount of delegates for the Repeal of the 18th Amendment, Weber’s statement conservatively avoided the paramount issue of Repeal. The national Republican’s Party endorsement and enforcement of Prohibition and the local organization’s lukewarm embrace of Repeal were noted by beer-drinking Chicagoans. From post-Prohibition on, the Democratic Party, the party of democratic beer and Repeal, has held sway in Chicago.

Illinois’ Repeal Election
On April 28, 1933, at 1:43 A.M., Governor Horner signed the House bill ordering the Illinois Prohibition Repeal Convention to assemble on July 10. With the required nominating petitions finally signed, Chicago precinct workers started to flood their wards with sample ballots. Mayor Kelly asked the people of Chicago to support the vote for Repeal. “I urge that all citizens of our great city support the President and his administration in his efforts to bring back prosperity and eliminate the evils which Prohibition has cast into our midst. This can best be done by voting for the Repeal candidates.” Perhaps as a further inducement to the electorate to get out and vote, Kelly overruled an earlier opinion by Leon Hornstein, first assistant to Chicago Corporation Counsel William H. Sexton, that the sale of beer on election day would be illegal. Hornstein claimed that the state legislature had forgotten to repeal the pre-Prohibition election law requiring saloons to be closed during elections. Kelly disagreed, Sexton demurred and the saloons of Chicago were allowed to stay open on Election Day.

The tally of votes was no surprise. Not only was the vote for Repeal in Chicago overwhelming, it was a vote of approximately 11 to 1 in favor of it. In Committeeman Moe Rosenberg’s 24th Ward on the West Side of the city, reports showed that Repealists had voted yes at an astounding ratio of 76 to 1. Not surprisingly, a Republican precinct captain complained that in one precinct of Rosenberg’s ward, 200 votes had been stuffed into a ballot box when that many voters had not even registered in the precinct. Rosenberg, recently indicted by a federal grand jury for income tax invasion, scoffed at the report. In Bridgeport, voters followed the dictates of native son County Treasurer Joe McDonough and voted 40 to 1 for Repeal.

The next day, the editorial page of the Chicago Tribune declared National Prohibition officially dead in Illinois and expressed hope that the remaining dry states would soon follow Illinois’ lead. “A law which made the drinking of a glass of beer a crime was unenforceable..,” said the paper. As evidence of the state citizenry’s overwhelming rebuff of Prohibition, a total of 883,000 voters turned out to for approval of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, more than 560,000 votes for Repeal coming from Chicago. All that was left was the state convention.

The Repeal Convention
On July 10, Governor Horner opened the convention and officially signaled the beginning of the end of National Prohibition in Illinois. “The eighteenth amendment is doomed. Let us pray that with it will go the political cowardice that made it possible.” At noon, Democratic state leader Patrick A. Nash presented the resolution to ratify Repeal of the 18th Amendment at the state repeal convention. In just fifty-four minutes, the fifty bipartisan delegates went through the necessary procedural motions and unanimously voted to ratify the 21st Amendment, nullifying the 18th.

The Prairie Schooner, Illinois, now became the tenth state to moor at the wet dock of Repeal.

At 4:31 P.M., December 5, 1933, Repeal took effect in Chicago with the ratification by Utah of the Twenty-First Amendment. The “Noble Experiment” had lasted 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours, and 32 1/2 minutes. President Roosevelt officially proclaimed an end to National Prohibition and urged all Americans to confine their purchases of alcoholic beverages to licensed dealers. The President also issued a special plea to state officials not to allow the return of the saloon. A check of the City Collector’s Office, however, indicated that close to 7,000 liquor dealers were now ready to serve the 3,500,000 residents of Chicago, averaging one saloon for every 500 Chicagoans. It was about the same number of saloons that had operated in Chicago before the onset of National Prohibition.
So as you can see, even using the Illinois/Chicago above as a historical example of a national event, please, please, please, quit bending the truth when it comes to U.S. history, even if beer is involved.

Read more about Chicago’s fascinating beer and brewing history.

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