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Maine Beer: Learning from the past with Josh Christie

Alcohol HistoryEllie Yahn

How has the State of Maine, infamous for their fight for prohibition almost 70 years before the ban of alcohol went national, come to be one of the top beer destinations in the world?

On a recent Monday, The Maine Brew Bus welcomed author, beer and book enthusiast, and bookstore owner Josh Christie to elaborate on this contradicting history of alcohol in Maine. Christie, also the author of Maine Beer: Brewing in Vacationland (2013), was on hand to help us to understand Maine brewing, alcohol and history from the 1800’s-now.

As we sat around the conference table working on an assortment of Rising Tide beers and a few large pizzas from Otto, Josh begins to explain. He said, “In the 1800’s Maine was known as the drunkest state in the U.S. I also read a New York Times headline from around that same period saying the U.S. was the drunkest country in the world. So… at the time, that literally made Maine the Drunkest State in the World during the early 1800’s. Pretty crazy, right?”

Neal Dow, Portland Mayor in the mid-1800’s and now known as the Father of Prohibition, is one of our state’s most interesting characters. In 1851, thanks to Mayor Dow and his temperance legislation that became known as the “Maine Law”, Portland itself was the first “dry” city in the world!

Maine went from the drunkest state in the world to the driest in only a matter of about 20 years. Even after prohibition was nationally abolished in 1933, a decent legal structure for distributing alcohol in Maine really didn’t show up until the late eighties. This allowed D.L. Geary Brewing Company to become Maine’s first craft brewery in 1986.

A daguerreotype of Neal Dow, presumed to be from the 1850’s.

 

The pendulum swing of Maine’s alcohol industry, as Josh Christie refers to it, is nothing but extraordinary. Lack of clean water, widespread immigration, rebellion to the Maine Law in the form of the Portland Rum Riots, unemployment, WWII, the three waves of breweries to open in the state, and new tasting room laws are all part of the amazing story.

This leads to new interest in craft alcohol over the last 30 years and contributed to the rich history of the industry that just added a total of $228 million dollars to Maine’s economy in 2016, according to the Portland Press Herald.    

With that much current success coming from the craft alcohol industry in Maine, creating over 1600 jobs this past year, how could The Maine Brew Bus not learn from the past?

Making sure our employees share the most accurate information with our guests has always been very important to us. Especially now that Portland, Maine has been considered the Craft Beer Capital of America.

Our team takes pride in our knowledge of this unique industry and the ability to explain to our guests this incredible story. The Maine Brew Bus is lucky to have Josh Christie on our side, teaching us everything you would want to know about the drunkest and driest state in American History.  

-Ellie Yahn