Monday is National Beer Day in Bradenton

Motorworks celebrates New Beer's Day

myoung@bradenton.comApril 6, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Of all the traditional holidays, the time around New Year's Eve tends to be more associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages than most, but there is an unsung and unofficial holiday called New Beer's Day, sometimes called National Beer Day, that makes celebrating with spirits possible in the first place.

It may be an anniversary often left in the wake of its own history, but there are some who pay homage to the journey that brewing beer has taken over the decades. Smaller craft breweries in particular seem to take advantage of every opportunity to honor what has become an artistic process in brewing beer, and Motorworks Brewery in Bradenton has something special planned to honor a day that made it possible for them to exist as a business.

New Beer's Day is Monday, the anniversary of the 1933 Cullens-Harris Act. It was the first step in repealing Prohibition, which began in 1920 behind a puritan-like push to have the government confront the societal issues some blamed on alcohol consumption.

The full repeal did not take effect until the end of 1933 when the distribution of liquor also was allowed, but on April 7, 1933, no sooner was the ink dry on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's signature, that beer began to flow out of distributor locations in the amount of 1.5 million barrels in the first 24 hours.

The river of beer sold in one day led to $7.5 million in taxes raised, which is equivalent to $132.4 million in today's money. It was exactly what Roosevelt had hoped for with the country four years into the Great Depression.

Ending prohibition didn't end the Great Depression, but it didn't hurt with the addition of thousands of new jobs. The Great Depression would drag on for another five years before America's industrial sectors kicked into high gear with the threat of World War II on the horizon and the need to aid European allies with equipment and materials.

Motorworks Brewing, 1014 Ninth St. W., Bradenton, wouldn't be a part of one of the fastest growing business markets, which is craft beer, had it not been for that day.

As a local business, Motorworks is a testament and microcosm of how important breweries were to helping ease the Great Depression at a national level by creating job opportunities. It has already added 31 local jobs in its first 60 days and isn't even running at full capacity yet.

President and cofounder Denise Tschida said the Prohibition era, as well as its end, is an important historical time in the country, and she considers Motorworks to have a unique tie to that time in history.

"This building was built in 1923," said Tschida. "It was standing right here in the middle of Prohibition, and now it's a brewery."

She wonders if people in the 1920s who used to walk in the building's shadow could have ever imagined the historical shift the building would undergo. She has nothing but a healthy respect for the history that surrounds the transformed Motorworks building.

In honor of the anniversary to end Prohibition, Motorworks is conducting its first annual "Vote to End Prohibition" celebration with the event's slogan saying it all: "The Good Old Days are Back Again."

Motorworks Brewing social media director Kristin Martin said Kolcsh-style glasses of beer will be on special throughout the day, as will drink specials featuring specialty cocktails that were popular during Prohibition in the underground bars and speakeasies of the time.

"We are also going to show the newer version of "The Great Gatsby" with Leonardo DiCaprio at 8 p.m. in the beer garden," said Martin.

Music from the era will also play throughout the day's festivities, which will be from 11 a.m. to midnight.

An unknown author dating back to the Prohibition era spoke about the many speakeasies and underground establishments selling alcohol illegally. He said Prohibition was effective in limiting the availability of alcohol, however, "If you really wanted a beer and couldn't find one, you weren't really trying."

The storied days of Al Capone building a criminal empire around selling illegal alcohol and images of moonshiners outpacing police in high-speed, country-road chases may have changed, but America's love affair with a tall, cold glass of frothy beer never will.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7041 or follow him @urbanmark2014.

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