Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beer in Colonial America, Regulation

Today's post is another excerpt from TBIBWMA (ooooh, an unwieldy acronym). I'm surprised that it took the colonists seventeen years to begin regulating beer production. Maybe they were just too busy figuring out how to stay alive.
The government of the colony made various regulations in regard to the preparation, price, and sale of beer. In 1637 the brewers of Massachusetts were forbidden to sell stronger beers to tavern keepers than such as cost eight shillings a barrel. In 1640 it was decreed that no one should be allowed to brew beer unless he was a good brewer. The price of beer was also regulated. Beer that sold for threepence per quart had to contain six bushels of malt per hogshead; beer for twopence per quart, four bushels; at one penny a quart, two bushels; and less proportionately. In 1645 the price of beer was fixed at twopence a quart. In 1677 is was officially decreed in Massachusetts that beer which contained three bushels of malt per barrel was to be sold at threepence a quart. Every additional bushel of malt per barrel raised the price of beer one penny. In spite of all their piety, the Pilgrim Fathers seem at an early time to have known the adulteration of beer. In 1677 the General Court of Massachusetts established a regulation according to which beer might only be prepared from good barley malt. Additions of syrup, raw sugar, or any materials other than malt were punishable with a fine of five pounds for each offense. The authorities also looked out for the comfort of travelers and in October, 1649, the General Court issued an order that each hotel keeper must keep good beer, so that travelers should not be compelled to buy expensive wines.
"The Brewing Industry and Brewery Workers' Movement in America", pages 24-25.
The author does not cite his sources so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the prices and punishments, but the specific nature is encouraging.

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