American Breweriana Journal Special Edition Summer 2008

Brewing Industry in Post Prohibition America 1935-1985

By Rich Wagner

2008 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. I’ve put together a chronology that covers the first two-thirds of that time period using news items that emerged from my research for “Philadelphia Breweries After Repeal… And Then There Were None (With Apologies to Agatha Christie)” (ABJ Sept./Oct. 2006).

My primary sources of information were the bi-weeklies Tap and Tavern and The Observer newspapers which are on microfilm at the Free Library. They covered Pennsylvania’s liquor industry in Pennsylvania for distributors and licensees. I scoured issues of these papers from 1935 to 1965 transcribing the short articles by hand and plunking my quarters in the copier like a river boat gambler for the full pages. At least I was hitting the jackpot! On average I had to spend a day in the library for each year. One of the things I found interesting as I wound my way through the decades was the way that news items painted a picture of the nation’s brewing landscape during a period that gave us so much of the breweriana we collect and at the same time providing a feel for the texture of American society during the period.


1920. 9,231,280 barrels produced by 478 breweries in the nation. (JS)

1933. Economic summary of brewing industry: $671M invested, $63M wages and salaries, 66,000 workers, $67M, $242M in Federal, State and local taxes, etc. (JS)

1933. Mrs. Elizabeth Hornung, 83, widow of the founder and current president of the Jacob Hornung Brewing Co., famous for their “White Bock Beer” is said to be the only woman brewery president in the country.

1935. In January Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, New Jersey tests markets the first canned beer in Richmond, VA. Packaged beer accounts for 29.5% of the nation's beer. (WA)

1935. In March Colonel Jacob Ruppert, president of the United States Brewers Association, states: “At least $1,000,000 will be spent within the 60 days to come by the brewers of the country to advertise and to publicize this special bock brew as a tonic food beverage, and to once more popularize the symbolic capering Bavarian ‘bock’ or ‘billy goat’ as its trade-mark. During the months of March and April the brewers will place on the market more than one billion bottles of new bock beer to slacken spring thirsts. Our first nationally organized advertising and merchandizing offer will be made to educate the American public once more to the taste and what we believe to be the healthful qualities of this special malt beverage, which has not been available nationally for the past 16 years.

1935. Pennsylvania’s “Crown Tax” of one half cent per crown on a minimum 16 ounce container puts Pennsylvania brewers at a disadvantage from competitors from out of state. Brewers argue that the $1.24 tax rate on a barrel of beer is already above the $1.00 national average and the $1.65 tax on a barrel of packaged beer, which is mostly twelve ounce containers uses one third more crowns.

1935. On the second anniversary of 3.2 beer, Colonel Jacob Ruppert, president of the U.S.B.A., announces that almost a half-billion dollars in taxes have been paid into Federal, State and local treasuries; more than two billion dollars expended in new business and a quarter of a million persons employed as a result of selling 77M barrels of beer. He added: $129.5M in farm products, $50M in cooperage, $108M for brewery rehabilitation. Over 67,000 people have been given employment in breweries with an estimated payroll of $45M. In addition, the return of beer has given employment to approximately 660,000 people in restaurants, wholesale establishments, brewery wholesale establishment, brewery reconstruction work and on farms. He estimates 50M barrel production over 41M barrels in 1934 and 27M barrels in 1933.

1935. In August Owens-Corning Glass Co., introduces the no-deposit, no-return bottle three inches shorter than a regular beer bottle called a "stubbie” to compete with the beer can. (WA)

1935. New York’s 67 breweries produce the most beer of any state, with Pennsylvania, second in production and most breweries at 106.

1936. Beer tax increases 50% from $5.00 to $7.50 per barrel.

1936. In April beer imports reach new post-prohibition heights for the week ending April 3, when 1,200 barrels and about 3,600 cartons arrived here, the draught beer coming from Germany. The “S.S. Hamburg” brought in 770 barrels, April 3. The “S.S. Deutschland” on March 28 arrived with 396 barrels. The 3,600 cartons consisted of ale and stout from the United Kingdom.

1937. The United Brewers Industrial Foundation is formed, representing brewers of over half the nation’s beer output. Topics of speeches include: “Keeping the Brewing Industry in Step with the Law”; “Self-Government in Industry”; “A Public Viewpoint on the Brewer’s Problem”; “How the Press Views the Brewing Industry”; “Social Welfare Aspects of the Brewing Industry”; “Brewing’s Contribution to the Cost of Government”; “The Economics of the Brewing Industry”; “Beer in the Home”; “Brewing as an Outlet for Farm Products.” Brewery workers payroll is $80M.

1937. A study by the Glass Container Association notes sales of canned beer dropped from 9.7% in 1937 to 9% in 1938 and that bottled beer accounts for 91% of all packaged beer sales. Steinies: 32%, Export 49%.

1939. For the first time in the history of the industry, the yearly volume of bottled and canned beer sold is approximately equal to draught beer. 66 brewers are using “single trip bottles.”

1940. 54.9M barrels produced by 611 breweries in the nation.

1940. Brewers begin paying $6.00 Federal Tax per barrel in July with the addition of $1.00 Defense Tax. This is up from $1.00 per barrel prior to prohibition and causes a decline in consumption according to the UBIF.

1942. Pabst takes out a full page, four-color ad in the March issue of The Woman's Home Companion, becoming the first brewer to aim a sales campaign through a national woman's magazine. The campaign's theme: "How to blend more 'Man Appeal' into buffet dinners. (WA)

1942. Brewers emphasize their patriotism on the ninth anniversary of repeal reporting their purchase of $9M in War Bonds and payment of $3B in taxes since repeal. They are required to register for sugar quotas, classified as industrial users. There are no cans for brewers. In July quotas for crown caps for brewers are increased, brewers increase production of quart containers and begin using caps made of “black metal” which does not contain tin. By September sales of packaged beer declined. Packaged product is imported from Mexico brewers. Beer at military camps is argued to be a potent force for moderation. Yeast is investigated for benefits in “war workers’ diet.” It is also used in feed for livestock and poultry. Spent brewers grains help feed the nation’s cattle. Informal “brewers ration” cuts beer to taverns by 15-25%.

1942. The nation’s top 25 brewers produce 23.5M barrels. The top four are A-B (3M barrels), Pabst, Schlitz and Schaefer.

1943. Barley and malt rationing begins by restricting large brewers to 93% of 1942 consumption. In addition, only 10% of 1942 consumption is permitted in stock. Despite rationing, brewers substitute rice and corn and production increases. Despite the increased production, beer on hand is down. Later table quality rice is added to the mandate. 30% fewer crowns are available to brewers and they begin using “reformed” crowns. 20-25% of beer production goes to servicemen and brewers get orders for 3.2% Army Beer. No Deposit bottles disappear. War Production Board estimates returnables make 32 trips. California’s Pacific Brewing Company begins hiring women. Brewers face the handicaps of war “uncomplainingly” noting: 15% of production is mandated for the Armed Forces with a 50% increased demand for beer. In addition, cartons, cases, glass are in short supply and there is a dearth of raw materials. Brewers do complain that malt exported to Mexico is returning as higher priced imported beer.

1943. Per capita beer consumption in the nation reaches 1919 levels for the first time since repeal.

1944. American Can survey shows: 42-50% urban families are beer drinkers which is 10% over 1942 and 20% over 1941 when 94% were buying beer in the 1.4B cans which were produced.

1944. U.S.D.A. develops a material made from pith and farm waste with animal or vegetable glues and sugars, apple honey or glycerin to substitute for the cork used in crown caps. Recovery of brewers yeast is ruled an essential activity. The War Production Board OKs manufacture of production machinery for breweries, wineries and the beverage industry. A national bottle drive rounds up 500M bottles. 1B beer cans are predicted for brewers use in 1944. Large brewers are no longer able to fill the demand for beer for the Armed Forces and small brewers add to the supply. War Production Board announces it will produce an experimental aluminum can. Beer dispensing gas and refrigerant use is restricted.

1946. To aid food shortage in Europe, brewers grain usage is reduced 30% below 1945 level, producing a nationwide beer shortage. (WA)

1949. Miller Brewing Company is described as “America’s Fastest Growing Brewery” in Modern Brewery Age. The company will surpass 2M barrels in 1951.

1950. As a result of the Korean War Federal tax on beer is raised from $8.00 to $9.00 per barrel.

1950. 83.5M barrels produced by 407 breweries in the nation. (JS)

U.S.A. Sales of Beer 1949 (31 gallon Barrels)





Joseph Schlitz B.C., Milwaukee



Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis



P. Ballantine & Sons, Newark



Pabst B.C. (3)



Falstaff Brewing Corp. (5)



F. & M. Schaefer, Brooklyn



Liebmann Breweries (2), NYC



Ft. Pitt B.C. (2), Pittsburgh



Blatz B.C., Milwaukee



Pfeiffer B.C., Detroit



Griesedick Western B.C. (2)



Miller B.C., Milwaukee



Ruppert B.C. (2), N.Y. and Va.



Duquesne B.C. (3), Pittsburgh



Terre Haute B.C., Indiana



Goebel B.C. (3), Michigan



C. Schmidt & Sons, Phila.



J.F. Trommer, Inc. (2), N.J., N.Y.



Theo. Hamm B.C., St. Paul



Lucky Lager B.C. (2), California



Red Top B.C. (2), Cincinnati



Genesee B.C., Rochester


1950. At Christmas GIs stationed in Korea receive free 600,000 can beer ration from Blatz. Also Schlitz.

1950. Modern Brewery Age reports beer advertising at $1.09 per barrel is up two cents a barrel over 1949. Spending by large brewers (over 500,000 bbl.) increased 17 cents per barrel, medium sized brewers (100-500,000 bbl.) increased 25 cents and small brewers (less than 100,000bbl.) reduced by 8 cents. The biggest change is the portion devoted to television advertising which was 1 cent per barrel in 1949 and jumped to 12 cents. Small brewers reduce print advertising and increase reliance on billboard ads.

1951. Cans are rationed to 90% of 1950 consumption. 74 small brewers can only operate one day per week as a result and the Small Brewers Association requests relief from restrictions arguing that they were responsible for less than 2% of the can usage of the whole industry, while representing 25% of the number of breweries using cans and that the tin saved is miniscule compared to the economic damage to the small brewers. Copper is rationed which affects production of brewery equipment. Bottle manufacturers do not believe they can replace the estimated 5B beer cans no longer produced. Bottles and cases will have to make more round trips. No aluminum or stainless steel cooperage production is permitted. Peerless taps, rods, beer coil and other supplies are limited to repair parts. Trays, openers, and other metal items are difficult to obtain. The general pattern of the new era in the industry is clearly apparent. Rigid economies will be mandatory. Government rearmament program is absorbing huge stocks of materials previously available for civilian consumption. In March a Senate Tin Report recognized beer as food. United States Brewers Foundation launches a public relations campaign to increase social acceptance for beer particularly among homemakers emphasizing that beer belongs with meals and social settings. This was the third consecutive year of decline in beer sales.

1952. Nearly 600 breweries scattered from the Yukon to the Straits of Magellan are listed in the 1952-53 edition of Breweries of the Western Hemisphere listing the United States with 328, Canada, Mexico, West Indes 113, South America 152. Multiple ownership of U.S. breweries reduces the 328 figure to 290 firms. Pabst, Falstaff and Goebel lead the “chain” brewers, each operating four plants. One new U.S. brewery appeared on the scene in 1951 to offset the loss of 32 plants, seven which were branches.

1952. The Can Manufacturers Institute, through its Marketing Bureau, is initiating a program to improve the quality and standardize the manufacture of beer can openers to promote the sale of canned beer. A series of fifteen different tests being made on the openers includes: hardness, hydrogen embrittlement, burrs and sharp edges, finish, gauge of materials, opening and flow, opening pressure, sharpness of cutter blade, yield at fulcrum hook, tapper breaking point, drag and burrs in removal, safety, pierce and shear test, fulcrum hook, and length of opener.

1952. In June the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company announced its 6 millionth barrel of beer produced setting an all-time world record.

1952. Beer sales up 13% above fiscal 1951. 62.6M barrels packaged and 21.7M draught. The dollar volume is about five times greater than the soft drink business. It's equal to two-thirds the normal dollar volume of the passenger car industry. Brewing ranks fourth among all industries in payment of federal excise taxes. Aiding the popularity of beer was the production of 2B beer bottles and 4.5B beer cans.

1953. Disputing the contention of others in the industry who say light beer will not last, Fred. M. Linder, president of Ruppert Brewing Company responds: "After spending 42 years in the brewing industry, I know the problems and difficulties. A modern up-to-date brewer must always be on his toes to keep abreast of these changes and preferences." National Beer Wholesalers Association is optimistic due to broadening leisure market, increase in disposable income, increase positive public attitude towards alcohol, increased social acceptance of beer as promoting moderation, expansion programs by brewers, successful blocking of drys. Small Brewers Association’s William O’Shea cites 500 breweries out of business since repeal. Only 280 breweries operating today. Discussing the high mortality rate among brewers, he stated that with costs of production going up, increased sales are necessary for continued operation. That's why the only brewers who can survive are those who promote sales aggressively and continue to grow. Home Beer Consumption is at all-time high in 1952. Per capita consumption is 16.8 gallons, 75% of which is packaged beer, almost a direct reversal of the ratio of packaged and draught sales set in 1934.

1954 A-B 6.7M barrel sales record moves the company into world leadership. Since 1946 A-B has increased plant capacity by 150%. 1M more barrels expected from Miller in 1954. Draft Beer Down 6% in 1953.

1956. The nation’s first malt liquor, Country Club, is introduced by Pearl Brewing Company in Texas.

1957. Schlitz, A-B, Ballantine are the three leading brewers in the nation.

1958. The top 25 brewers sell 82% of the nation’s beer.

1959. The top 25 brewers sell 70% of the nation’s beer.

1959. A-B sales record: 2M barrels higher than nearest competitor. Industry leader with 15% increase over 1958.

1960. Continental Can ceases production of the Cone Top Can. Pabst shows first profit in four years.

1960. Thomas R. Gettelman of Gettelman Brewing Company representing the Small Brewers Association blames lag in beer sales on high taxes charging federal and state governments have actually lost revenues as a result.

1960. Ian R. Dowie, president of Carling describes changes in the industry since repeal: (1) in many areas production capacity exceeds demand. (2) Ten years ago inter-regional shipping was subsidized by “premium” pricing but today’s high distribution costs have reduced inter-regional shipping. (3) In 1952 the nation's top 20 breweries produced 55% of nation's beer, now 68%, a 20% increase in the last 8 years. Prices have fallen 26%. This can be accounted for by the growth of "multi-regional" companies selling brands at competitive prices through strategically located regional plants, particularly successful 1952-59 when their collective sales rose from 5.3% to 14.5% of the industry. Carling for example went from .9 to 4.5M barrels. The development of such companies was unforeseeable 12 years ago. Their objective is to complete national distribution at competitive pricing. Today 80% of all beer is purchased at competitive prices.

1960. Cincinnati’s Burger Brewing Company introduces the first aluminum top "easy open" beer can.

1960. A-B net sales top $308M, 8.5M barrels is a new record for production by a single company in one year and it is the sixth year A-B has exceeded 6M barrels. The company announced a $20 M expansion program at the St. Louis brewery taking annual shipping capacity to 7.3M barrels, presently at 6M barrels. Their Los Angeles brewery is being expanded to 1.3 M bbl. a year capacity. Expansion at the Tampa brewery was recently completed which increased the capacity of that plant to 750,000 bbl. a year.

1960. 94.5M barrels produced by 229 breweries in the nation. (JS)

1960. The brewing industry causes $5B to flow through American trade and governmental channels and pays $1B in federal and state taxes. Biggest year for beer with sales up .3%, draft continues to decline. The gradual uptrend in packaged sales of malt beverages continued in 1960, with 80.7% of all beer and ale marketed in cans and bottles (62.1% was in bottles and 37.9% was in cans). Among the states, New York maintained its leading position in malt beverage production with 11M barrels. Wisconsin was second with 10.6M barrels, and following in order were the other 1960 leaders – Missouri, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania. New York also led in beer consumption, its citizens using 10.2M barrels during the year. California and Pennsylvania followed in gross consumption in 1960. Meanwhile Wisconsin held on to its traditional first place per capita consumption with an average per person of 25.6 gallons. Nevada, with 24.3 gallons again placed second. Among the nations, the United States with 15.1 gallons ranked eleventh in per capita consumption… In terms of gross consumption of beer, the United States, with its total of more than 87 M barrels in 1960, had a big lead among all the nations. West Germany was second with a consumption of 46 M barrels and the United Kingdom third with 38 M barrels.

1961. American Can Company sees potential for $7M annual savings with new lightweight tin plate can.

1961. Brewery Workers are concerned about the rapid spread of automated equipment and shrinking number of breweries, with a consequent loss of union members’ jobs. There is a new process involving a beer concentrate that can be reconstituted at a distant point is also of particular concern. New and more vigorous organizing efforts by the Brewery Workers have approximately 60,000 members in about 300 local unions in the United States and Canada.

1962. Carling sells 5M barrels.

1962. 100th Anniversary of the United States Brewers Association.

1962. Economists predict that the American consumer’s disposable income will have risen 89% in the eleven-year period ending in 1971. The 21-40 year age group, which consumes more beer and ale per capita than any other, will continue with maturation of the so-called “war babies,” who now are reaching drinking age. Many brewers in various parts of the country are building new plants, or expanding or renovating existing units.

1962. A survey conducted by Market Facts, Inc. of Chicago for American’s Canco Division shows: 63 percent of consumers are males and 80% under the age of 35 drink beer. The highest percentage of Americans drink beer in the early evening after dinner. A unique feature of the study breaks down beer drinking into “with meal” consumption showing the most popular occasions are: after the evening meal, 20 percent; before dinner, 19 percent; late evening, 17 percent; during the afternoon 14 percent; and during the morning, 4 percent. Weekly consumption per beer drinker amounts to 11.6 twelve ounce units. And the quantity of the beverage taken per individual drinking occasion is 2.47 units. The average consumer has beer 4.7 times a week during the summer. Seventy-seven percent of the occasions take place on weekdays. Men account for 83 percent of the beer consumed, even though they constitute only 63 percent of the beer drinking population. During the summer of 1961, some 82% of all beer consumed was packaged with 18% having been draught. 40% of the packaged sales are now cans; 13%, no-deposit bottles; and 47%, returnable bottles. The vast majority of cans are 12 ounces or smaller. 35% of the nation’s beer sales are in bars.


1962. R.J. Cheatwood, President, National Beer Wholesalers’ Association of America says this is the fifth consecutive year the brewing industry has had record sales. Package beer is continuing to rise in its post-war trend and most of the package-minded brewers realize that profits lie in putting their product in an easily identifiable can or bottle, rather than in kegs. However, some secondary brands of large regional or national brewers are apparently going into draught beer, as a cheaper commodity to be shipped over 500 miles from the brewery plant, and still remain competitive with so-called local or “popular priced” beer. But most authorities agree that the 135-million barrel capacity of the brewing industry will continue to be a price depressant, in the year ahead, despite the almost universal desire for higher prices at the brewer, wholesaler and retailer level. Unfortunately, a great part of the excess capacity of the industry is owned by the smaller firms, with their costly operations due to inefficient or obsolete equipment. Apparently, the only way they can meet the profit squeeze is through maintenance of low prices or even by cutting prices, hoping to eke out a break-even situation through the resulting high volume. On the other hand, their larger competitors can meet this situation in a number of ways; namely by widening their markets, introducing new brands, automating their plants and engaging in other activities which only the well-financed large firms can afford. It takes no clairvoyance to judge the costly undertaking in introducing new brands and promoting them to successful distribution and sales. Even so, cutting prices and counting on chain store distribution and low selling and merchandising costs, is no assurance of survival by the smaller regional or local firms, as evidenced by the number of these who have closed their doors or have been acquired through merger or other forms of acquisition during the last year. The top 25 brewers sold approximately 83% of the total market.

1963. Schlitz Buys Honolulu Brewing Company from Beatrice Foods of Chicago.

1963. Baltimore’s National Brewing Company to Introduce Colt 45 Malt Liquor.

1964. Reduced brewery employment and more competition are among many changes in the brewing industry foreseen in by the U.S. Labor Department. Beer concentrate, recently authorized, may result in greater competitive pressure on small brewers as well as facilitate export of American beer. The trend toward greater use of automatic controls and instrumentation may reduce man-hour requirements. The report noted that automation has virtually eliminated spoilage because of mistakes made in the brewing sequence. Also, conveyors, pallets and other devices are being introduced at each phase of the production process, and recent advances in moving various materials from the loading dock to operations and in finishing and packaging operations significantly reduce unit labor requirements. Advantages of beer concentrate are lower transportation and capital (new plant) costs. Further economics may be realized if the aging of the concentrate can be perfected, thereby eliminating lagering, reducing storage costs, and increasing shelf life. If widely accepted reconstituted beer may affect the relationship between local, regional and national brewers and increase interest in overseas markets.

1964. Schlitz Malt Liquor is introduced becoming the nation’s second brand.

1964. Rheingold is acquired by a New York Pepsi bottler: 2.9 M barrels production and sales volume of $130M last year with plants in Brooklyn, NY and Orange, NJ.

U.S.A. Sales of Beer 1964 (31 gallon Barrels)





Anheuser-Busch, Inc. *



Jos. Schlitz B.C. **



Pabst B.C. ***



Falstaff Brewing Corp.



Carling B.C. +



P. Ballantine & Sons



F. & M. Schaefer B.C.



Theo. Hamm B.C.



Adolph Coors Co., (Colo.)



Miller B.C. ++



Rheingold Breweries, Inc. +++



Drewrys Ltd., U.S.A. <



Stroh B.C. (Mich.) <<



C. Schmidt & Sons, (Penna.)



Olympia (Wash.) B.C.



Lucky Lager Brewing Corp.



National B.C.



Pearl B.C.



Associated B.C. <<<



Jacob Ruppert, N.Y.



Narragansett (R.Is.) B.C.



Genesee B.C., (N.Y.)



Duquesne B.C. (Pa.)



Jackson B.C. (La.)



Heileman B.C. (Wisc.) >


* Includes Budweiser, Michelob, Busch Bavarian.

** Includes Old Milwaukee & Burgermeister brands.

*** Includes Blatz brand.

+ Includes Arizona B.C., purchased 12-1-64.

++ Includes Gettelman & other brands.

+++ Formerly Liebmann,

< includes Piels and other brands.

<< Includes Goebel.

<<< Includes Pfeiffer, Schmidt, Sterling, etc.

> Includes Old Style, Gluek and other brands.

1965. Labeling changes regarding packaged “draft” beers were ordered by Harold A. Serr, director of the alcohol and tobacco tax division, Internal Revenue Service. The ruling is in consideration of brewing process developments that have taken place since the present labeling regulations which went into effect in 1935. Most important of the new guidelines is one that stipulates that beer packaged in the usual and customary bottles and cans may not be described as ‘draft beer’ if the beer has been pasteurized. There are exceptions: No objection will be made to the use of descriptive wording such as ‘Draft Brewed’, ‘Draft Beer Flavor’, ‘Old Time On-Tap Taste’, or similar comparative expressions on pasteurized beer if the label or advertisement also states that the beer has been pasteurized.

1965. At its annual convention, the United States Brewers Association’s Philip C. Katz summarizes some trends in the industry: Brewers’ operating costs have risen greatly over the past 15 years while the price of malt beverages has shown only a modest increase. In that time beer prices have gone up 11% while the consumer price index went up 16%. Supermarkets now account for 30% of all sales of beer for home consumption, in comparison with 6% in 1947. Despite record sales and production figures, brewers’ profits have actually fallen off percentage-wise since 1947 due to increasing costs of labor, materials, packaging and general operations. He pointed out that the brewers’ annual packaging bill alone jumped from $175 million in 1947 to an estimated $530 million in 1964. Katz also noted that the brewing industry was one of the heaviest taxed industries in the nation.

1965 Fritz Maytag purchases Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco. (WA)

1969. Schmidt’s of Philadelphia conducted a survey and found the following national trends: The beer market is 63% men, 37% women with men consuming 80% of the product. About 50% of the adult population are consumers: 24% heavy users and 26% light users who exhibit a lesser degree of brand loyalty. One-half of the beer-serving homes are found to be without any product at the time of the survey. Among the current affluent generation, price factors are not particularly important. Although there is a great deal of uniformity between brands of beer, consumers feel they can discriminate between brands. Highest per capita consumption of beer occurs between the ages of 30 and 44. Some drinking is done at home by 75% of the beer drinkers and of the group 52% drink beer only at home. Among all beer drinkers 63% are considered brand switchers, 26% are loyal to their brand and 11% base their purchasing decisions strictly on price. In 1960 there were 200 brewers in the beer race, today only 80 remain. The real growth in the beer business today is being experienced by the top 15 brewers. Since 1958 the following factors have been favorable for beer sales: a boom in the adult population (especially 20-39), brand diversification, modern packaging concepts and new sophistication in distribution approach and advertising. Small regional brewers that have gone under have been unable to innovate with packaging techniques, unable to expand their scale to enable them to reduce cost and unable to match the advertising budgets of the big brewers, particularly television advertising.

1970. 134.7M barrels produced by 142 breweries in the nation. (JS)

1972. the success of the nation’s largest brewers is spelling trouble for many of the nation’s regional brewers, like Schaeffer and Rheingold and some industry officials are predicting a quickening death rate for the smaller companies around the country. Among the regional brewers, reduced earnings, mergers, management upheavals and bankruptcies are becoming commonplace. Falstaff has acquired the brands of P. Ballantine & Sons and Schlitz announced plans to close its Brooklyn plant. The largest companies’ economies of scale permit them to build huge modern plants to lower their costs. The Price Commission prevents the smaller companies from raising prices to generate enough cash to modernize at all. They are also faced with labor troubles, obsolete plants, shifting population, distribution difficulties and changing preferences in drinking habits. One notable exception among regional brewers is the family-owned Adolph Coors Company in Golden, Colorado which stands fourth behind A-B, Schlitz and Pabst. Coors has only one plant, but it is the world’s largest and produces 10M barrels a year. Coors has not borrowed any money since 1888 and spends relatively little on advertising. It builds 75 percent of its own packaging equipment, 90 percent of its brewing equipment and all of its malting equipment as well as its own aluminum cans. It also contracts with farmers to grow its own high-quality barley and transports its beer in refrigerated trucks and railroad cars in 11 Western states Coors sales grew from about 2.8 million barrels 10 years ago to 8.5 million barrels in 1971.

1973. Price of beer increases due to escalating prices for raw materials which have risen more in six months than in the previous 15 years. Since November 1971 the price of malting barley increased from $1.16 a bushel to $2.56 a bushel.

1975. The recession has had a mixed effect on companies in the beer industry: some are prospering, others are faltering: some are expanding or introducing new brands, some are dropping old products and closing plants. Sales have declined in some areas but increased in others. Over-all, however, the rate of sales growth during the final quarter of last year slowed to about 1.2 percent from the 4½ to 5 percent of previous years. This year, sales are expected to increase only 2½ to 3 percent, according to the United States Brewers Association.

1980. 188.4M barrels produced by 82 breweries in the nation. (JS)

1983. Fifty years ago, there were 450 breweries in America; today there are 44. And the top five brewers control 82% of the market, the top nine control 98%.

U.S.A. Market Share 1985







G. Heileman








All Others


Works Cited

Anderson, Will. Beer USA. Morgan & Morgan, Inc. Dobbs Ferry, NY. 1986. (WA)

Siebel, Dr. John E. and Schwarz, Anton. History of the Brewing Industry and Brewing Science in America. Chicago, IL. 1933. Recently republished by (JS)

Wagner, Richard. Files. Tap and Tavern and The Observer, Pennsylvania liquor industry newspapers 1935-1965.

Related Articles

Wagner, Rich. “One Big Brewerytown – A Look Back on the Historic Legacy of Our Philadelphia Beer Scene.” Philly Beer Scene. June/July 2011.

Wagner, Rich. “Philadelphia Breweries After Repeal... And Then There Were None (With Apologies to Agatha Christie).” American Breweriana Journal. Sept./Oct. 2006.

Wagner, Rich. “Pittsburgh Brewing Company – After Repeal.” American Breweriana Journal. May/June 2006.

Wagner, Rich. “Post Prohibition Brewing in Reading.” American Breweriana Journal. May/June 2019.

Wagner, Rich. “Remembering Dry Philadelphia: from the Volstead Act to Repeal.” Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. April/May, 2006.

Wagner, Rich. “Repeal in Philadelphia: What We Drank Back in the Day.” Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. April/May 2008.