The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Celebrate National Beer Day!

If you are like me then you were unaware until this morning that today is National Beer Day in the United States. And just like that, you learned an important fact on a Friday afternoon.

On 13 March 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt drafted a memo which read:

To the Congress:

I recommend to the Congress the passage of legislation for the immediate modificaiton of the Volstead Act, in order to legalize the manufacture and sale of beer and other beverages of such alcoholic content as is permissable under the Constitution; and to provide through such manufacture and sale, by substantial taxes, a proper and much-needed revenue for the Government. I deem action at this time to be of the highest importance. 1


According to the folks at that National Constitution Center, on 22 March 1933, Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, a piece of legislation that amended the Volstead Act of 1919. The Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect on 7 April 1933 and was met with celebration around the country. Happily for many, the CHA did not stick around long; it was voided upon ratification of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution in December 1933.2

In commemoration of the Cullen-Harrison Act of 1933, here are two recipes from the collections of the MHS to brew your own beer and spruce beer:

To brew Beer

     Take 3 pints of malt, a double handful of Hops, as much of bran or shorts, boil these in ten gallons of soft water for two hours. then strain it, and when cold, add half a pint of molasses a half a pint of yest and work it well. To colour it add a handfull of roasted barley whilst it is boiling. The yest of this beer put in a bottle with water, & kept in a cool place, will serve to make Bread.__

Spruce Beer

          Take half a pint of Spruce. boil it two hours in five gallons of soft water, a quart of molasses. When cold work in a large tea cup full of good thick yest. let it work 24 hours & then bottle it off. it will be pleasant Beer without the Spruce.__ 3


While it is too late to brew and sample today, you have a full year to practice your brewing and have a homemade batch for the next National Beer Day. I, for one, look forward to reader submissions to see who creates the best brew.



1. Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Message to Congress on Repeal of the Volstead Act.," March 13, 1933. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. Accessed 7 April 2017.

2. National Constitution Center, "The constitutional origins of National Beer Day.," April 7, 2017. Constitution Daily Accessed 7 April 2017.

3. From an Anonymous recipe book, ca. 1800.


permalink | Published: Friday, 7 April, 2017, 4:00 PM


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