If you’re a fan of craft beer and microbreweries as opposed to say Bud Light or Coors, you should say a little thank you to Jimmy Carter. Carter could very well be the hero of International Beer Day.This message and theme got picked up by Jonathan Chait at the New Republic, and then Chait was commented on by Matt Welch at Reason Magazine's website. Kain then added a rebuttal to Welch on Friday, and the comments there spin off into a wild thread having to do in part with (I can't figure out quite how) gas station hours in Oregon(?!?).
To make a long story short, prohibition led to the dismantling of many small breweries around the nation. When prohibition was lifted, government tightly regulated the market, and small scale producers were essentially shut out of the beer market altogether. Regulations imposed at the time greatly benefited the large beer makers. In 1979, Carter deregulated the beer industry, opening the market back up to craft brewers.
As is typical with online articles relating to beer at such websites, the commentary by readers that follows blathers on and on over the virtues or lack thereof of various craft beers, the "crapitude" of mass-market beers, etc.
There's only one problem. Actually, make that two.
First, Kain makes no reference to just how Carter "deregulated the beer industry." No bill number, no details of the changes made, or anything.
Second, everyone else accepts this article on faith, save for quite a few savvy commenters way down the list of 150+ comments on the original piece.
As most homebrewers are made aware in various accounts of homebrewing's history, Jimmy Carter most definitely did one thing legally relating to beer: he lifted the Federal prohibition on making beer or wine at home, in October 1978 with the signing of H.R. 1337, which, among other things,
Allows any adult (formerly only heads of families) to produce wine and beer for personal and family use and not for sale without incurring the wine or beer excise taxes or any penalties for quantities per calendar year of: (1) 200 gallons if there are two or more adults in the household and (2) 100 gallons if there is only one adult in the household.Now, aside from this, which was indeed a sea change in the way beer other than "North American industrial lager" could be made and discovered by the teeming masses in the nation........... was there any act or law signed by Jimmy Carter which had any effect of deregulating, in any fashion, the commercial beer industry in the United States?
If so, the appropriate historians should be able to cite the specific law in question, and I/we should be able to look it up online. The comments are open, folks. Have at it.
My presumption, until I hear otherwise, is that Kain has made a grandiose error of mis-association by confusing the legalization of homebrewing with the "deregulation" of the "beer industry," possibly from overhearing some associate describe the former (possibly over several beers or homebrews) and making a leap (of ignorance or desire) to the latter.
What's even more egregious is that, in their haste to jump into a mud-wrestling pit debate on deregulation or re-regulation, both Chait and Welch run with this theme without even questioning the original premise.
UPDATE: In a (so far vain) attempt to discern if, indeed, there was any specific law signed by Carter that "deregulated" craft brewing and made commercial microbrewing possible, I did a couple Google searches. What I discovered is that, as of this moment, "Jimmy Carter deregulated brewing" is on track to replace "Ben Franklin said 'Beer is proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy'" as THE most popular "urban legend" regarding beer, thanks to people online citing the New Republic piece.....
UPDATE II: More on the subject here. "The intermediate step, which goes unnoted by Carlson ("as far as I can tell nothing else substantive changed about the market") and thus by Kain and Chait, is the legalization of brewpubs in individual states. Washington passed its law in 1982, and that same year Bert Grant opened his brewpub in Yakima--the first brewpub in the US since Prohibition. California's brewpub law also passed in 1982 (sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Bates), and Oregon's passed in 1983. Over the course of the 1980s, various other states followed suit."
UPDATE III: As if I thought the oversimplification couldn't be any worse.......... see this headline at another blog that cites Kain: "Like Beer? Thank Jimmy Carter!" As if Carter ended Prohibition or something.....
UPDATE IV: Welcome, readers of The Atlantic! I am most happy to see that Atlantic National Correspondent James Fallows, a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter, had enough scruples to revisit and retract his original promotion of the Kain essay and meme.
Kudos to The Atlantic. Still waiting for
UPDATE V: As noted elsewhere, it turns out Matt Welch of Reason Magazine/.com put up a story that included a link to my piece within a day of my original spiel. Thanks. Mr. Welch and Reason!