Repeal Day, Monroe and Prohibition

A state convention gathered in Utah on this date in 1933 to ratify the 21st Amendment. A three quarter majority was needed to make it official and Utah became the 36th state to do so. Making December 5 the official day the 21st Amendment was ratified. Now this date will be known as Repeal Day.
Of course history is more complicated than that and I plan on covering some of those stories in the next few months. During my research I discovered a great blog post by Kathy Warnes. It is about Monroe during the beginning of prohibition. I will share the first paragraph then link it below. It’s fun and informative.

Rumrunner Muskrat La Framboise preferred to move his bootleg whiskey stored in jute bags tied together at the tops like ears in his boat equipped with a stopper resembling a bathtub plug. He rowed along the Detroit River Highway from Ecorse to its mouth near Monroe taking orders and delivering his liquid refreshment. When a government agent or policeman spotted him and gave chase, he pulled the plug and the boat would sink. After the drama of the chase and capture died down, he’d return to his boat and dive for his liquor, or if he had a large shipment, he would bring a few friends along to help. Muskrat became as skilled as a loon diving for fish at this method of River recycling.

Bootlegging Down The Avenue de Booze

May 11, 1933

I’m reposting my article from a few years ago in commemoration of the amended Volstead Act on this day at 6pm.

It’s Thursday, May 11th 1933 at 6pm. What would you as a beer drinker be doing? Most likely waiting in line to buy your first legal beer in Michigan for 15 years. Since the beer law was signed on April 7th, the state was preparing for this moment. Trucks and trains full of beer had been delivered to warehouses around the state for the sale of 3.2 beer. Yes, in spite of Michigan being the first state to repeal the 18th amendment on April 10, 1933. You could not sell beer until May 11th. Detroit got its first taste of legal beer on May 10th. One hundred and fifty barrels went on sale that night at a special charity ball by the American Legion. Now, it was the rest of the state’s turn.

Tax on the sale of beer was not the only way the government made money. License fees also brought in revenue to the state. While beer sat in warehouses, license seeking business owners like bar owners, retailers, restaurants hotels and clubs lined up at government bureaus hoping to get one before the flag dropped on selling of beer. In Escanaba the licenses were actually flown in by airplane to insure that beer could be sold on May 11th.

Most Detroit breweries would not have their beer ready till late June or early July. One exception was Stroh’s. They were prepared for selling their beer. They had 15 to 20 thousand cases ready to compete against the out-of-state breweries. In spite of breweries from other states and Canada pouring in shortages were expected.

Why did it take so long after the U.S. government amended the Volstead Act to make 3.2 beer legal? Obviously, Michigan wanted alcohol to be legal. The state was the first to repeal the 18th amendment on April 10th. It was basic government bickering over how to legislate beer. They didn’t want the problems that they had before prohibition. Also, the business had been ran by the mob for the last 15 years and they needed that to be addressed. Unfortunately, what they created was a lot of bureaucracy that is still handcuffing breweries in this state today.

Here is just a sample of the new laws enacted. Beer must be sold to a customer seated at a table. There is no free beer with food, no curb service, no free lunch and no gambling, drunkenness or idling on the premises. All packages must have the state tax stamp put on before it is turned over to retailers. No sales between the hours of 2am and 7am. No wholesaler or brewery can make deliveries to homes. The last law mentioned still hurts MI’s brewing and wine industry today. One thing of interest was that the drinking age was 18.

The May 12, 1933 Monroe Evening News reported that sales were disappointing here in Monroe. I blame Ohio. They had legal 3.2 beer on April 7th. In Detroit though the party was big. Woodward Avenue was the scene of a party that was compared to an holiday parade. Fortunately, there were only 15 arrests.

So this May 11th at 6pm raise a glass to legal beer in Michigan. It was beginning of a Michigan’s great brewing industry. A brewing industry that is respected and apprecaited all over the world. Oh… and when you do toast, please don’t use 3.2 beer. Toast with one of the finest beer’s Michigan has to offer.

New Keg Law Coming November 1st

Keg drinkers beware! A new keg law goes into effect on November 1st. Below is an excerpt from an October 23 article from the Monroe Evening News regarding this law…

“Under the new state law, effective Nov. 1 buyers will have to sign a receipt with their name, address, telephone number and driver’s license or state ID card number. Retailers will have to attach a yellow tag on each keg and record the tag number on the receipt.
And if customers return the empty kegs without the tags, they won’t get their $30 deposits back. They also will be subject to fines and jail if they remove the tags.
The new law mainly is meant to keep party planners from supplying beer to minors and to make the beer buyer accountable if the party gets out of hand.”

The use of the word “mainly” is interesting to me. I think it has as much to do with kegs being lost because they are repurposed by us home-brewers and bbqers/smokers for our respective hobbies as it does with underage drinking. Even though one puts a $30 deposit a keg does not mean he gets to keep it. It is still the property of the brewery. This law will be a definite deterrent in this practice.

I’m not happy with the new law and the inconvenience it will cause me but I don’t have the time to start an Occupy Brewpub. I do wonder how this will change filling up your corney keg that may be a thing of the past.

Below is the link for to the whole article…

Flying Dog lawsuit update

<div class=\"postavatar\">Flying Dog lawsuit update</div>

Flying Dog just posted an update on Facebook regarding their lawsuit against the MLCC:

Update on our Federal Lawsuit Against Michigan Liquor Control Commission

by Flying Dog Brewery on Monday, May 2, 2011 at 3:24pm

We furthered our fight for our First Amendment Rights in Michigan by filing for a motion for preliminary injunction — a request for the court to allow our Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA to be sold while the case is pending. The 34-page motion outlines the arguments and case against the recent Michigan Liquor Control Commission ruling, which banned the sale of our best-selling beer, Raging Bitch, in the state.


The first hearing on the case is set for June 8 at 4 pm in the U.S. District of Western Michigan in Grand Rapids. Both Flying Dog attorney Alan Gura and CEO Jim Caruso will be present. According to court documents, “the purpose of the scheduling conference is to review the joint status report and to explore methods of expediting the disposition of the action.”


With the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, we filed suit in U.S. District Court on March 25 to overturn the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s ban on Raging Bitch. The suit also seeks to recover damages from the loss of sales under the statewide ban, which the Commission issued based on its members’ personal distaste for Raging Bitch’s labeling.


The brouhaha began in September 2009, when we applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch, our 20th anniversary commemorative beer, in the state of Michigan. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission barred the sale of Raging Bitch, claiming that the beer’s label — designed by renowned British artist Ralph Steadman — is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”

Flying Dog Brewery to Sue Michigan Liquor Control Commission

EAST LANSING, Mich.–(EON: Enhanced Online News)–Citing its First Amendment rights and an appalling attempt at state censorship, Flying Dog Brewery, with the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, filed suit in U.S. District Court on Friday to overturn the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s ban on the sale of the company’s best-selling beer, Raging Bitch. The suit also seeks to recover damages from the loss of Flying Dog sales under the statewide ban, which the Commission issued based on its members’ personal distaste for Raging Bitch’s labeling.

The brouhaha began In September 2009, when Flying Dog Brewery applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch, the company’s 20th anniversary commemorative beer, in the state of Michigan. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission barred the sale of Raging Bitch, claiming that the beer’s label — designed by renowned British artist Ralph Steadman — is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”

Flying Dog Brewery disagrees. “Regrettably, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and its members have taken it upon themselves to control not merely alcoholic beverages, but speech as well,” said Flying Dog Attorney Alan Gura of Washington, D.C.-based Gura & Possessky, PLLC. “The defendants arbitrarily imposed their personal tastes in banning Raging Bitch, clearly violating Flying Dog’s First Amendment right to free expression.”

Click here to read the rest of the article – Source: Enhanced Online News

Dogfish Denied In Michigan

Got this from @beersage (Craft Beer News) on the twitters.

Michigan turned down the label (presumably because of it’s name) for a Dogfish Head beer to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’ album that is the same name as the beer.

I can remember the naughty thrill of hearing the word that I’m assuming is the problem when Hall and Oates’ Rich Girl played on the radio back in 1977. Apparently our officials are still there today.

It isn’t even one of the 7 words….

77 Years Ago Today

If you woke up on May 11, 77 years ago you were about to enjoy your first legal beer in about 15 years. I know if I woke up that morning and had the ability to enjoy a beer without having to worry about doing something illegal I would be pretty excited.

The newspapers were full of stories and I am going to share more of them with you.  The common thread to these articles  is the legal wranglings of the new law.

A reminder to all that Original Gravity will be hosting a special party tonight to celebrate this anniversary. Below are the details…

Michigan Beer Toast & Small Batch Release – 6pm
Michigan ratified the 21st Amendment on April 10, 1933 but still remained a dry state for another month. That is until May 11, 1933 at 6pm when beer went on sale for the first time in about 15 years.

Come celebrate MI beer at OG on Tuesday May 11th with the release of our next Small batch of beer…Hard Ginger Ale! An unhopped brew made with fresh ginger root.

Als0, wear a t-shirt from any MI brewery and recieve $1 off of your pints from 6pm-close! Cheers to MI beer!!!

Here are a few articles that ran on May 11, 1933…

No Beer for Zeeland

Zeeland-Today may mark the return of beer to Michigan, but for Zeeland it’s just May 11. the city council by a vote of 4 to 2, voted against issuing any beer license retailers.

Friends of beer considered resorting to a mandamus action on the grounds that there were no “reasonable grounds,” cited in the attorney general’s ruling for refusing to license retailers.

Wants It Full Strength

Lansing– Govenor Comstock believes the state liquor control commission should insist that beer sold in Michigan must contain the full legal alcoholic content to 3.2 percent.
The Govenor said he sampled some of the new beverages in Washington, “I believe both federal and state governments should insist upon the full 3.2 percent” he said.

To Close Blind Pigs

Detroit- John P. Smith, superintendant of police today issued orders to all precinct inspectors to “close and keep closed” every blind pig in Detroit, effective 6 p.m. today, when the new 3.2. beer legally goes on sale.

At the same time Superintendant Smith ordered for strcit supervision of all legal retail beer-selling establishments.

“Now that people have legal beer, I believe they will be willing to help us handle the blind pig situation” he said.

Rules to be Followed

Lansing- Michigan is warned to watch its manner of celebrating the return of legal beer tonight. here are some of the regulations set forth by the stat liquor control comission.

Beer must be sold to a customer while seated at a table. There must be no free beer with food, no bar, no curb service, no free lunch, and no gambling, drunkeness, or idling on the premises.

Beer cannot be sold for consumption between 2 and 7 o’clock in the morning. Customers, however, may order their supply before 2 and continue to imbibe during the hours of prohibition.

Delivery packages must bear the state tax stamps before turned over to retailers. Wholesalers and breweries are not permitted to make deliveries to homes.

Labels must show the alcohol content.

No drinking will be allowed on the highways.

No beer can be sold to persons under 18 years of age.

Encore Article: Advice from Julius Stroh

I’m rerunning an article from last year that was about Julius Stroh and the return of legal beer. I have also included a Stroh’s ad that was running in the local paper in early May of 1933.

Julius Stroh was seventy-seven in 1933 and had been in charge of Stroh’s since 1908. In his time as president, he and his head brewer, Otto Rosenbusch, started  heating the beer in copper kettles with direct fire. A process Otto witnessed at the Municipal Brewery of Pilsen in Bohemia (Urquell). They also built a new brew house that was completed in 1914.

 More importantly, Julius Stroh bought the company time so it would survive prohibition. They got by making pop, malt syrup and, more famously, ice cream. The malt syrup was sold for confectionery purposes but everyone knew it was for homebrewing. The ice cream was very successful and can still be bought today. Although, it is no longer made in Michigan. The most important prohibition product they made and sold was near beer.  It was  called “Temperance Beer”  and it was poor quality .5% beer. The label had the words “serve ice cold” on it which helped mask the taste. One of the big breweries still advertises this today (I don’t want to mention the name of the brewery but Rocky Mountain spring water is involved). Stroh’s had been the only brewery in Detroit that secured a license to sell near beer. Due to the process of  making near beer he had a cellar full of beer waiting for dealcoholization. Because of this, Stroh’s was the only brewery that had beer already in stock when the Volstead Act was amended. This gave them a huge head start on the competition . Stroh’s supplied  Detroit and surrounding areas with its first legal beer in 15 years.

On the eve of legal beer back in 1933, Julius Stroh ran articles about imbibing correctly and in moderation.  I am only speculating, but I imagine he wrote these articles for a few reasons: One, it was good publicity. Two, low quality beer is all  people had been drinking for the last 15 years and the citizens needed to be educated on properly drinking  good beer. Three, it may have been driven by the fear of the future of his business. 3.2 beer was legal in less than half of the states in America, and prohibition was still the law of the land. As of May 11th 1933 (the day the article was printed) only 3 states had voted in the 21st amendment. News of debauchery, alcohol poisonings and deaths might make citizens think twice that ”the noble experiment” (prohibition) needed to end.

The article below is from the May 11, 1933 Monroe Evening News. The rest of the story was supplied by Peter H. Blum and his book “Brewed in Detroit”

Here is the art of drinking beer as revealed by Julius Stroh, brewer, who believes that beer drinking is an art and not a vulgar means of filling your stomach.

“Be temperate in your consumption. Whether it’s beer, buttermilk, soda water or pop too much of it might lead to regrets.”

“Never gulp your beer, because it is bad manners. It should be sipped slowly and leisurely. loss of the carbonic gases and flattening of the head will not affect the flavor.”

“Serve beer in a thin crystal- clear goblet. If you wish to admire its color. Otherwise a heavy mug will do.”

“The container should never be used for milk or beverages containing butterfat or grease. Grease prevents the beverage from coming to a proper head. All glasses should be cleaned with a scrubbing brush or salt.”

“Beer should never be served at a temperature above 50 degrees and below 45 degrees.”

“The size of the collar has nothing to do with the taste. High collars make the glass more inviting in appearance, though not popular with the majority of consumers.”

New Homebrew Club Legislation

 The following is a call for support from Chris Frey about homebrew club legislation…

The short version is that there’s a bill that would allow homebrewers to legally have meetings and competitions at microbreweries and brew pubs, but it needs your support.  Please contact your representative and forward to other Michigan homebrewers to do the same.

As members of homebrew clubs in Michigan, one of the issues we face is where we should meet. A natural place would of course be our local microbrewery or brew pub. We are all passionate supporters of our locally produced Michigan beers, and the symbiosis of homebrewers and local craft brewers has demonstrated time and again to be a great benefit to both, as witnessed by the homebrewing origins of most of today’s craft breweries.

A while back, I contacted the state for a ruling on the permissibility for clubs to bring homebrew to microbreweries and brew pubs for club meetings and competitions. The response was negative, current legislation prohibits this activity.

Not satisfied with the response, I discussed this with various contacts. One, Bob Zukosky, a former Michigan homebrewer who has since moved to Colorado, provided me with Colorado’s model legislation that allows for this type of activity.

I then contacted fellow F.O.R.D. Homebrew club member and State Representative for the 22nd District, Doug Geiss (, to see what could be done. I shared with him the document that Bob had provided, and Representative Geiss had his staff review it to use as a starting point to draft legislation that will allow our microbrew/brew pub colleagues to host meetings and competitions.

Representative Geiss recently contacted me to let me know that he and State Representative Deb Kennedy (who, along with husband Alex, is a member of the Down River Brewers Guild) introduced House Bill 5613 on December 1st, the contents of which can be viewed at the following link: ( documents/ 2009-2010/ billintroduced/ House/htm/ 2009-HIB- 5613.htm

This amends the previous Michigan Liquor Control code that dealt with this issue. In part, it states:
Sec. 1027. (1) Unless otherwise provided by rule of the commission, a person shall not conduct samplings or tastings of any alcoholic liquor for a commercial purpose except at premises that are licensed by the commission for the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquor on the premises.

(2) This section does not prohibit any of the following…
(d) A micro brewer or brew pub from allowing the sampling and consumption on the licensed premise of beer produced by 1 or more home brewers at a meeting of home brewers, or a club composed primarily of home brewers, under the following circumstances:

(I) The sampling or consumption is for the purpose of exhibitions or competitions involving home brewers.
(ii) The beer is served in portions not to exceed 6 ounces.
(iii) No sale of beer is made to members of the general public.
(iv) The participants otherwise comply with applicable state and federal law and applicable regulatory provisions of this act and rules adopted by the commission under this act.

The bill will likely come up for discussion early in January. We need a grass roots effort to have interested parties inform their electorate that they support this legislation. Support would be especially useful from residents in the Oakland County / Rochester Hills area, as this is Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s home district (http://www.senate. michigan. gov/2003/ 12.pdf),. Shows of support will increase his awareness of the issue and will likely assist the bill’s passage.

Your support is critical. State laws can be changed if enough people take action and let their lawmakers know how they feel on issues important to them. Please send a letter or an email to your respective State Representative ( a_rep.asp) or State Senator (http://www.senate. michigan. gov/SenatorInfo/ find-your- senator.htm).

Points to mention are:

The strong support local homebrewers provide by selecting and purchasing Michigan produced beers.
How homebrewers act as ambassadors to local microbreweries and brew pubs, and doing so much to support the jobs and products of these local businesses.
Microbreweries and Brew Pubs support homebrew clubs in kind with gifts, financial support, and would like to offer space for meetings.
Virtually all commercial microbreweries and brewpubs hire brewers who have learned via homebrewing.
By more closely aligning ourselves with these local merchants, they can continue to be inspired by trends and endeavors in the homebrew community.
Homebrewing competitions are often judged at brewpubs and should not be illegal in the State of Michigan.
Homebrewers are changing the nature of brewing, and striving to save the world’s ancient brewing styles
Let’s pull together and help get these amendments passed. A strong beer culture in the form of a homebrewing community is the underpinning of the thriving craft beer movement in our state, a proven source of entrepreneurship and living wage jobs.

Chris Frey