Beer and Boston have a thing together. In fact, they even made a show in the 80s about it. With large breweries like Samuel Adams and Harpoon native to the area, and a pretty solid craft-brewery-to-Dunkin-Donuts ratio, Boston is regularly atop any Best Beer Cities list worth its pretzel salt. It’s safe to say, Boston’s current love affair with a frosty pint, has a strong connection to the past.
While Germans were brewing ale (or ol, as they called it) as far back as 800 BC, the American beer tradition began in the early 17th century — well, 1620 to be exact. To set the stage, the Pilgrims had been at sea for nearly two months and were well off course. Overshooting Virginia, they landed in New England and were in dire need of food, water, and beer. Yes, beer — as it had become a mainstay for the weary travelers, remaining drinkable far longer than water, which would become brackish and potentially deadly.
Once on land in Plymouth, Native Americans taught these new settlers how to farm their land and to discern what wild foods were safe (or dangerous) to eat. They also showed them how to use corn to brew their own new world version of beer: a mix of maize, water, and birch sap (barley crops didn’t fare well in the harsh winters). Soon, this new style of beer took over as a diet staple. Over time, as the Pilgrims began to move to different, more fertile areas, brewing innovations evolved, and new recipes were developed. When large numbers of settlers arrived and formed additional colonies, they needed more beer fast — and the first breweries of this young country were established.
Over time, American beers became so popular in the colonies that many of our founding fathers — George Washington, Patrick Henry, and yes, Sam Adams — started their own breweries, and fought to boycott the import of English beer. This stance was one of many that bolstered America’s growing sense of independence — and provided a catalyst for the American Revolution and the birth of our nation.
As Boston grew, and the wave of Irish immigration started in the 1820s, the city’s passion for beer only became stronger. Today, Boston is well-known throughout the world as a haven for beer lovers (and brewers).
So next time you crack open a cold one (or get a perfectly poured pint on tap) — before you knock it back, take a brief moment to toast the rich history that brought that beer all the way to you.