From Cheese to Chocolate, How Your Favorite Brewery Survived Prohibition

During Prohibition, brewers tried their hands at all sorts of products. Learn how Miller, Coors, Pabst and more managed to make it through.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibitionPhoto: Courtesy of Library of Commons

Living in Wisconsin, there are a few foodie standards: excellent cheese, Friday fish fries and beer, lots of beer. With more than 100 breweries here in my home state, it’s hard to believe that any one of these operations took a break. But from 1920 until 1933, breweries, vineyards and distilleries nationwide had to cease producing alcohol during Prohibition. Just because beer and booze was out didn’t mean that brewers stopped working, though. Find out how these companies made it through Prohibition below.

Miller

While brewing beer was illegal during Prohibition, brewing beverages a lot like beer was not. During the nation’s dry spell, Miller made “near beer,” or malt-based beverages with an incredibly low alcohol content (think of today’s non-alcoholic beers). Folks didn’t buy these imitators, though—literally. Miller suffered financially and was even put up for sale in 1925. Luckily for all you Lite lovers out there, no one bought it, and in 1933, the brewery returned to the high life.

Yuengling

During Prohibition, this Pennsylvania-based brewer opted to make ice cream in lieu of beer. While Yuengling did make a go of the dairy business for some time, they called it quits in 1985. But no one can resist the appeal of ice cream, so in 2014 Yuengling’s ice cream came back better than ever—and with almost 20 unique flavors to boot.

Pabst

During Prohibition, Milwaukee’s Pabst Brewery ceased making beer and instead focused on another Wisconsin favorite: cheese! Aged in the ice cellars beneath the brewery, Pabst-ett cheese became a popular snack in the 1920s and 1930s. As soon as Prohibition ended, Pabst sold their popular product to Kraft and started brewing right away.

Coors

While many brewers made their ways through Prohibition producing foods and soft drinks, the Colorado-based brewer went in an entirely different direction. While the bottling line was shut down, Coors capitalized on their existing glassware division (responsible for making all their bottles) and expanded it to produce all types of ceramic dinnerware.

Stroh’s

One of America’s oldest breweries was forced to take a break from 1920 until 1933. During this time, Stroh’s produced ice cream as well as malt syrup. This barley-based sweetener was used in baking during its heyday (and also for some under-the-table home brewing!). While I can’t see myself stirring in malt syrup into our favorite cookie recipes anytime soon, I’m definitely excited about these chocolate malt crispy bars.

Schlitz

Taste of Home‘s offices are located in the old Schlitz Brewing complex, so we had to make mention of this Milwaukee favorite! Since beer was out during Prohibition, Schlitz changed directions and produced chocolate. While I wish there was still a chocolate factory across the street, I’m totally fine settling for one of these divine chocolate cakes.

Stevens Point Brewery

While many modest operations shuttered their doors forever after the Volstead Act was passed, this small Wisconsin-based brewer wasn’t willing to give up. Stevens Point Brewery manufactured soft drinks to stay afloat during Prohibition. Today, they still make a dynamite root beer, perfect for adding to these tasty recipes.

Hamm’s

While most brewers stuck to one or two products during the Prohibition era, Hamm’s manufactured a wide array of products. including near beer, soda, syrups, ice, cigars and even sardines. I’m not sure how they kept up with all this!

Anheuser-Busch

Like a few of its competitors, Anheuser-Busch produced ice cream and soft drinks throughout Prohibition. However, the company also got special permission to produce a different product: beer! When the end of Prohibition was imminent, the brewer got the go-ahead from the US government to make 55,000 barrels of beer. On December 5, 1933, folks could toast with a pint of this specially-made ale.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad these breweries are back in business. Without a cold lager, how else could I enjoy giant pretzels and other beer garden faves?

Try your favorite beer in these brew-ready recipes.
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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.