Abstract: Beer Goes to War: The Politics of Beer Production and Consumption in World War II

Lisa Jacobson


During World War II, American brewers mobilized a massive public relations and advertising campaign to combat a resurgence of prohibitionist sentiments and secure favorable regulatory treatment. Although the cultural authority of drys had diminished significantly, full-scale economic mobilization and the need to conserve raw materials presented drys with a tantalizing political opening. This paper examines why the federal government, the military, social scientists, and the broader public ultimately responded more positively to brewers' efforts to position brewing as an essential wartime industry. This was not simply the inevitable outcome of cultural shifts in attitudes toward drinking and the government's healthy regard for alcohol tax revenues. Brewers touted beer's virtue as a temperate morale booster, but their most innovative act of industry self-preservation was their promotion of brewers' yeast, a byproduct of brewing, as an important weapon in the nation's Food Fights for Freedom campaign. Just as wartime conservation and rationing had politicized