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Good Beer Hunting

Jul 24, 2021

What happens when politics and public health intermix? We’ve spent the last year learning all too well that, unfortunately, just about anything can happen. And that’s always been the case.

In the mid-1800s, when lager beer was still pretty new to the United States, Americans had to figure it out where it fit into a society that wasn’t much newer. The country was growing, it was urbanizing, it was incorporating new ethnicities and communities, and it was redefining morality almost by the day. All of these things came with public health challenges that were just as new. It didn’t take long for beer to get tangled up in the maelstrom.

We’re kicking off the Source Material podcast with a 3-part series looking at some of the ways lager beer paired with questions of public health in 1800s America. In Part 1, we talked about a wave of legal battles that washed over the US during the 1850s as old ideas about drunkenness mixed with new American communities, new politics, and new drinking habits. Now, we’ll look at how those same factors led many Americans to associate lager beer with disease. During the cholera outbreaks of 1849 and 1866 in the United States, lager could be either the cause of, or solution to, a deadly epidemic.

This is Lager Beer, Governing Bodies Part 2: ‘The Devil’s Chloroform.”