German-American Day

On Sunday, June 27, I headed to Warminster, Pa. with my buddy Brian and my dad to attend the German-American Day

Notice the clever intertwining of the German and American Flags.

Although the event was technically not a Pennsylvania Microbrewery event, they served Warsteiner and Yuengling Lager, I am giving it a review. Here is why. The history of beer-making in America, in fact much of United States culture, has been either created or influenced by German-Americans. Particularly in Pennsylvania. I am 3/4’s German in ancestry so this gives me a personal interest in the topic. What sounds like a more German name than Bierker? Not even Stein. I like to think my 1/4 Irish nature makes me less rigid and more Celtic in my spirituality, rather than some Teutonic Theologian only.

As I have been piecing together the history of brewing in America, and how Prohibition looms large like a wrecking ball in the destruction of small regional breweries–and in the rise of the giants of Bud, Miller, and Coors (and some mid-sized breweries like Rolling Rock who were eaten over time by the bigger fish), the blow-back eventually created the impetus for microbrewing in the 197o’s. The fires of good beers were low but the coals were still hot.

As noted on this website:

“Prohibition devastated the nation’s brewing industry. St. Louis had 22 breweries before Prohibition. Only nine reopened after Prohibition ended in 1933. Anheuser-Busch made it through Prohibition by making ice cream, near beer, corn syrup, ginger ale, root beer, yeast, malt extract, refrigerated cabinets, and automobile and truck bodies.”

I have to respect AB’s resourcefulness and opportunistic adaptability. There is a reason why they survived and prospered during Prohibition, and it is not because they were nefarious. That part came later…

I have detected a distinct anti-German sentiment behind the Temperance Movement. You want to punish a German? Take away his beer. And, it is understandable. The German nation obviously played a major role in the horrors of World War 1 (however, a good deal of the U.S. Army were soldiers of German-American ancestry).  Prohibition was from 1920 to 1933.

As noted on this website:

“Anti-German sentiment worked in the interests of extending prohibition in wartime because most of the breweries had been founded in the 19th century by German immigrants to the US, and retained German names. Thus wartime hostility toward Germans helped the rise of prohibition. But more fundamentally, the movement drew upon an anti-alcohol culture long instilled among middle-class people in city suburbs and small towns, the Protestant churches and their allies in the rural population in the south and west, and some urban progressives who saw alcohol as a source of inefficiency, poverty and social disputation in American life. The war simply gave these disparate groups an opportunity to align their movement with wartime nationalism and its crusading spirit of self-sacrifice.”

George Will recently penned this article on Prohibition titled “Prohibition and Unintended Consequences”. In 1920, in Norfolk, Va., evangelist Billy Sunday preached to 10,000 celebrants:

“The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. … ” Ah, the moralists never seem to grasp that evil comes out of the heart of man and external Pietism will always fail in the end. This is not to minimize the tragedy of alcoholism and other personal and social ills coming from over-consumption. Yet, until the heart is reformed, no amount to do-goodism will prevail for long.

Underneath the fun and games of 40/40, there has been an agenda of sorts: my refutation on one hand of the self-righteous legalism of religious-types and other elite ethicist who eschew all drinking of alcohol AND (at the same time), a condemnation of the permissive and excessive indulgence of alcohol, the philosophy that more is better.

I have other agendas mind you, but this one is primary. Call such agendas a ministry as it were. I know it is quite the challenge to articulate and practice the middle-ground.  One is liable to get shot at from both sides of the issue or fall off oneself. And, this is not only true about alcohol but a host of other issues. Although, I take a hard stance against abortion  as birth-control which I view as always wrong (even so, I do not minimize the agony of such decisions for women).

Eventually, the Dam of Prohibition collapsed under the pressure on illegal consumption.  First a crack, then a flood.

Speaking of a structure cracking, on the grounds of Verienigung Erzgebirge, here is a picture of a large section of the Berlin Wall with my Dad reading a plaque (an action photo):

I think my buddy Brian said, who basically lived at the camp during waking hours over the summer, this is one of only two large sections of the Wall in the U.S.

Here is the plaque Pops was reading.

I was in East Germany and on the other side of the Wall before it fell. Sobering to see the harsh and bleak face of Communism eye-to-eye. Note the name Pastorius. For those reading my blog, this is the same family that initiated German-American immigration to America and today, in the modern day, are the owners of Pennsylvania Brewery out in Pittsburgh (and I got to meet Tom Pastorius while out there).

Something else collapsed this day in the face of overwhelming force: Brats!

Hard to believe that I was able to stop myself from decimating this Brat long enough to take this picture. The best Brat I have ever had, hands-down. My wife can’t stand it when I leave a “mouth semi-circle” in her sandwich when I take a bite (or mine, when she wants a bite). Since she was at home, this was a non-issue…

Ahem, and the Beer (one should not have a Brat without Beer):

I am really not sure how Yuengling Lager gets such an amber color since it is essentially brewed from corn. Maybe they put enough darker-toasted malts to create the color. Nonetheless, I like the beer as a “go-to” when I plan to have more than one and don’t want to spend a lot of money. In the microbrewery world, this is called a “Session” beer. Here is one website’s definition:

session beer
n.

Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish – a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication. (Yes, you can drink and enjoy beer without getting drunk.)

It was like 100 degrees on that Sunday…the Yuengling Lager was especially refreshing. Later we hung-out at Brian’s mom’s house for two hours, deeply thankful for the air-conditioned basement. It was so cool down there it could have been used for lagering beer.

Oh, the humanity. I have a saying, “It is not the heat, it is the humanity.” Ever notice how irritating people are when it is hot? This crowd was jolly, though. A real pleasure to be with…

I do think that the heat of the day kept some people away, who were more inclined to come after sundown. By that time, we were back in Lancaster.

Good to see that this event still is popular as the German-American Club in the U.S. is going the way of Socialism/Communism into the dustbin of history. Or, at least it was…until we lost remembrance of how awful it actually was and is.

May the Walls against freedom continue to fall.

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3 responses to “German-American Day

  • Pat Wood

    Very informative post, you gave me some good insight into the prohibition and German-American history. So I must ask, you mentioned that you were in East German before the fall of the wall, would it be correct to assume that you were born there as well?

  • Eric

    Actually, my dad worked for several years in Frankfurt, Germany. A few years later, he worked in Madrid. The upside of this was I got to spend a good amount of time there visiting. I was in Germany for about 30 days between my 11th and 12th grade year of high school and in Madrid for about ten days my senior year of high school during Christmas vacation. The time in Germany was pretty comprehensive. We were all over the place…my Dad speaks German so we traveled off the common paths. It was a good way to get to know my dad’s family history as well as German history and contemporary issues. Travel is good for young people. It opened my eyes.

  • Pat Wood

    That’s really cool and it must have been quite the experience for you especially since it was during your high school years. I was lucky enough to go on a 2 week long trip to Australia & New Zealand during the summer between11th & 12th grade and then got to study in England for 6 months during college. It’s definitely an eye (& mind) opening experience that every one should try at some point in their life.

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