News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 9, 2012


Ronn Mott
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Some time ago we wrote a piece about writing outside the box and this is about an entire industry that has done that very thing. It’s about beer. Beer might very well be civilized man’s oldest alcoholic beverage. Even though the ancient brew had many nutrients and not as much alcohol as today’s version.

The first recorded history of beer drinking was in Sumer, that ancient cradle of civilization. A clay tablet was found where the Sumerian king had complained about his people using 40 percent of the grain crop to manufacture beer. He wasn’t very happy about that, but you can bet the beer-drinking Sumerians were! The men who built the Egyptian pyramids drank beer. It was the drink of choice for all working-class Egyptians. The Roman Legions knew beer was good for the troops and were big consumers of beer.  

When they set up a permanent post, they built their fortifications and their famous Roman baths, and then they built a brewery. It was the Roman Legions who introduced beer to the Germans … world famous today for making beer.

We, as an immigrant nation, made beer as taught to us by the brew-masters who came from Europe. Just about the time of the Great Depression, there were 1,750 breweries in America. And by the end of World War II (roughly a decade later) that had shrunk to about 400. By hook or crook, the big breweries were crowding out the little guy. By 1980, there were about half a hundred independent breweries left. And then somewhere between yin and yang, some independent thinkers decided to make some beers that didn’t taste like the ones the big breweries were putting out.

Among them, and there are quite a few, is the beer named after the American patriot, Samuel Adams. They have grown from a micro-brewery to a firm that now serves the entire nation. (Samuel Adams’ beer varieties are No. 2 in Los Angeles.) In total, there are now 1,759 breweries in America.

We raise our glass and salute the men who were not afraid to start anew and think outside the box.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.