- Historic Sites
Beer And America
It came over with the Mayflower and stayed on to be the unchallenged drink of democracy.
June/July 2002 | Volume 53, Issue 3
This is beer’s stoic poetry, a song that carries memories of the generations of struggling new Americans it has soothed and restored—first Germans and Irish, later Poles and Czechs and Russians and others in their turn. The writer Joseph Mitchell understood its quiet music. In 1940 he described an old saloon almost as if it were a secular church —a sacred refuge, out of time. “It is a drowsy place,” he wrote, in a passage that goes to the heart of the matter. “The bartenders never make a needless move, the customers nurse their mugs of ale, and the three clocks on the wall have not been in agreement for many years. The clientele is motley. … In the summer they sit in the back room, which is as cool as a cellar. In the winter they grab chairs nearest the stove and sit in them, as motionless as barnacles, until around six, when they yawn, stretch, and start for home, insulated with ale against the dreadful loneliness of the old and alone, ‘God be wit’ yez,’ Kelly says as they go out the door.”