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Near Beer

May 2024
1min read

From the review of J. M. Fenster’s book on the Packard auto (December), it seems that Fenster got somewhat messed up on the subject of near beer.

Before Prohibition the antialcohol forces tried to foist off on the public a non- or low-alcohol product called near beer. Mark Twain is said to have made the definitive remark on this beverage when he said, “The man who named it near beer was a poor judge of distance.”

During Prohibition near beer continued to be brewed, but its alcohol content had to be less than one-half of one percent. It was somewhat valued as a vehicle for “spiking” with another couple of percent of whatever alcoholic product came to hand.

The 3.2 percent beer that your reviewer refers to was the legal limit of alcohol in beer in the very early days after repeal. I don’t think this period lasted very long, although for quite some time in Ohio, Sunday beer sales had to be 3.2 percent, but you could switch to the regular stuff after midnight.

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