It must have been lacking because two years later the first American “Help Wanted” ad was run in a London newspaper asking for, among other things, a brewer.
In 1612, Adrian Block, a Dutch navigator by trade who’d previously discovered the Connecticut River (it was just laying there) and Brewer Hans Christiansen answered the call and established the first known American brewery on the south end of Manhattan.
Breweries were important to early America, but not in the decadent way they are now. Taverns and breweries were fairly wholesome places. So wholesome in fact that in 1624 this brewery was the where the first white fella born in New Amsterdam came into the world. It should be noted that Snorri Thorvaldson – Leif Ericson’s nephew – had been born in Martha’s Vineyard some 500 years earlier, but he went back to Greenland at three months old to have mother issues.
Jean Vigne was the son of Walloon farmers who had some land just north of what is now Wall Street, was an American. In 1632, Block and Christiansen shuttered the first brewery in the new world, but its impact on young Jean was not lost. The boy spent his entire life swimming in the stuff and is generally considered the first colonial born brewer. Vigne’s personal life was a bit odd. He had stepfather issues that led him to not once but twice return to Holland. Twice he found himself back in the vicinity of New York or Hoboken working as a farmer, importer and, of course, brewer.
The early Americans drank beer and cider for the same reason the Europeans did: it made them feel better. It made them feel swell in the sense that not dying of bacterial dysentery feels better than dying from the same. Beer is a marvelous hedge against drinking funky water: In addition to sanitizing alcohol, if there is too much crud in the water, the beer won’t carbonate. Pollution concerns what they were at the time; most Europeans (like modern ones) drank purified, bottled water. They were big wooden bottles called casks and the water was purified in so far as it was made into booze.
This was of vast importance to a people whose water supply doubled as their mass waste disposal system. Water could kill you. Safe, sensible Europeans drank beer and cider all day every day. Of course, Europeans were a technologically advanced people, they knew about trade winds and that the earth was round. They were turning the first tumblers to unlock the human genome and about to unleash representative governments across the world. Yet somehow, through all this advanced learning it didn’t occur to them not to take a dump in their drinking water.
It wasn’t just life or death though, early American’s wanted good beer. In recognition of his status as a good brewer, Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Governor-General of the colony, appointed Vigne a schepen or city councilman of New Amsterdam from 1655 to 1663. Before that, Massachusetts colony passed a law in 1640 that stated, “no one should be allowed to brew beer unless he’s a good brewer.”
Now that, gentle reader, is a common sense beer law.