As American became populated, the immigrants brought with them, so much more than their belongings. I recently received my copy of the “Wisconsin Magazine of History” from the Wisconsin Historical Society, of which I am a member, and one of the cover stories was entitled, “German Brewing in Early Wisconsin.” Because I come from a strong German background, and was born in Wisconsin, this story was of particular interest to me. It seems that, while beer brewing in the United States began with the English, in the mid-1800s, but beer drinking was common in much of Europe, and in all levels of society, which surprised me some. We tend to expect that, higher society people would never drink beer, but the reality is that that is only in more recent years. The reality is that because on the lack of knowledge of sanitation and disease causing pathogens, many of the drinks people could make out of ordinary water really weren’t very safe to drink. Beer, on the other hand because it had to be boiled and fermented, did away with all those organisms, making it safe to drink. That made beer a very common drink by the Middle Ages. It was even given to the children.
Upon reading this, I wondered if my German great grandparents made beer in their home. I thought about the journal my Aunt Bertha Schumacher had written, but she never mentioned beer. I suppose it could have been because it was so common in the home, that it never occurred to her. Or could it have been because they were the exception to the rule, and didn’t really drink beer in their household. It’s hard to say, but when something is as much a cultural and traditional practice, it seems to me unlikely that they would not have done thing in the same way their families did at home. After studying German in high school, I knew that beer was talked about in many of the dialogues we learned. It just seemed to me, like it was a way to learn the words, and now a way of life, but perhaps I had been wrong on that. I suppose it could have been that because family meals in the United States, these days anyway, did not include beer, wine, or any other alcoholic drink of any kind, on a regular basis, was pretty much unheard of. It just didn’t seem like an normal activity, but in the time that my German great grandparents immigrated to the United States, drinking beer was very normal, so I have no reason to believe that they didn’t drink it, just like everyone else.
When the German immigrants arrived in America, they were required to brew their own beer. Since wheat was abundant, barley and hops easy to grow, they had no problem making their beer. I must wonder if they used whet at that time, though, because the German recipe did not include wheat, because it was needed for bread in Germany, and it wasn’t as abundant as it was in the United States. The east coast with its heat and long growing season, didn’t make a good brewing climate. When the people moved to Wisconsin, they found the climate, especially in the Milwaukee area was perfect, and I suppose the rest is history, for German beer and for Milwaukee.