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Alcohol Timeline

6000-4000 BCE

Viticulture, the selective cultivation of grape vines for making wine, is believed to originate in the mountains between the Black and Caspian seas (modern Armenia).

c. 3000-2000 BCE

Beer making flourishes in Sumerian/Mesopotamian civilization (modern day Iraq) with recipes for over twenty varieties of beer recorded on clay tablets.

3000-2000 BCE

Wine production and trade become an important part of Meditaranean commerce and culture. Ships carry large quantities between cities.

2200 BCE

Cuneiform tablet recommends beer as a tonic for lactating women.

3000-1000 BCE

Beer is unrefined and usually drunk through straw because it had large quantities of grain and mash in it.

c. 1800 BCE

Beer is produced in quantity in northern Syria.

1500 B.C.

Wine is produced commercially in the Levant and Aegean.

900-800 BCE

Extensive, large scale vineyards laid out in Assyria (modern Iraq) produced over 10,000 skins of wine for the new capitol at Nimrud by Assurbanipal II.

c. 800 BCE

Distillation of barley and rice beer is practiced in India.

c. 50 BCE

Dionysius of Halicarnassus writes "the Gauls (french) have no knowledge of wine.. but used a foul-smelling liquour made of barley rotted in water (beer)."

c. 500

Wine making reaches Tang China along the Silk Road.

768

First specific reference to the use of hops in beer from the Abbey St. Denis in France by King Pepin le Bref.

1100

Alcohol distillation is documented by the medical school at Salerno, Italy. The product of the distillation is named 'spirits' in reference to it being the extracted spirit of the wine.

Middle Ages

Distillation of grain alcohol in Europe follows the earlier distillation of wine.

1516

German Beer Purity Law ("Rheinheitsgebot") makes it illegal to make beer with anything but barley, hops, and pure water.

Early 1500's

Benedictine, a cognac-based alcohol with added herbs, is developed at the monastery in Fecamp, Normandy.

1525-1550

England. Excessive use of distilled spirits first becomes apparent.

1524-1556

Viticulture spread through Peru, Chile and Argentina.

1500's

The term 'alcohol' is now used specifically to refer to distilled spirits rather than its previous general meaning of any product of the process of vaporizing and condensing.

1550 - 1575

England. Thomas Nash describes widespread inebriety in Elizabethan England; drunkenness is mentioned for the first time as a crime, and preventive statutes multiply.

17th Century

Use of hashish, alcohol, and opium spreads among the population of occupied Constantinople

1600 - 1625

England. During the reign of James I, numerous writers describe widespread drunkenness from beer and wine among all classes. Alcohol use is tied to every endeavor and phase of life, a condition that continues well into the eighteenth century.

1606

England. Parliament passes "The Act to Repress the Odious and Loathsome Sin of Drunkenness".

17th century

America. Massachusetts laws attempt to control widespread drunkenness, particularly from home-brews, and to supervise taverns. At the same time each town is ordered to establish a man to sell wines and "strong water" so that the public will not suffer from lack of proper accommodations (1637); inns are required to provide beer for entertainment (1649).

1643

Britain imposes an excise tax on distilled spirits. Along with a tax of alcohol came the development of the moonshine trade.

1650 - 1675

America. New England colonies attempt to establish a precise definition of drunkenness that includes the time spent drinking, amount, and behavior. Massachusetts laws against home-brews are reaffirmed (1654); a law forbidding the payment of wages in the form of alcohol results in a labor strike (1672). Increase Mather writes Wo to Drunkards (1673).

1650 - 1675

England. Gin is developed in Holland (c. 1650) by distilling grain with the juniper berry. gin can be produced cheaply and plentifully, and the gin industry grows rapidly in England after it is introduced by British soldiers fighting in the Low Countries.

1675 - 1700

America. The office of tithingman is established in Massachusetts to report on liquor violations in homes (1675). Cotton Mather blames growing irreligiosity on excess tippling (1694).

1675 - 1700

England. New laws encourage the distillation and sale of spirits for revenues and support of the landed aristocracy (1690). The production of distilled liquors, mostly gin, increases dramatically; so does use, particularly among the poor. Excessive consumption of beer and wine is still prevalent among the middle and upper classes.

Late 1600's

Western France develops a reputation as the producer of fine quality cognac.

1700

Scotland and Ireland develop reputations for their quality whiskies.

1770s

Viticulture brought to Alta California. Within a century, it became one of the great wine-producing regions of the world.

1791

The Act of 1791 (popularly called the "Whiskey Tax") enacted a tax on both publicly and privately distilled whiskey.

1793

The 'Whiskey Rebellio' of Pennslyvania, during which government troops were used to make arrests of a handful of distillery leaders who were refusing to pay taxes on their products.

1802

The 'Whiskey Tax' was repealed by Thomas Jefferson who called it 'infernal,' and 'hostile to the genius of a free people'.

1814-1817

A new alcohol tax is temporarily imposed in the United States to help pay for the War of 1812.

Early 19th Century

Development of the continuous still makes the process of alcohol distillation cheaper and easier to control.

1860

1,138 legal alcohol distilleries were operating in the United States producing 88 million gallons of liquor per year.

1862

Abraham Lincoln imposed a new tax on liquor (the Act of July 1) to help pay the bills from the Civil War. This act also created the office of internal revenue. The alcohol tax began at 20 cents per gallon in 1862 and had risen to $2.00 per gallon just over two years later.

1906

Pure Food and Drug Act is passed, regulating the labelling of products containing Alcohol, Opiates, Cocaine, and Cannabis, among others. The law went into effect Jan 1, 1907

Dec 1917

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution (prohibition amendment) is adopted by the required majority of both houses of Congress.

Jan 16, 1919

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution (prohibition amendment) is ratified by the 36th state, meeting the 3/4 requirement. It goes into effect one year later.

Oct 1919

The Volstead Act is passed by Congress over President Wilson's veto. This clarifies and broadens the base of the 18th Amendment, and defines methods of enforcement. It specifies that production and sales of alcoholic beverages is illegal except for medical or religious purposes. Consuption and/or possession of alcohol was legal only in ones own home with legally acquired alcohol. Went into effect Feb 1, 1920.

Jan 16, 1920

The 18th Amendment (prohibition amendment) takes effect, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, transportation, import, and export of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.

1920-1933

The illicit alcohol trade booms in the United States.

Mar 22, 1933

The Volstead Act is modified, legalizing beverages containing not more than 3.2 percent alcohol. Roosevelt proposed this change to Congress nine days after his inauguration.

Dec 5, 1933

The prohibition of alcohol is repealed with the passage of the 21st Amendment, effective immediately.

1934-1970

Once the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed, the excise tax on alcohol began to climb again. In 1934 the tax was $2.00 per gallon, in 1940 it was $3.00, $4.00 in 1941, $6.00 in 1942, $9.00 in 1944, and $10.50 in 1970. At this point a moonshiner could produce and sell a gallon of alcohol for half the amount of the tax alone.

Oct 14, 1978

US President Jimmy Carter signs bill legalizing home brewing of beer for the first time since Prohibition.