The Washington Post

Guest blog: The D.C. beer growler debate of 1905 remembered

Tom Cochran of the Ghosts of DC blog writes about the city’s heated early 20th-century debate about banning big mugs of beer.

Back in 1905, District authorities were fighting to ban growlers in the city, claiming that access to excessively cheap beer was damaging to society as a whole. Three interest groups, the District government, brewers and the Anti-Saloon League, not exactly seeing eye-to-eye, decided to compromise on reform and work for the collective good of the city (at the time — today we need growlers again).

The Washington Post published an article on Oct. 21, 1905, outlining the issue at hand.

“Hereafter, if the District officials, the Anti-Saloon League, and the brewers, for once in history working harmony, are successful, the father of the family, returning from his daily labors, instead of sending little Jimmy out to the corner inn, will have to dig down for a beer opener and pop corks at so much per case, instead of getting the stuff over the counter at a nickel. This, devotees of the growler claim, will be a hardship upon those to whom the economy of the side door has long been a delight.

The charge is made openly by the Anti-Saloon League, by the police department and by many private citizens, including one United States Senator, that in some parts of the city, notably the northeast section, South Washington, parts of North Washington and Georgetown, the retail places invite this class of trade, and that it is growing to enormous proportions, with consequent disorder, multiplications of Police Court cases, and increase of vice.”

(Stefan Wermuth — Reuters)

The excise board pushed to restrict the sale of beer and other liquors to the original package so as to mitigate the “tin-can trade” of putting beer into growlers for distribution. Some dealers were actually in favor of this, as it cut down on what they saw as the sale of cheap and poor quality beers.

Cries to ban the sale of growlers continues for years. Ultimately all alcohol was banned by Prohibition in 1917, ending the argument in favor of the Anti-Saloon League and the Temperance movement.

Read the complete post at Ghosts of DC

These days, it’s not difficult to find a bar in D.C. offering a refreshing and unique brew. The upcoming Savor craft beer festival even draws breweries and beer lovers from across the country to the city.

Post your comment below: Where’s your favorite spot in the region to grab a BIG beer?


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters