English brewing in Colonial America: II

By Gregg Smith

English colonists in North America had to brew their own beer. They had no other choice. It wasn't until the colonies began exporting goods back to England that beer sales rose to any significant level. It was iron, flour, and fur which brought beer and hard currency to North America. But even then both were usually restricted to the immediate area of coastal towns.

As time passed the Royal Governors grew concerned over the lack of economic activity and development in the crown's interior lands. Merchants might be content limiting trade to the coastal region but it was certainly no way to build and hold an empire. To solve this problem they looked at the history of trade in early England, which was accelerated when it became easier for traders and merchants to travel, meet others, and conduct business in comfortable surroundings. The innovation which caused all this was the venerated English tavern.

Taverns provided a convenient place to stay when traveling and served as a focal point of trade. It enabled merchants to expand the range of their business and soon they became centers of commerce. As a result tavern keepers were among the wealthiest members of any community. So well did this work in England it seemed only fitting to apply the same solution to the troubled economy of the Americas.

Representatives of the crown soon directed each community to open a tavern or inn to tend the needs of travelers. They knew such action would bring new inhabitants to the undeveloped areas and right they were. As taverns were built trade increased, and as trade brought in money more taverns were constructed. Even areas with little currency established taverns to function as commercial centers.

As trade with England and the monetary system further developed taverns solidified their standing as a community center and no town of any size would be without one. In the next installment find how the crown's officials used the tavern to develop a legal system.

Gregg Smith


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