English brewing in Colonial America: III

By Gregg Smith

The English plan requiring communities to build taverns was a huge success. As taverns became an economic focal point of communities the interior lands of North America began to develop. Colonial administrators must have heartily congratulated themselves over the wisdom of their economic development plan. It was simple to implement, quick to show a return and required virtually no investment from England. If that weren't enough the taverns also provided a side benefit not previously considered by the governors, but instrumental to implementing the policy of the crown. A system to administer law.

Burdened by its war debt in Europe, London allocated only a small budget for public works and so government buildings in the colonies were virtually non-existent. Still, it was essential for any effective colony to be firmly rooted in the practice of English law. The method used to bring government to outlying areas was a system of traveling jurists. As they moved from town to town settling disputes and administering justice it became known as "riding the circuit" and the authority of the crown traveled with them. What better way to administer the law than in the center of a community and in a building which could be used with no expense. Thus it was that taverns became the seat of the local court. It made riding the circuit a bit more appealing and further established the tavern as a center of any rural community. Overall it was another triumph for the Royal Governors.

The role of the tavern as both a legal and commercial center had unparalled impact on colonial development. The growth and conduct of a region's affairs were thus tied to the tavern and it was not long until it was also the social focus of a region. Travelers invariably brought news and through this system the colonials maintained contact with the mother country.

All this activity increased the demand for commercially brewed beer. But as the number of taverns increased it became impractical to maintain a supply from England. Colonial breweries filled the void inhibited only by a lack of brewing's raw materials. With time this too would change with barley fields and hopyards appearing throughout the colonies.

Gregg Smith


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