History of Alcohol in Europe


By the year 1600, alcohol consumption had become a common practice in different parts of Europe. With the spread of Christianity into different parts of the world, brewing and the use of wine attracted the attention of many people. However, the 17th century presented a new era that reshaped the history of alcohol in Europe and the United States. This paper examines the developments experienced from the 17th to the 20th century to understand the history of alcohol in these two regions.

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Thesis statement

From the seventeenth century, the history of alcohol in Europe took a positive path as new technologies and inventions revolutionized brewing, marketing, and consumption of fermented beverages while the colonial conditions experienced in America affected the use of different alcoholic drinks until in the 20th century when the two regions recorded similar events.

History of Alcohol in Europe

The spread of Catholicism across Europe created a situation whereby many people had access to different alcoholic beverages. The 17th century resulted in the introduction of distilled alcoholic drinks such as wine. The Dutch developed superior systems and technologies for producing and marketing wine across the region. Sparkling wine was produced by the vintners. This development marked a unique event in alcohol’s history. In England, wine would be stored in basements throughout the winter period. Consequently, the wine would undergo a prolonged fermentation to form was used to be called “brisk champagne” in the country.

In France, a new approach to wine and alcohol brewing emerged during the 17th century. The nation invented a superior brewing method in an attempt to produce wine that did not have bubbles. At the same time, the English appeared to prefer such bubbles in their alcoholic drinks. During this period, a new assumption emerged whereby many Europeans acknowledged that water was unhealthy and inappropriate for consumption. This notion encouraged them to embrace the use of fermented drinks such as beer and alcohol in large quantities. Since the water was obtained from contaminated wells or sources, many Europeans believed that brewing would produce a safer drink. This kind of development explains why the 17th century saw an increased number of alcohol consumers on the continent.

Throughout the 18th century, existing religious teachings and ceremonies continued to encourage more people to consume alcohol in large quantities. This was the case because some communities believed that alcoholic drinks were useful in increasing strength and treating different illnesses. Beer was also essential for occasions and celebrations such as weddings, funerals, and graduations. These aspects continued to encourage more people to embrace this practice in different regions across Europe. This historical period is when the first steam engine was developed in Europe. This breakthrough led to the industrialization of brewing. Many industrial firms emerged in Europe to produce champagne and beer. The power of the steam engine led to a new situation whereby alcoholic drinks could be transported and marketed in many regions across the continent.

In the ninetieth century, new inventions such as refrigeration and automated bottling emerged in Europe. The success of different innovations led to a new process known as pasteurization. Railroad distribution in Europe continued to revolutionize the way brewing was done. The expansion of the region’s infrastructure increased the number of people who had access to alcoholic beverages. This historical development would have significant ramifications and implications towards the 20th century. Several changes emerged in Europe during this century, thereby dictating some of the major issues that revolved around alcohol consumption such as brewing, marketing, and drinking. For instance, advanced research studies and scientific achievements resulted in superior brewing processes. This led to the brewing of new drinks and the creation of different flavors on the continent.

Historians have also acknowledged that the increasing number of people consuming alcohol and the subsequent social problems such as reduced fertility and population growth informed new laws and regulations. This is the reason why the 20th century saw the emergence of policies controlling the use of alcohol across the European Union (EU). The upheavals recorded between 1910 and 1945 created an environment whereby brewing and beer use were taken to the next level in an attempt to support these upheavals. After the Second World War, a new industry was established in Europe that produced a wide range of alcoholic drinks. New tastes continued to emerge in the market.

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History of Alcohol in the United States

In the United States, alcoholic beverages were produced by the Spaniards before the 17th century. The first beer was produced from maize. Despite the presence of this drink, Native Americans did not have any fermented beverage before the first Europeans appeared on the continent. Following the settlement of different Europeans in America, alcohol became an everyday beverage. In Massachusetts, distilling and brewing became common to produce different settlers with enough alcohol.

In Virginia, the colonists produced and consumed alcoholic drinks because they believed they were good for their health. Studies have indicated that brewing became a common industrial process in America during this colonial period. Winemaking also emerged in New Mexico. From 1774, a new era emerged following the infamous War of Independence in America. This conflict influenced and transformed the drinking habits of many citizens. Whiskey was consumed by different people as more settlers began to grow grapevines and maize. The officers in the Colonial Army had to be supplied with whiskey or rum during the war.

Thomas Jefferson indicated that there was a need for the country to abolish duty on whiskey and alcoholic beverages in 1801. Cocktails would later be invented in 1803 after the new regulation. The formation of the Massachusetts Society for the Suppression of Intemperance (MSSI) was established in 1813. This associated remained opposed to the use of rum and alcohol. However, grapevines would be planted in different regions such as Hawaii. These changes and emerging taxation policies led to the establishment of new breweries in different parts of the country.

By the 1830s, new organizations aimed at discouraging people from alcohol use emerged. According to them, the application of laws would deliver positive results. However, the period would be characterized by the introduction of vineyards in different regions, including Missouri and Alabama. Despite such measures, many citizens were observed to drink around seven gallons of alcohol every year. The emergence of many religious movements and institutions resulted in a situation whereby individuals were encouraged to use alcohol in moderation. Some also advised them to rub the compound on their stomachs or abdomens.

From 1920, the government introduced strict laws to prohibit the use of alcohol in the country. However, the American Bar Association (ABA) would go further to call for repeal in the year 1928. The government introduced the “three tier system” that was aimed at monitoring the business practices of different alcohol producers and marketers in the county. Retailers and wholesalers had to be licensed before engaging in the business. Although many states had strict laws to govern the brewing and use of alcohol, the number of drunkards continued to rise significantly during this period. The introduction of cans created a scenario whereby beer could be marketed much easily. The approach would also make it easier for many American soldiers to be supplied with beer especially during the Second World War. Over the years, the country was grappling with the problem of increased alcoholic consumption. The number of rum bottles sold in North America continued to increase significantly. In 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Act was enacted and passed to ensure that alcoholic substances were unavailable to underage individuals.

Comparative Analysis

From the above analysis, it is quite clear that the history of alcohol in Europe was something informed by emerging inventions, social issues, and the development of the steam engine. Many people in Europe had inherited an advanced system that made quality beer and wine available in different regions. Emerging inventions such as pasteurization, refrigeration, and the steam engine created the best environment for supporting this new industry. The spread of Christianity also encouraged more people to embrace the consumption of alcoholic beverages than ever before. Processes such as distillation made it easier for the continent to come up with diverse flavors.

In the United States, the period between the seventeenth and the twentieth century took a different path in comparison with the one experienced in Europe. This was the case because the country had to appreciate the fact that beer had been introduced. With the colonists dominating or controlling almost every aspect of life, the presented laws and policies dictated the way different people consumed (or used) alcohol. This was different in Europe since emerging technologies and innovations continued to dictate the relationship between people and beer.

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Following the enactment of policies and programs dictating the consumption of alcohol, individuals couldn’t invent new brewing techniques. Consequently, wine and alcohol were the only available options to the people for many years. In Europe, distillation led to the brewing of whisky and superior flavors that fulfilled the needs of many citizens. Additionally, many Europeans were able to purchase and consume different flavors of wine and whisky after the invention of the train. In America, colonial powers controlled the marketing of alcohol-related substances. This challenge or gap explains why the War of Independence was somehow related to the consumption of alcohol.

After these diverse paths, the 20th century resulted in a situation whereby Europe and America appeared to face similar challenges after the number of alcohol consumers swelled. This predicament was catalyzed by the wave of industrialization and massive production of different alcoholic beverages and flavors. Many countries would go further to implement sufficient policies and laws to address the challenges associated with alcohol consumption


The above discussion has revealed that Europe and the United States recorded diverse historical developments regarding the distribution, quality, and consumption of alcohol. These outcomes were catalyzed by aspects such as existing religious beliefs, industrial pursuits, political situations, and emerging technologies. The convergence of the world following the end of the Second World War resulted in similar challenges in these two regions regarding the use of alcohol.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, June 27). History of Alcohol in Europe. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/history-of-alcohol-in-europe/

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"History of Alcohol in Europe." StudyCorgi, 27 June 2021, studycorgi.com/history-of-alcohol-in-europe/.

1. StudyCorgi. "History of Alcohol in Europe." June 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/history-of-alcohol-in-europe/.


StudyCorgi. "History of Alcohol in Europe." June 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/history-of-alcohol-in-europe/.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "History of Alcohol in Europe." June 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/history-of-alcohol-in-europe/.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'History of Alcohol in Europe'. 27 June.

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