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Bargain brew to honor FDR, change to Volstead Act

POCATELLO, Idaho – The only microbrewery in this eastern Idaho town plans to sell beer at 1933 prices.

It’s only for a day, April 7, and it marks what craft brewers throughout the county call “Brew Year’s Eve.”

It was on that day in 1933 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Congress to amend the Volstead Act, which prohibited the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages.

Portneuf Valley Brewing plans to mark the date by selling a 9-ounce glass of Ligertown Lager for 10 cents, compared with the usual $2.

Another milestone for brewers was reached in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter signed a bill repealing the federal ban on home brewing. A Pocatello business called the Grapevine sells equipment to home brewers.

“This is good brewing weather,” said manager Jeff Smith. “You’ve got steady temperatures in your basement, and the furnace doesn’t kick off.”

He said by early August, once fruit trees in the area start producing, home-brewing sales will decline. But kits for making wine will start selling about that time.

Michael Swenson, besides being a microbiologist and research associate with Idaho State University Biological Sciences, makes beer in his garage. Jim Lowden, a reactor operator at the Idaho National Laboratory, assists.

Last week, the amount of beer they have brewed reached 400 gallons, including the most recent 20 gallons of stout and India Pale Ale.

“Most of the time we make a party out of it,” said Swenson. “When I’m too lazy to brew, he’ll call me and harass me, or I’ll call him.”

They use the open-air fermentation method, allowing the fermentation to take place the first few days in kegs with the tops cut off.

“All the great breweries do it,” Swenson told the Idaho State Journal.

Home brewing, Lowden said, results in a special product.

“I always equate (home brewing) to if you go to Grandma’s house and she’s got a loaf of bread, and you flip it over and put butter on it,” he said. “That always tastes so much better than if you go down to the store and just buy a generic loaf of white bread.”


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