28. The Secret Behind the Saloon Boom
Beer has a short shelf life, so throughout most of history, there was little economic sense in brewing more beer than could be consumed locally, because it would spoil if sent far away. By the second half of the nineteenth century, pasteurization had increased beer’s shelf life, and between that, efficient refrigeration, and an expanding rail network, brewers were able to operate nationwide.
To operate nationwide, brewers needed a nationwide distribution network, and they created one by financing saloons. By the early 1900s, a saloon operator willing to sell only one brand of beer was guaranteed support from the brewer. Brewers advanced prospective saloon keepers cash, loans, credit for furniture, and whatever else was needed to get the establishment up and running and quenching the public’s thirst for beer. As a contemporary put it: “No man with two hundred dollars, who was not subject to arrest on sight, need go without a saloon in Chicago“.