Life and Death After Prohibition

Two Becker Employees Canning Beer, c. 1940
Two Becker employees canning beer, c. 1940
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Gustav Lorenz Becker Photograph Collection, P0361 Box 001, Folder 04, Item 007)

With the 1933 adoption of the twenty-first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Prohibition officially came to an end and Utah’s only brewery was ready to resume full production. That was good news for many communities along the Wasatch Front, which like many in the nation, were devastated by job losses during the Great Depression. The Becker Products Company employed over 100 people and promised countless indirect jobs, and with the ability to make beer, they could once again begin building up their business. Indeed, sales boomed immediately after Prohibition, but once the large eastern breweries had time to rebuild their businesses, the Beckers struggled to compete.

Modern Brewer Magazine Cover, 1939
Modern Brewer magazine cover featuring Gustav Becker, 1939
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Gustav Lorenz Becker Photograph Collection, P0361 Box 011, Book 01)

When Prohibition ended, the Beckers rebuilt the Evanston brewery (again incorporating it as the Becker Brewing and Malting Company) to keep up with a healthy demand for Becker’s beer. This success in the face of near extinction during Prohibition earned the Beckers a great deal of respect from their fellow brewers. In 1939 Gus Becker was elected president of the United States Brewers’ Association, the largest trade association for brewers’ interests at the time. Gus used his position of influence to advocate for the continuance of local breweries across the country until his death in 1947.

"Historic brewery's saga ending" Ogden Standard-Examiner Article, 1984
“Historic brewery’s saga ending” Ogden Standard-Examiner article, 1984 [Click image to enlarge; click it again to browse all pages.]
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Becker Brewing and Malting Company Records, CAINEMSS31 Series 03, Box 007, Folder 08, Item 001)

The Beckers successfully operated their brewery through World War II, patriotically rebranding their beer as “Becker’s American Pilsener” for the duration of the conflict. However, the years following the war marked the beginning of a slow decline in revenue for the company. Sales decreased throughout the 1950s as the Beckers’ two small western breweries tried in vain to keep up with the massive eastern breweries that could produce, ship, and sell their beer at a lower cost. Eventually the Becker Products Company of Ogden and Becker Brewing and Malting Company of Evanston became two more victims in the nationwide trend away from small breweries. The Evanston brewery’s stockholders voted to cease operations in 1962 and the Ogden plant closed its doors just two years later in 1964.