Squatters Craft Beers
American Wheat Hefeweizen
Salt Lake City, UT
The bald eagle has been a symbol of the United States of America for almost as long as the country has been in existence. Only hours after signing the Declaration of Independence, Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were assigned the task of creating an official U.S. seal. They were unable to come up with anything that met Congressional approval so the job was passed on to two other committees, both of whom had the same result. Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress at the time, took over the task and decided to use an eagle on the seal, an idea that was actually first proposed by a Pennsylvania lawyer named William Barton. The first Great Seal of the United States was adopted on June 20, 1782 and it featured an eagle, but not necessarily a bald eagle. The bald eagle was added to an updated version of the Great Seal five years later and it has remained a symbol of the U.S.A. ever since. By the time the bald eagle was officially added to the Great Seal, it was already used to represent many U.S. States.
Eagles have long been considered a symbol of power and have been used as far back as the Roman Empire. America’s early leaders were fond of comparing their new country to the legendary Romans and often adopted similar words or symbols. For example, many early American leaders took on nicknames of famous Romans, much of the architecture of America’s earliest government buildings were Romanesque and some portrayals of America’s early leaders even show them wearing a toga. The bald eagle was chosen for the Great Seal because of the animal’s long life, strength and majesty, and also because the creature only exists in North America. As the Great Seal started to be used throughout the U.S., especially on U.S. currency, the popularity of the bald eagle quickly grew.
The Great Seal of the United States features a bald eagle protected by a shield that is covered in red, white and blue. It has thirteen arrows in one talon, representing the 13 original states, and an olive branch in the other. Put together, the symbols portray America’s desire for peace but readiness to go to war, if needed. Above the eagle’s head are thirteen stars and in its beak is a scroll containing the famous motto, “E pluribus unum” (“Out of Many, One”). It is intentional that the eagle’s head is turned towards the talon containing the olive branch.
Since its original inception on the Great Seal, the use of the bald eagle as a symbol of America has flourished for over two centuries but during that time, America’s official national bird almost disappeared. When Europeans first reached the shores of North America it is likely that more than 100,000 bald eagles lived in the land that would later become the United States of America. Due to habitat destruction, hunting and other factors, the population of bald eagles sharply declined through the 1800s and early 1900s which caused Congress to pass the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940, making it illegal to kill, own or sell bald eagles. However, while Congress was working to protect the American icon, the widespread use of the pesticide DDT led to the bald eagle’s continued decline. DDT poisoned the birds, ruined their reproductive abilities and made their eggs too weak to withstand the incubation period. In 1967, Congress declared the bird endangered in most states and this, along with the decline of other important species, directly led to the creation of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. With this piece of legislation, the bald eagle was officially declared to be “endangered”, or, in other words, “in danger of extinction”.
The loss of bald eagles across the U.S. shook America to its core and citizens from coast-to-coast jumped into action. Multiple organizations raised money to help restore bald eagle habitats and spread valuable educational information, many states preserved bald eagle breeding grounds and even the eagles themselves began to alter their lifestyle to fit their altered surroundings. In 1963, only 467 nesting pairs of bald eagles remained in the U.S., but by 1995, bald eagle populations had made such an impressive recovery that the birds were upgraded to “threatened”, followed by even more progress which caused them to be completely removed from the endangered species list in 2007. There are now believed to be about 5,000 nesting pairs in the U.S. and more than 70,000 bald eagles in total across North America, a tremendous improvement that is rarely seen among other endangered species.
The bald eagle’s recovery from the brink of extinction has become a point of pride for Americans and also a rallying cry for environmentalists who use it as an example of the positive impact humans can have on the natural world. Spotting a bald eagle was once a rare treat but, fortunately, it is now a much more common occurrence. One place a beer lover can easily spot a bald eagle is on the label of Squatters Craft Beers’ American Wheat Hefeweizen, one of Squatters’ many award-winning brews and the perfect place to celebrate America’s most famous national symbol.
From the Brewer: Five American grains come together with Tettnanger hops and Altbier yeast to deliver a soft mouth feel with subtle notes of citrus. Finish with a lemon wedge and pour with unfiltered pride. ABV 4%, IBU 17
Jon Lee - Co-COO & Brewmaster, Adam Curfew - Co-COO