Alcohol and the Amish

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alcohol and amish

Wow, this is an image you don’t often see!  No, not the beer can…read on…  I’m not going to repost the man’s photo without his permission, so I am just going to link to it here.   Now, in complete fairness, there is a lot we don’t know about the context of this photo.  And this may well be a drive-thru that sells soda pop also, so who’s to say this buggy wasn’t zipping through for a case of Coke?  And, bottom line: who cares if they were going to buy beer?  No law, no religious directive says that they can’t. Outsiders make a lot of erroneous assumptions about the Amish when it comes to certain lifestyle choices and it’s really unfair to the Amish. Such unfounded assumptions raise the Amish to a behaviorial standard that they themselves have never claimed to set.  A lot outsiders just assume that the Amish don’t drink alcohol.  It’s an assumption probably drawn from the Amish appearance of piety and plainness  But the Amish also have a deep Germanic heritage and part of that culinary heritage is alcohol (I’m a quarter German, so I can say that), especially beer. I don’t often see the Amish popping open a bottle of Merlot, but many will make their own homemade wines.  I’ve tried some Amish-made dandelion wine on several occasions and it is good stuff.  Speaking from my personal observations only, excessive alcohol seems to be “hit and miss” among the Amish.  In some communities it seems to be a bigger problem than others.  Two communities that have made the news in recent years for cops arresting drunken buggy drives are Berne, Indiana and Middlefield, Ohio. A drunken horseman on a crowded road is no laughing matter. In the Geneva and Berne, Indiana communities, “package stores” (a fancy term for liquor store) do a booming business among the Amish.  In Geneva, Indiana the “Case n Quart” is a beer joint right on the edge of the Amish settlement and I’ve seen plenty of buggies parked there over the years.  Now this also raises an interesting issue and maybe what I am doing is a stretch?  But the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota are now suing alcohol establishments in White Clay, Nebraska just across the state line from the officially dry Pine Ridge Reservation.  The tribe claims the alcohol businesses in White Clay target the Sioux.  So is the demand there and then the stores come? Or do the stores come and create demand?  Alcohol can ravage any group of people.

Alcohol use by teenage/underage Amish appears to be a bigger problem than in the adult Amish population (although by no means limited to this group).  I’ve seen large groups of Amish young people congregating at liquor stores.  That said, plenty of Amish young people don’t drink.  Bottom line in all of this?  The Amish in this regard are not much different from the rest of the population…You have a mix of teetotalers, occasional drinkers, and alcoholics.That said, I’d say that alcoholism is under-reported among the Amish and some awareness campaigns might go a long way.

 

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The Discussion

  1. Heather D. says:


    Kevin, well said. Over the years there would be a drug bust in Lancaster involving an Amish person which would of course be a huge scandal for selling and/or using. Making any sort of assumption about the Amish is foolish. They are more like us than people think. If something occurs within the mainstream community chances are you’ll see it within the Amish community. They aren’t immune to drugs, alcohol, growing and selling GMO crops (I added this one because I’ve read where people think the Amish live such a clean life and only grow thing organically using heirloom seeds,) and they have cases of Autism just like the rest of us.

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  2. One word…..HUMAN! They too are human and not exempt from anything their fellow HUMANS do!
    It is society’s misconception that they do not drink, do not smoke, do not do drugs, etc.. Just because they live a simple life does not mean they are not exposed to non-simple things and just like Adam & Eve were tempted…so to can the Amish be tempted, same as you or I!!!!

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  3. The beer could be for frying batter. Beer batter fish and chicken are popular in Northern Indiana for benefit dinners. I agree with Allyson L. Saying the Amish don’t drink or smoke is like saying the Brethren, Methodists, Catholics or any other group does not do a certain thing. There is temptation for everyone.

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  4. Had to laugh at a couple of these things. You are so right that people seem to hold the Amish to a much higher standard than the Amish do. Go figure. Also the notion that building a liquor store causes people to drink. I know about the argument that if it is not readily available people won’t drink it, but how does that explain the people who make liquor in a prison toilet? That is by no means readily available and by that standard there should now be a huge demand for my plain clothes and head coverings among the masses. After all, I made it readily available! ;) Really enjoyed this honest look at things. Thank you!

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    • Thanks for joining us here, Amishmaid! And how does one get the plain clothes you make?

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      • Here in Lancaster Co. PA you can find plain clothing for sale (obviously they are handmade). I’ve seen LOTS of them at local thrift stores and also at yard sales. The Amish are really big on having yard sales around here, as well as going to them! I go to yard sales a lot, especially theirs since they always have good food for sale :)

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  5. I am not Amish, although I look it. I have been asked in the liquor store, “What are you doing here?” As far as I am concerned, the use of alchohol is not a sin unless it is excessive.

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  6. I grew up in Amish country and am a former police officer. I could tell endless stories about Amish kids, drinking and driving both in vehicles as well as buggies, and getting charged with DUI in both. In the summer, the “English” and the “Amish” play baseball against each other less than a mile away from me, and there is a LOT of drinking going on at those games. Sometimes I think the girls are more wild than the boys! Sad but true, at least in this area.
    Time to watch “The Amish Experience” on PBS. I want to see how “accurate” it is (smile). At least this episode is taking place in PA, as opposed to the midwest where they aren’t nearly as strict.

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  7. Keven
    I read your book. It was great. I do hope you write a sequal to it.Good job.

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