Alcohol was drunk in place of water as it was much safer to consume. In England, the water supply was often contaminated as people would take water to drink and clean with from the same source that waste water was dumped into. People at the time had no idea that bacteria and germs in the contaminated water was what made them sick.
In the process of created alcoholic beverages, water is brought to a boil thus killing any micro organisms that can cause disease. But the people of the time did not understand this, only that if they drank water they risked illness, but they were safe drinking alcohol.
When colonists came to the Americas, they continued to drink alcohol over water even though the streams in the Americas were pristine and uncontaminated as they did not know that the water was safe to drink.
Cider and beer were the most popular alcoholic beverages in the early colonies. People thought that alcohol could cure all sorts of illnesses, or at least relieve symptoms. It was drunk at social gatherings such as weddings, christenings, holidays, and even funerals. However, it was still consumed as a part of daily life.
At first, most brewing and consuming of alcohol was done at home. Each house hold would have a small brewery built onto the main living quarters. Because the monetary system was so poor, it was much easier for colonists to grow and gather the supplies for brewing beer and do it themselves at their homes then to try and go out and buy beer.
Before the Revolutionary war, rum was the most popular drink. It was imported from British colonies in the West Indies were the temperatures and climate were ideal for sugar and molasses. After the Revolution, rum fell out of favor for whiskey, which could be made in America.