With respect to Chance Brothers workers, it was a long-standing practice that was still accepted until 1976, when the rolled plate division closed. From what I understand, it was a practice that goes way back in history, but was absolutely necessary to replace fluids, not just energy. As Chance had its own beer cellar, I believe each worker was allowed a pitcher each day.
The reason for them drinking beer, and not water, is purely down to sanitation. Prior to proper quality controls, water was quite a hazardous substance to drink due to there being so many water-borne diseases and beer, having been previously boiled and treated, was actually far less risky to imbibe. With it becoming such an acceptable practice, it would have become very difficult for the management to actually stop the practice and besides, surprisingly, no accidents due to alcohol use were ever recorded.