Throwback Thursdays has been a popular meme on facebook of late and while I enjoyed it, I am not interested in posting photos of my past. Instead I decided to post old content from my old blog sites that are not online to get that content back into searchable space. I’ll post will be the original post date, the post with all the links, and then any thoughts I have reflecting on the post.
Original post date: Tuesday May 31, 2011
Denver Bartender asks “What are the roots of the American craft beer industry?”
There are four elements that contributed to the modern craft beer industry. European beer, mono-culture in US beer, slow food & other quality food movements, and lastly homebrewing; it was the interaction of all of these elements that drove the industry.
European Beer – American exchange students, tourists and soldiers noticed that Europe offered more unique offerings in beer long before the American craft beer revolution. Longing for those beers after returning home was a factor in interest in beers beyond what American companies were offering.
Mono-culture in US Beer – The story of consolidation in the American brewing industry is well known. The industrial Model T, one size fits all beer approach, works when you want a car, er no wait it doesn’t. In any industry that promotes a mono-culture we see people fighting back wanting diversity of options.
Slow Food and other quality food Movements – While the official launch of the ‘Slow Food’ movements was in the later 1980s, the quality food movement has prompted to people pay attention to what they drink, not just what they eat. People want to know the story behind their favorite food and drinks, who makes them and what makes it unique. These are stories that craft beer is perfectly suited to tell.
Homebrewing – Listed last it definitely has a strong factor, probably one of the larger factors on this list, when people didn’t have access to European beers they brewed their own. I am a case in point with wanting Hefeweizen. The mono-culture of US beer didn’t provide what people wanted so they brewed their own. Legalization of homebrewing and improved access to quality ingredients fired people’s imagination about making brewing a living.
All of these factors influenced the development of craft beer, but without all of them I don’t think the industry would be as successful as it is today.
Postscript – I think all the points are still the valid. Often we talk about the founders of craft beer, people like Fritz Maytag, Jack McAuliffe, and others that did the ground work and established the idea they do deserve the credit. But what if these people hadn’t been born? Would there still be a craft beer movement?
The answer is Yes. It may not be the same as it is today, there might be other companies in the top 20, but the direction we are headed would look very much the same. The more I think of it, the more the reaction to the mono-culture in beer would have developed in other places at the same time, like the idea of writing developing in multiple places at the same time. The market was ready for a reaction in the 1970s and 80s and if it hadn’t been in California it might had been Vermont or New Mexico or some other state.