Craft brewing has exploded in recent years, with over 3,000 breweries now based in the U.S., according to The Brewers Association, Boulder, Colo. We have not seen this number of breweries since well before Prohibition.
This growth is impressive, and the craft brewing industry is helping stimulate the U.S. economy in a big way. Not only are all of these new and expanding breweries providing a lot of jobs, but it is also good business for equipment manufacturers, suppliers like Birko, advertising companies, tap houses, shippers and retailers, and of course, bars and restaurants, too.
In the words of The Talking Heads, “Well, how did we get here?” The first big wave of craft brewers started in the early to mid-1990s. Growth slowed for the industry as a whole in the mid-to-late ‘90s, but things turned around in the early 2000s, and craft brewing hasn’t looked back since.
A lot of people ask me, “What changed?” I believe it comes down to changing demographics. A new generation of craft beer drinkers is now on the scene – people who have never known the absence of craft breweries and craft beer. I call this new, young, craft beer consumer the “Starbucks Generation.” They are used to a lot of variety in their drinks and aren’t afraid to pay for it. When I was young, I remember my grandfather complaining about the price of a cup of coffee. Today I often wonder what he would think about all of the money being spent on the fancy and hard-to-pronounce names of coffee and tea drinks these days. I am sure he would feel the same way about the price of craft brews, but the Great Depression probably had a lot to do with it. My father only knew and drank mass-produced American Light Lager. (I remember him saying Bock Beer was from “the bottom of the barrel,” which is not true. It is a German-style lager.)
With the myriad breweries and beers now available to the consumer, there is almost certainly a beer out there to fit just about everybody’s taste. To find a style of beer you like might take some time, but it is easier if you know type of flavor what you like. This handy style finder can help point you in the right direction. The internet and social media also make it much easier to find out which craft beers are to people’s liking.
One thing is for sure, this country is much different that it was before the craft brewing “revolution” and I don’t think it is a fad. These breweries and beers are here to stay, and to that, I say, “Cheers!”