Many refer to the phenomenon of beer flavor and diversity as the “growth of craft beer” or “the culture of better beer.” For beer drinkers it’s simply a journey of pleasure. We live in a golden age of beer and currently it is a good time to be a beer drinker.
It wasn’t always so beer wonderful. After U.S. Prohibition ended with the enactment of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, only about 300 breweries emerged to renew their brewing. More than 800 breweries died during Prohibition. Between 1933 and about 1982, about 700 breweries (America’s small heritage breweries making beer for over 100 years – part 1) were reduced to close to 50. The prospect for local and regional breweries seemed dire and bleak. But also at that time, a brewing renaissance emerged. In 1982, there were about 6 newly-emerged microbrewers.
A democratization (Beer Democracy and Open Source Brewing) of beer began in earnest during the late 1970’s by homebrewers. It was then that better beer began its journey, championed by individuals and not corporate strategies. Homebrewers began learning how to make the beer types they could no longer buy. A few homebrewers started their own small breweries, the first new breweries to open since prohibition began in 1923. A revival had begun. Beer drinkers learned to appreciate these new “microbrews.” The term microbrews has since evolved to “craft beer;” particularly from small and independent brewers (see What is Craft Beer). There are now 1,829 small and independent craft brewers in the USA.
The revival of American beer of the past 30 years is a phenomenon attributable to one of the first (if not the first) “open-source” collaborative experiences in modern history. The community of homebrewers, beer enthusiasts and craft brewers made the pioneers of the democratization of process. It is only anecdotal knowing that Steve Jobs was a member of the “Homebrew Computer Club,” from which the seeds of the Mac Computer would emerge (visit Homebrew and How the Apple Came to Be). The fact is, homebrewers were already fashioning their own revolution before a communication technology emerged that would later enhance the means by which revolutionary ideas and the process of democratizing innovation would be accelerated. Are homebrewers and beer enthusiasts the true heroes of this and tomorrow’s day and age?
The professional craft brewing, homebrewing and beer enthusiast community continues to be on the unequivocal cutting edge of beer’s creative destiny. If you look back at the last 30- year history of better beer, beer economics, beer enthusiasm and the beer marketplace, it is a mirror image of how the rest of the world has embraced, reacted and adjusted to the pace of all that it is involved in. Choice, diversity, information, education, grassroots activism, quality, personality, passion, flavor (both in the real and metamorphic sense), etc. These terms are new to most, but they were the foundation of craft beer—30 years ago!
Craft brewers and craft beer enthusiasts have been and continue to be pioneers in developing a world that contributes to the pleasure of our everyday life, in more ways than beer. Craftbeer.com is a reflection of those who seek the world of better beer.
The unique beer history of the Brewers Association combines a large brew-cauldron of activities and heritage. The result is a legacy that has helped change the world of beer both in the United States and abroad.
Charlie Papazian is the author of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, founder of the Great American Beer Festival, the American Homebrewers Association and the Association of Brewers. He is also the president of the Brewers Association. He works, lives and still enjoys making homebrewed beer in Colorado.