Sunday, February 2, 2014
The Craft of American Beer
There are certain biological certainties that have been learned throughout the ages about being human. One of the many on that list is that we as living organisms CAN exist without beer. However, for almost as long as civilization has existed, in all of its incarnations, there has been versions of beer being produced. Since my degree in Anthropology has been lost in the mail for years, I will venture an uneducated hypothesis based on this limited information: human beings understand that beer makes life better. With that being said, we have also learned that buying quality products made in the United States can also aid in making the lives we all lead better. Why not combine the two by drinking a quality beer made right here in the good ol' US of A?
When it comes to buying local and supporting small business, many people seem to forget about the impact of beer. The brewery business has been prospering in the USA, since long before we, as a nation, decided to flip the bird to the idea of being shackled by a foreign landlord. Throughout many different manifestations, this business, as a whole, has thrived on local and regional patronage in order to maintain itself. This all stemmed from the extremely perishable nature of the liquid being produced, but also due to custom. Beer was a nutritional supplement steeped in tradition, and to brew, was to brew with that tradition in mind.
Flash forward to a more recent time when mass transit and communication systems increased productivity exponentially, the brewery business embraced this opportunity to reach a larger audience. Soon stronger commercial breweries followed the Darwinian code of conduct by eliminating the weak and thereby all but eradicating the local brewery. The U.S. went from over 2000 breweries in the late 1800’s to less than 100 in the 1970’s. There were still some regionally-affiliated brands but, for the most part, there were only a handful of U.S. breweries all splitting the pie. Even some of the older “import” breweries had a very small portion of that pie. Then something happened...
The quintessentially American thought process that “I can do that better” took hold, and on a micro level, small breweries started to pop back up once again. Slowly and surely, these small scale breweries started to re-energize the U.S. brewing world by simply making beer, simply, and then taking it to the next level. Currently, according to the US Craft Brewers Association, there are over 2500 breweries of various sizes and shapes throughout the country. which means that each and every one of us has the opportunity to not only go out and have a pint of the good stuff, but support a small, local business while increasing our own good cheer.
No matter what your preferences are for beer or where you live, like with anything, by doing a small amount of research you can find an American-made beer that has a style that suits you: Belgian-style beers (Brooklyn Local 1), lightly or heavily hopped ales (Stone IPA or Bells Two Hearted Ale), Czech pilsners (Sam Adams Noble Pils or Great Lakes Wright Pils), English pale ale (Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale), stouts (Left Hand Milk Stout), or even eccentric locally-imagined styles based solely on American ingenuity that exist no where else in the world (Dogfish Head or Deschutes breweries).
Not to mention, one of the often overlooked advantages of supporting any local business, is the opportunity that one has to actually meet and interact with the person(s) producing our goods. So the next time you are browsing through the farmers market with your “Made in the USA” label facing outward for all to see, remember how important beer is to that equation. Whatever your reason(s) for cracking open that container of pure happiness, let’s pause and take a moment to think about the pure patriotism that you could be displaying by simply making an educated decision about the libation you choose. Now go have a beer, you deserve it.
For help locating a brewery near you: U.S. Brewery directory from the Brewers Association
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy.)