Most Americans now live within ten miles of a craft brewery, making microbrews perhaps one of the best-understood and most widely embraced examples of “farm-to-consumer” products. These are independent producers using traditional methods to produce intentionally smaller yields of a better quality beer. And America is enthusiastic.
According to a June 2013 article in the Detroit Free Press, craft beer has edged out wine as the drink of choice for young women, 18 to 34. The market for craft beer has doubled in the last six years and is expected to triple by 2017. Last year, 409 new brewpubs or microbreweries opened, and they seem to have staying power, as only 43 closed in the same period of time.
Fans of craft beer cite the better and more varied ingredients, the wider scope of beers available, the reduced environmental impact and the socio-economic benefits of small-scale breweries as reasons to choose it over those produced by the giant brewery conglomerates. Sometimes it’s just that people enjoy meeting the folks that make their beer.
Currently there are nearly 2300 craft beer producers in the U.S., compared to 64 conventional breweries. Between them, the smaller breweries produced 13,235, 917 barrels of beer. Or 4.6 billion bottles of beer on the wall. In a report from the Brewers Association, this accounts for a market share of 6.5% in volume, and 10.2% in dollars.
The states with the most craft beer breweries are Washington, California and Colorado; though Vermont and Montana have the record for the most breweries per 500,000 people: 20 and 18 respectively. Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia are lagging in the craft beer trend; whereas Nevada, Minnesota, Tennessee and Alabama are fastest growing for locally produced beer. Nashville’s “Blackstone” went from producing 600 barrels of beer in 2011 to 7,740 in 2012.
Unlike their behemoth cousins, craft beers are more than just grains, hops, water and yeast. Brewers use a variety of locally sourced “extras” to develop interesting seasonal and limited edition beers. As a result, craft beers are starting to elbow out wine for interesting food “pairings” in restaurants and at home.
The benefits are not just for beer drinkers, though. In 2012, the craft beer industry added $123 million dollars to the economy of Sonoma County, California. More than 108,000 people are employed making and serving microbrews. Craft beer has been credited with economic revivals in Williamsburg, NY; Cleveland, OH; Oakland, CA and Milford, Delaware. In each instance these were urban areas considered to be “blighted,” and all are now enjoying a renaissance in those neighborhoods due to the popularity of locally produced craft beers.
Elliot Bay Brewing, WA
Eel River Brewing Company, CA
Peak Organic, ME
Sierra Nevada Estate Home
Bison Brewing, CA
Lakefront Brewing, WI
Fish Tale Organics, WA
Wolaver’s – all beers
Lamar Street – Whole Foods
label (brewed by Goose Island)
Bison – all beers
Dogfish Head (organic when ingredients available)
Fish Brewery Company – Fish
Lakefront Brewery – Organic ESB
Brooklyn – (organic when ingredients are available)
Pinkus – all beers
Samuel Smiths – Samuel Smiths
Wychwood – Scarecrow Ale
MORE FUN: Unique craft beers go hand-in-hand with great graphic design for the labels. See http://goo.gl/i9t9t for branding inspiration.
A barrel of beer and a barrel of oil aren’t equal. Even beer barrel sizes aren’t standard. Maybe it’s time to return to the “hogshead” as a unit of measure. “I’ll take a hogshead of your ale, inn keep.”