Why are Craft Breweries Popular?

Craft breweries are EVERYWHERE!  The Brewers’ Association estimates that 97% of the population in the United States now lives within 10 miles of a craft brewery, and a new brewery opens its doors in the US roughly every 18 hours.  WHY?

Craft breweries are the natural progression of food and beverage culture in the United States.  In the mid-twentieth century, the United States underwent a “blanding” of the American food palate.  Flavorless, often pre-packaged, meals flooded the American culinary landscape, leading us to become a country that preferred consistency to quality.  During this time, our beer industry did the same thing.  Mega-breweries, those big enough to weather the thirteen year storm of prohibition, began to appeal to their unadventurous customers.  Less hops were added to traditional German lagers, less malt flavors to English ales, and by the 1970s, the handful of breweries left operating in the US produced essentially one style: American Lager, the lowest common denominator beer style one can imagine.  American lagers are designed to possess no strong flavors, thus no one can dislike them. 

Fortunately, by the late 1970s there was a resurgence in the appetites of Americans. Food show hosts like Julia Child brought cooking back into the home. A renewed interest in imported wines and cheeses followed and with those came beer.  The rest of the world still enjoyed a wide variety of beer styles, and American consumers started importing them at rapid rates. Around this same time, the craft brewery industry found its start. Small, independent-minded artisans sought to create beers with flavor. These beers were different from the homogeneous American lagers that towered from differently labeled, though indistinguishable cans on every shelf in America. Some of the early craft brewers only sold their beers locally, while others worked to bring their product to as many Americans as possible.

As flavorful beer started to make its way onto grocery store shelves in many parts of the country, Americans were also beginning to take interest in where goods were made.  Efforts to shop locally and support the local economy often led to purchasing locally made beer.  It’s these local-centric shoppers with a desire fresh flavorful beer who have led to the boom in the US brewing industry.  It’s nice to know who made your beer, and it’s even better when it tastes good.