It began as a hunger for flavor, diversity, quality, authenticity and uniqueness. By the mid-1970s, it took on the fervor of a renaissance, beginning with a trickle of microbreweries and a few home brewers. It grew over the years to become today’s highly regarded and highly original American craft beer.
How to describe craft beer? Personal answers vary from “10 minutes of pleasure” to “a glass to revere” and “best beer in the world.” A short version of the Brewers Association’s official definition of an American microbrewery is small, producing less than 15,000 barrels a year; independent; and using traditional or innovative brewing ingredients. All of which helps give craft beer its distinctive flavors and individuality.
Their styles vary across the entire spectrum of beers, from the lovely Pilsner of Brooklyn Brewery, along with its Oktoberfest, Winter Ale and other products; to Samuel Adams’ Boston Lager and its Cream Stout; and Oskar Blues Brewery’s Dale’s Pale Ale. There’s also Black Butte Porter, Anchor Steam Beer, Loose Cannon India Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Coney Island Amber Lager, Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, Sawtooth Ale, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Purple Haze Wheat Beer, Dead Guy Ale and hundreds more.
America has always been a beer-making, beer-loving country. Native Americans made corn beer long before Europeans arrived with their versions of beer. The first brewery on these shores opened in the early 1600s in New Amsterdam (Manhattan). By 1873, the country had 4,131 breweries. Since then, American beer and breweries experienced a roller coaster history which, by the time the craft beer revolution began, saw the major portion of American beer made by a few gigantic breweries mostly in one style — pale (in both color and flavor) lagers. Imported beers were not yet a major factor in America.
When the beer revolution began, the country had eight craft brewers. Today, nearly 2,800 craft brewers (a number including craft brewpubs, which are restaurant-breweries) account for 7.8 percent of all beer made in this country. One statistic even claims the average American now lives within 10 miles of a brewery.
Today is the best time in our country’s history to be a beer lover.
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