The craft beer movement marks one of the few times in US history the market flowed back downstream. Craft beer is the poster child for the true American dream. It’s bringing employment and hope to rural communities. Craft beer continues the great American traditions of innovation, hard work, and tenacity.
A Brief History
The 18th amendment not only outlawed alcoholic beverages – it devastated small businesses. Breweries were forced to either shutter their doors or serve non-alcoholic beverages to pacify teetotalers.
While the 21st amendment repealed prohibition, America would suffer for decades from a consolidated market focused on large-scale production. Homebrewing restrictions created a high bar for entry for small brewers. Techniques and recipes passed down for generations were lost.
Mass-produced, uniform, low quality beer dominated as failed prohibitionists continued to extol hatred toward alcohol. They slammed breweries as a waste of resources once World War II hit. While large brewers fought back by citing health benefits in brewer’s yeast and beer consumption soared, almost all new sales went to industry leaders AB InBev and Coors Brewing.
The 1970s is when power to the people began restoration. Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which had an amendment exempting homebrewing from taxation, allowing homebrewers to sell their product. Following the signing of that bill in 1978, craft beer began an incremental climb in the market.
The 1980s saw small gains for craft beer and by the mid-90s craft beer sales flourished. A small edge off at the end of the decade turned into the fastest growth the craft beer industry has ever seen in the early 2000s. Currently, we are living in craft beer’s golden age. Almost 80% of adults above 21 live within 10 miles of a brewery and we have over 6,000 breweries to choose between.
Fortunately, many breweries are making up for lost time. While market saturation is a problem for lower quality breweries, the consumers are basking in a never-ending waterfall of delicious suds. The IPA trend still has strength, but sours, bourbon barrel-aged stouts, and countless other varieties are gracing more and more taprooms.
Stimulating the Local Economy
Additionally, breweries love re-purposing old buildings. Warehouses, fire stations, even silos are utilized for their large open spaces, perfect for brewing equipment. Leasing or buying in a rural community is much more approachable than plunking down a hefty deposit for a prime city location. Sadly, increasing technology, a housing crisis, and a recession all compounded to destroy rural America. Craft beer is an unexpected white knight. Breweries bring jobs, funnel money into the local economy, and increase property values by making people want to live in these smaller communities.
An escalation in foot traffic also means food and hospitality businesses benefit. I’ve planned a few vacations around breweries in Vermont, New York, and Oregon. When people travel they need a place to stay and they need food to satiate hunger. A simple step of buying a local craft pint is a building block in the quiet revolution of reinvesting in rural communities.
There’s an air of openness at breweries – well, any good brewery. People are excited to have a cold one, excited to talk about the ingredients, and excited to unwind. A brewery isn’t just a great place to take a date, it’s the town’s watering hole where you can find great company. It’s the closest we will ever get to the beloved British pub, which has a stronger character and community feel than your average bar.
Beer releases become events. People wait in line for hours, forging bonds with other beer enthusiasts, tailgating, sharing musings from other release dates. Locals update each other on town happenings. Vibrancy is at the core of a special release.
At the end of the day grabbing a pint is about joy. Whether it’s to celebrate an engagement, take the edge off a stressful day at work, or take a moment to slow down and appreciate life – craft beer brings joy, it strengthens bonds, and it taste damn good. Cheers to all the craft breweries that strengthen our communities.