It’s never been a better time to be a beer lover in America.
We’re experiencing a beer renaissance across our great land and beer choice and variety has never been better. However, this isn’t the first time there were broad consumer beer choices. The American beer industry flourished until prohibition. Thousands of small local breweries served their local markets, just like today. Then, prohibition nearly killed America brewing. For decades after, only the large national brands dominated. By the 1960s, things were bleak for beer lovers.
But a change was coming. In 1965 Fritz Maytag purchased a nearly defunct Anchor and breathed new life into the brewery. Pioneers like Jack McAuliffe, Jim Koch and Ken Grossman and many others kicked off a revolution in American beer. Americans saw a rapid expansion of craft beer in the 1990s. But the 90s craft beer bubble popped and many small breweries wouldn’t survive to see the turn of the new millenium. Today, many beer lovers can’t help but wonder if we’re in a new bubble and if it will burst too.
We don’t think so. Of course, some new breweries won’t survive. But they will not fail because craft beer falls out of favor with the American public. Those breweries will close for other reasons. Some are poorly planned, others under-capitalized while some will make an inferior product that can’t compete. The craft beer business is a business and passion for beer won’t pay the bills. New breweries have to not only produce good beer, but run their business smartly.
Americans now have greater beer choices and variety than any time in our nation’s history. While the earlier craft beer boom of the 90s awakened our palates to Pale Ales, Porters, Stouts and IPAs, the new beer boom is renewing styles most Americans aren’t familiar with yet. Today you can get a Gose or a Belgian Tripel in a can. Yes, cans. Tastes are changing fast and beer lovers expect variety and high quality. Competition is tough, but good beer sells.
Demographics are changing as well. Baby boomers grew up without craft beer. Gen Xers discovered it in their 20s. Millennials have come of age with craft beer on the shelf at their local supermarket. When I was in college in the late 80s, my only choice for “good” beer in my area was European imports. Young adults today celebrate their 21st birthday at bars with 36 craft beers on tap. Times they are a changing.
So, about that bubble thing… yes, there are A LOT of new breweries opening every year. Per the Brewers Association, there were 409 new breweries opened in 2012 (complete 2013 stats aren’t available yet).* That’s not insignificant. However, those 409 breweries can only produce 100,000 barrels a beer. Sounds like a lot, right? That’s only 0.75% of the 13.2 MILLION barrels of craft beer brewed. Less than 1 percent. A small drop in a big bucket of good beer. Attitudes are changing too. Supporting local business is a trend growing throughout the country. No matter where you go in this beautiful land, folks are supporting their local breweries.
We are fortunate to be living during an American craft beer renaissance. Choice and variety has never been better. That’s a good thing.
Hey brewers, we’re a thirsty nation. Keep ‘em coming.*BREWERS ASSOCIATION: CRAFT CONTINUES TO BREW GROWTH