American Craft Beer – The Evolution Of An Industry
It seems like just yesterday craft beer was an obscurity reserved for the self-proclaimed elite beer drinkers or the rare treat. Today almost every restaurant, bar, and pub have some variety of locally brewed IPA or seasonal brew on their menu.
Microbrews have taken the world by storm and we are grateful for the changing landscape of the beer industry. Beer drinkers are no longer limited to the major domestics or overpriced imports when they go out. The world of flavor has been opened and it’s here to stay. I think every person when they were a child always thought they were cool drinking root beer, as if it were real beer. As an adult I always questioned – does root beer contain caffeine.
The signature flavor and aroma that is most commonly associated with American craft beer comes from the hops. More specifically, the American palate of craft beer is centered around Cascade hops. This variety of hops has medium strength yet very distinct aroma and is flowery and citrus-like. Cascade hops were first developed in Oregon in 1956 and released to brewers in 1972. It was first used commercially by the Anchor brewing company in 1975 and has since become a signature hop for American Pale Ale. It can be widely used in the development of any Ale and many Lager style beers. The availability has allowed it to become a staple ingredient and helped to kickoff the craft beer revolution in the United States. The first ever Great American Beer Festival was held in 1982 in Boulder, Colorado. This event is an annual festival and competition centered around celebrating and sharing craft beer. The first event featured 20 different breweries and served only 35 different beers. Today, this annual event serves approximately 8,000 different beers over the course of 3 days. This is unprecedented growth and development within the craft beer community. People travel from all over the country to experience everything craft beer has to offer and celebrate the idea that an independent company can create a beer that is unmatched in flavor by anything put out by the major conglomerates of the world.
The most impactful expansion of the craft beer world has come within the last 10 years. Social media marketing along with the development of independent distribution has brought craft beer from the festivals to our local watering holes. The development of social media has had its influence in every consumer market globally including craft beer. Beer companies no longer need to shell out millions for a Superbowl advertising campaign to gain popularity for their product. A group of passionate people showing pride for their company can reach a global scale while sitting behind their computer or on their mobile devices. The beers being brewed in Colorado are now being talked about up and down the east coast through simple keystrokes.
Companies such as Melvin Brewing that got off the ground early in the rise of the craft beer trend like Rogue in the pacific northwest, Sea Dog in the northeast and Sweetwater in the southeast have developed from small independent breweries to major corporations. The economic growth around independent breweries is phenomenal. Companies like Rogue have changed the lay of the land by using locally sourced ingredients for all their products creating many new jobs for their local economy. From the farmers growing everything the brewery needs for their expansive line of specialty and seasonal brews to the brewing and distribution facilities, entire towns have bounced back from the last recession thought craft beers. In 2013 the estimated impact craft and microbreweries had in the marketplace was roughly 14 billion dollars across the united states. Jump forward to today and that number has surpassed 26 billion dollars and is directly responsible for the creation of 135000 jobs from over 7000 breweries in the united states alone. This is proof that what was once considered a fad is now a major part of our growing economy and it shows no signs of stopping.
In today’s world showing value for your people, customers, and brand combined with passion and a little social media know-how is all you need for success. It can take a small independent company form privately brewing 20 gallons of your own specialty beer at a time for friends and locals all the way to running a 30-barrel operation with regional distribution and a full steam ahead path towards nation wide appeal within a matter of a few years. The American dream is alive and well and it’s name is Craft beer.