Once upon a time, American beer was considered of poor quality by international standards. Liquor dominated the drinking scene, particularly of the rich and famous, while beer remained in the background, something to drink for the everyday working man, but nothing to write home about. But as imported beer came on the market, American brewers and beer drinkers took note of how delicious beer could be, and began to take action to change the beer scene.
Some say the turning point in American beer happened when Anchor Brewing Co. was bought by Maytag in 1965 and revitalized, producing their first bottles of Anchor Steam in 1971. Jimmy Carter worked to deregulate the beer market in 1971, and allowed for small-scale homebrewing, allowing for microbreweries to start and thrive, even in competition with massive breweries that controlled the market up to that point. As they began to grow into businesses that could no longer be considered micro, the broader term of Craft Brewery was introduced.
Since that time, craft beer has been on a steady rise and has seen a great boom in the last 20 years. As homebrewing has grown as a hobby, more and more people have started up their own breweries to share their love of beer with others. In fact, many craft breweries started as just a few folks making beer in a garage. By 1995, 500 breweries were making beer, and that number more than doubled in two years. In fact, at the end of the 20th century, there were more breweries operating in the U.S. than in any other country in the world, giving us a huge variety of beers that were created with good old American taste and ingenuity. As more consumers find their love of great beer, the numbers will keep rising. As of right now, there are 108 craft breweries operating in Pennsylvania alone, and the state ranks second in the nation in barrels of beer produced per year.
If the rise in events such as the Great American Beer Festival or the Craft Brewers Conference last week don’t convince you that craft beer is growing, just take a trip to your local distributor and look at the myriad of beers available. Fifty years ago, you couldn’t easily find a barley wine or saison just anywhere. If you asked an employee, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you what an IPA was, let alone help you find one you might like. So let’s just take a moment to be thankful for how far beer has come, and look forward to where it will go from here.