The History of Craft Beer
If you are a beer drinker, then you are a fan of one of the most ancient beverages produced by humans. Indeed, the earliest barley beer that has been chemically confirmed is thought to have been produced by humans in 5000-4001 BC; artifacts and other evidence suggest that in some parts of the world, such as China, beer may have been produced even earlier!
Modern beer is an important part of the culture in many different parts of the world, including in the United States. And while beer has been part of American history since the country was founded, the history of modern craft beer is much more recent. At Nick’s of Calvert, we are proud to be a distributor of many craft and local beers and if there is something you are looking to try, we can help you find it. And if you have already found a great craft beer at our store, here is a brief overview of the history of craft beer to peruse as you enjoy the smooth taste of your favorite brew.
What Is Craft Beer?
Craft beer is defined as a specialty beer produced in limited quantities and a craft brewery is defined as having annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. The strength and beauty of a craft beer and a craft brewery is innovation. Brewing beer in small quantities allows for testing and sampling of many different ingredients creating an endless number of tastes. Focused on taste and driven by consumer demand, the craft beer industry has changed the makeup of the beer market.
The History of Craft Beer
In the beer industry, as with almost every other industry, a duopoly once dominated the market. An article in The Atlantic shared that as recently as 2012 two beer companies–Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors–controlled nearly 90 percent of beer production in our country.
But, over the last decade and a half something interesting has happened: the number of breweries has grown by a factor of six (between 2008-2016), and the number of brewery workers has grown by more than 120 percent. These small, often independently owned, breweries have nabbed a significant portion of the market and have created competition for the beer industry giants. These numbers are the result of what has been called the “craft beer revolution”.
So How Did The Craft Beer Revolution All Start?
The craft beer movement began in the United States, as well as in the United Kingdom, in the 1960s-70s. As explained by an article in First We Feast, the craft beer movement (and success) can be illustrated in five phases:
- 1965: Fritz Maytag focuses on flavor. Whether or not the craft beer movement would be what it is today without Fritz Maytag, the great-grandson of a home appliances tycoon who purchased a 51 percent stake in Anchor Steam (Fritz’s favorite beer), is debatable. With the goal of selling more beer, Maytag set out to improve the quality of his beer and enhance its flavor, leading to new flavors and styles that were a first-of-their-kind (including the Liberty Ale, the country’s first modern IPA).
- 1979: Homebrewing is legalized. Wanting to replicate Maytag and create beers that were unique and full of flavor, homebrewer-hopefuls were successful in lobbying for legislation that legalized homebrewing. Signed by Jimmy Carter, HR 1337, made way for the homebrewing movement. According to some sources, up to 90 percent of craft brewers began as homebrewers.
- 1997: Boom and bust. The homebrewing legislative win paved the way for microbreweries to start opening in droves. In fact, between 1985 and 1997, new breweries opened at a rate of at least 20 percent per year; some years saw up to 100 percent growth! Unfortunately, this led to a number of get-rich-quick schemes, a declinein overall beer sales, and the closure of numerous breweries.
- 1990s: Creativity drives collectors. While there was a beer bust, the beers and breweries that survived had an impact. The 1990s were a time when breweries were not just putting their own spin on old-world styles but were completely reinventing beer. To do this, many breweries went to extremes with flavors, adding everything from apricots to algae, resulting in a cohort of what we now call “beer geeks” – those who not only loved beer, but also collected it.
- 2010-present: Big brands adapt. As more consumers started demanding “American” beer that was full of flavor and disassociated from big industry, the biggest beer companies in America realized it was time to adapt. Today, sales of the four historically most popular beers (Coors Light, Bud Light, Budweiser, and Miller Lite) are shrinking, and Americans are now paying more for craft beers.
Find Craft Beer at Nick’s of Calvert
If you are looking for a craft beer, we can help. Whether you want something hoppy or sour, local or seasonal, or anything in between, we can answer your questions and help you find the perfect complement to your meal, picnic, game-day activities, and more. We also have a growler filling station! Check out Nick’s of Calvert today for all your craft beer, wine, and spirits needs. Visit us today or call us at (410) 414-7105.