It is already widely recognised that the UK’s new wave of microbrewing was inspired largely by the US craft beer revival of the 70s, 80s and 90s. What may not be quite so well-known on either side of the pond is just what a struggle it was to create that US craft beer revolution in the first place. A new book out this month chronicles the many and protracted challenges US craft brewers faced as they sought to bring new varieties of beer to a market saturated by AB inBev and MillerCoors. Indeed, many battles are still being fought.
The Craft Beer Revolution: How a Band of Microbrewers is Transforming the World’s Favourite Drink was written by Steve Hindy, co-founder of the Brooklyn Brewery, and hits the shelves later this month.
In many ways, the British and American beer drinker shares a common destiny; it was British beer and British beer enthusiasts – like the late beer writer Michael Jackson – who helped inspired the American new wave, which in turn took off over here. Thanks to tax hikes we’re both drinking less beer but, crucially, better beer than we used to. And we’re all sticking two fingers up to the big brewers or, as Hindy calls it, “the quest by a band of Davids to bring down the Goliaths”.
The Guest Ale was sent a review copy and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The American Revolution
In 1965, there was just one microbrewery in the US. In 1984, there were 18. In 2014 there are more than 2,600 microbreweries controlling 10 per cent of the US beer market. Hindy, himself a veteran at the heart of the revolution, believes microbreweries could control almost a third (30%) of the market in the next 25 years.
The book starts at the beginning of the journey, when Fritz Maytag bought and revived San Francisco’s Anchor Brewery in 1965. It covers the impact Charlie Papazian’s book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing had on inspiring a new generation of brewers to experiment firstly in their homes and later in a commercial environment.
Names pop up which have become household favourites for many of us: Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn Brewery, Goose Island, Harpoon, Dogfish Head, as well as the brew giants attempts at creating ‘craft’ beers of their own in response, such as MillerCoors’ Blue Moon.
Hindy sheds some light on the dog-eat-dog nature of the US brewing industry during this period of unprecedented change, from lobbyists in government to in-fighting, which contrasts with the overarching theme of togetherness among the new brewers as new organisations and conferences were formed to support the groundswell. He also credits the media and bloggers with helping spread the message of craft beer.
The Craft Beer Revolution really is a revelation and shows what a debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women who fought to revive brewing in the US, which in turn helped kickstart the massive diversification in brewing which we’ve seen in Britain – now home to more than a thousand breweries.
The Craft Beer Revolution: How a Band of Microbrewers is Transforming the World’s Favourite Drink is out on 20 May 2014. I enjoyed it and recommend it to any true beer historian.