If you visit any of the countries where traditional beer styles originate, namely England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, or the Czech Republic, you will notice a few things; outstanding beer, a prevailing attitude about it, and a reverence for it; along with a deep appreciation of its taste, its historic place in culture and how it relates to the community. This is what we mean by beer culture. This is the appreciation and reverence which we want to foster in every craft beer fan out there. It starts with education, and is nurtured through an appreciation of all things beer.
This was, of course, a terribly simple version of where we get beer from in today's society. Innumerable countries, historical figures, events, wars, and religions have contributed to today's beer culture, and we urge everyone to do a little research by themselves to dig into the details.
150 years ago...
The United States underwent a brewing revolution. Thousands of small, locally-owned breweries opened up in communities all over the country (There were over 4100 recorded, active breweries in the U.S in 1871). The United States has a rich history in brewing beer, built on the very same customs that can be found all over the world, and in the timeline above.
Moral of the story - We didn't always have a few giant beer companies.
The Noble Experiment of Prohibition (1920-1933) devastated brewing in the United States, with only a fraction of the breweries returning to business, thus paving the way for consolidation; those breweries that survived were able to purchase cash-starved smaller breweries for pennies on the dollar. As these breweries grew in size, their geographic distribution expanded and with it the need to market their beers to a larger and larger audience. Beers began to be marketed less on the merits of taste but rather on their tastelessness; a more dilute product would offend the fewest palates and have the broadest appeal. Efforts to lengthen shelf-life eclipsed all others. Mass marketed beer would reign until the craft-brewing movement really hit its stride in the 1980’s. This craft-brewing revolution has its roots in San Francisco. In 1965, Fritz Maytag (of washer dryer fame) purchased the failing Anchor brewery in San Francisco. It would take another fifteen years for the microbrewery revolution to really take hold. The mid 1990’s realized tremendous growth, but a shakeout occurred (chiefly due to poor quality control) shortly afterward. The better-managed breweries with the better beer withstood the shakeout, and the market is growing rapidly once again. Now there are over 4200 small breweries in the United States alone and many, many more that have cropped up around the world!