A Brief Look at the History of Micro Brewed Beer in America
Microbrewed beer has gained in popularity around the United States. Today, independent and small craft beer brewers have control over 12% of the American beer market industry. More than 24.5 million barrels of microbrew beer were made in 2015. That represented a 13% increase in the volume of beer produced. In terms of retail dollars, the value of all that beer was about $22.3 billion, that translates to 21% of the market share. More and more American beer drinkers are looking for a local or small brewery to get different types of beer.
The history of the small or craft brewery in the United States is not all that long. What we think of today as a small or micro-brew beer really got its start in the 1960s. At that time, the traditions and styles of making beer that came over to the New World by immigrants were vanishing. The main beer that people could buy at grocery and liquor stores around the nation was the light lager variety. At the same time, people did not drink a lot of beer that was made overseas. Additionally, Americans became to know beer as a low calorie and light flavored beverage.
To get more flavor, Americans began to skip going to stuff made by a brewery and start making their beers at home. In 1965, Fritz Maytag bought the Anchor Brewing Company. He wanted to keep in place the brewing traditions of that company that had been there since that brewery was started. Maytag wanted to reintroduce bold and vibrant flavors of beer.
The homebrew industry was on the rise as more and more Americans wanted beers that had more flavor than they could get from the beers that lined the shelves at the market or were on tap at the local bar. The only way for people who liked to drink beer with more depth and character was to make it at home.
These are the people who led to the creation of what is now called the craft brewing business. As many trends do, microbreweries got their real start in California. They say, “as goes California, so goes the nation.” In 1976, a homebrewer opened the New Albion Brewery in Sonoma, California. Many people consider this to be the start of a renaissance of sorts in beer brewing. The New Albion Brewery did not last long, it was around for about only six years, it inspired hundreds of people to make their own brew.
As more people got into having their own brewery at home, the quality of the beer produced by individuals and smaller breweries began to get better. As the quality went up, so did the ability to get that beer to more and more people around the nation. The goal of many brewers was to change the way people in the country viewed beer. American beer was seen as a beverage with little flavor or character. That was about to change.
A lot of cultural norms changes in the 1980s. Among them was the explosion of microbrewed beer. At the time, industry experts looked upon the smaller breweries with disdain and contempt but they would not be deterred. People with a passion for beer with flavor and depth would not give up. Soon, as more beer consumers got a taste of the newer beers, the market for better beer opened up. By the mid-1990s, the micro-brew craze was in full swing. This kind of beer had about 58% of the market in 1995.
This only increased in 2004. The new industry was growing every year and from 2004 until the end of 2008, it had grown somewhere between 6% and 12% each year. It was clear that beer drinkers liked what they were getting from small and craft beer companies. No longer were people satisfied to have a beer with little flavor and less character.
In terms of all of the breweries in operation today, most are considered to be small or independent breweries. There are now 178 regional craft breweries, 1,650 brewpubs and 2,397 microbreweries. The United States idea of a brewery has changed a lot in a short amount of time.