The American Miracle of Craft Beer

I hope you already know about the Philly Craft Beer Festival on March 4th at the Navy Yards, which will feature hundreds of craft beers, plus Philadelphia food trucks providing great fare to complement the great brews.

As I think many of us appreciate, we are living through an incredible renaissance of American beer. In a few short decades, the United States has gone from a barren landscape of beer to such fertile ground for microbreweries that the vast majority of residents of our country live within ten to twenty miles of at least one.

According to the Brewers Association, as of 2016, the United States was approaching 5,000 breweries in operation, with an increase of roughly 25 percent from the prior year. There were also more than 2,000 breweries in development.

How Did This Happen?
While today it may seem impossible to imagine a time without thousands of beer choices but that was the reality not so long ago. The nineteenth century enjoyed significant growth in American breweries and per capita beer consumption. By 1914, beer consumption was 20 gallons per capita(today, that consumption level is 21.5 gallons).

While the brewing landscape was already changing, Prohibition or the Volstead Act, which ran from 1920-1933, further accelerated changes. When Prohibition finally ended, new breweries emerged, but larger brewing companies were keen to maximize production and eliminate competition. The result was a steady reduction in the number of breweries in the following decades. By 1983, there may have been less than 100 smaller breweries making beer, and with far less imagination than today’s beers.

But big changes were obviously in store. The revival of American beer and the creation of microbreweries is a distinctly American story, not unlike the development of our democracy. Beginning in the 1960s, some small companies like Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, small communities of homebrewers across the country (reminiscent of our pioneer forefathers), and beer enthusiasts created a national beer fabric, facilitating the free exchange of ideas, technology, and other innovations. Today’s beer marketplace was seeded by that collective passion for better beer and a boundless capacity for experimentation and innovation.

Despite the poor state of American beer in the 1980s, that decade saw the establishment of the multiple microbreweries and brewpubs, which became the foundation of todays’ microbrew movement. By the 1990s, there was a visible microbrew phenomenon, with high annual volume growth. That growth underwent an extraordinary acceleration in the 2000s, helped by the connections that beer drinkers made with independent and local breweries.

Today, small and independent craft brewers employ over 120,000 people, provide more than $3 billion in wages and benefits, and help create hundreds of thousands of other jobs through their activities.

So, if you love beer and have the time, come celebrate our rich American beer fabric at the Philly Craft Beer Festival on March 4th, where Philadelphia food trucks will be catering to your palates as well.

Brewers Association

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