Craft Beer 101: A History of Craft Beer

A Brief History on Beer

Beer is at least 7,000 years old, which totally makes sense if you think about what it actually is. Beer is really just a grain stew that's fermented with yeast... which when you put it that way makes it way more appetizing. Beer wasn't "invented" so much as it was an inevitability. Like Ross and Rachel ending up together in Friends. At some point however people started making it on purpose and playing around with what's in it. We know that beer was being made commercially by at least 2050 BC because of, what might be the coolest piece of history ever, the "Alulu Beer Reciept". Eventually regions adopted their own styles, developed new ones, and beer evolved into an industrial mainstay all over the world. Even in the US beer was a huge part of the local economy. in the late 19th century there were something like 4,000 breweries in the United States. Then prohibition happened and when the dust settles, the only ones left were the giants who had consolidated and could weather the storm. From there everything stayed pretty much the same for about 40 years. 

The Birth of the Craft Beer... Thing

If you went back in time to 1977 the beer aisle would look vastly different. Gone would be the hundreds of brewery options and the huge amounts of imports. There would be no ultra boozy stouts, no Farmhouse Ales, and, I shudder to think about it, no IPA's. You would see some imports, the ones that have been around forever, and you would see miles of huge brewery made light pilsners. Bud, Miller, Coors, Schlitz, Pabst... so hipster beer basically. If you were really lucky, and lived close to one of them, you might have gotten lucky enough to get some Anchor or one of the old guard in craft beer. 

That all changed in 1978 when President Gerald Ford passed a law allowing home brewing. Up until then it had been illegal to brew anything over something like 1% alcohol. From that point, things began to change. Breweries like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada came up and started making things that just weren't seen from commercial breweries. Pale Ales, stouts, honest to God German style Pilsners, and more started popping up in markets across the country. Sierra Nevada created their Pale Ale, a beer which is the Grandfather of any IPA or American Pale ale you've ever had. In Texas Celis started making Belgian Style beers. And in Louisiana, Abita got to work trying to figure out which beer goes best with Crawfish. 

As more and more people learned to brew, the more people drank, the more people drank, the more breweries opened up. in just 40 short years the United States went from fewer than 50 breweries in 1978 to over 6,000 now.

So What is Craft Beer?

 According to the Craft Brewers Association, craft breweries are small, independent, and traditional breweries. Each of those words means something specific though. Small means they must brew a maximum of six million barrels of beer a year, though in the last few years it would be more accurate to say that you can't make more beer than Samuel Adams, who just happens to make around 6 million barrels a year. Independent means that less than 25% of the brewery is owned or controlled by another Alcoholic Beverage company that is itself not craft. And Traditional means that the beer they make is brewed with traditional styles or means. 

Want to get into craft beer but don't know what you'll like? No problem, go to a brewery! Here in the Conroe area we have several and they'd love to have you by for a taste. 

Next week we'll get into what the difference between Ales and Lagers is. Spoilers: It's Yeast.