What has contributed to America’s booming beer market? What can other countries learn from the U.S. beer industry?

The year was 1994.  I was living in Boise Idaho, just out of college 2 years prior.  Still drinking what some would call “swill”.  I thought I had finally graduated, having given up the mainstay cheap American mass production beer for name brand mass production beer.  However, in a manner of a few sips I was about to embark on what became a life changing event.  Ordering my first craft beer was simple, sure, but had I known there would be such a difference I would have taken a picture.  The very first craft beer was MacTarnahan’s Scottish Style Amber Ale.  I was hooked and have since never looked back.  From that day forward I would become an ambassador for craft beer.  I took on home brewing beer, taking classes, joining clubs and going to festivals.  All the while rating each beer as I cataloged the close to 5000 different beers I have tried in my journey with craft beer.  Have I seen a change over the years?  You bet!  I have seen the rise of mighty giants and sadly seen the loss of a few as well.

Now as we are well past the 30th year since craft beer was established, how can other countries benefit?  I see it much the same as what the Japanese did to the auto industry – taking a different approach and often making it better.  Look at what Germany did back in 1516. The German Purity Law required the use of only Water, Yeast, Malt and Hops.  Sure they make great beer, but it is the same every time. It works for the masses, but if you ask me we needed more and different beer.  Moving ahead to the 20th century, Bud, Coors and Miller make the same beer; it is consistent and easy drinking and you can get the same beer from Seattle to Orlando.  Nothing bad about it, but when there was something new with extra flavor and extra hops and added adjuncts, why not try it?!  Now look at Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Stone Brewing and all the other top dog big craft brewers.  They took that simple water, hops malt and yeast and then went off the recipe and started to experiment.  Look what we got now, hoppy beers, fruit beers, not just your everyday standard Kolsh or Pilsner.  They have made a name for themselves as pioneers in an industry which was previously closed to the just the big boys like Bud, Coors and Miller.

I foresee as the younger generations of kids go back to their home countries after having had these awesome brews, they will say, hey we want what they got.  Have you tired a Pliny, or The Abyss?  Have you tasted the sweet flavor of a CDA (Black IPA to some)?  It’s a total new brew that goes against all logic for the German Purity law!

As for me, I always wonder when and who is going to be the first to brew a Blonde Stout?   Just let me know when it happens, I will be there with my glass ready.  Who says there has to be only 85 different styles?  I say let’s open it up.  Long ago there were 25 craft breweries in America. Now we have over 2700 and that number is rising.  Innovation is the key.  Can other countries learn from this? Hell yes!  Learn to grow and be inventive.  Not everyone has to change.  There will be the hardliners, and we will let them be. It leaves more awesome craft beer for me.  I can see I have fulfilled my word quota so it is time to end but let me say this:  I love craft beer and for me it is a way of life.  I love the beer itself and the people that surround it.  I see community, friendship, inventiveness and at times, even hangovers.  The art, the passion and most of all the love of great barley infused pop draws me in.  As I always say, I am in search of the “Ultimate Barley Pop.”   Cheers…