Technically, craft brewing has been around a long time. Humanity’s earliest known writings refer to the production and distribution of beer: the Code of Hammurabi included laws regulating beer and beer parlours. “The Hymn to Ninkasi” is a prayer to the Mesopotamian goddess of beer. So, the movement is nothing new. However, it was all but distinguished for a long period of time. It has recently made a comeback and we’ll look at how that all came about.
The Seeds Of The Beer Rebellion
A microbrewery. Do you remember when they used to be called by that? It wasn’t any reference to the size of the equipment or some offhand scientific thing that we didn’t understand. It relates directly to the big beer companies. In comparison, an independent brewer was microscopic compared to companies like Anheuser-Busch, or Miller. So it was known as a microbrewery.
This started in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The small guy could do things the big guys couldn’t do. They began to thrive by an alternative attitude and approach to brewing flexibility, adaptability, experimentation and customer service. This gave customers something new to enjoy instead of the same old thing.
The movement really gained steam when a United States trade group, the Brewers Association was formed. They sought to legitimize a section the Industry and defined craft breweries as “small, independent and traditional”. The craft brewing process takes time and can be considered an art by the brewmasters and this trade group sought to promote that idea.
Welcome to Beer City, USA
The movement spread in places you would expect like California. The Northeast, and Pacific Northwest. It also started to pop up in unexpected places as well. Like Kalamazoo, MI.
In 1985 Larry Bell produced his first batch of beer using a 15 gallon soup pot. 34 years and some change later, Bell’s brewery makes some of the best brews nationwide and employs almost 600 people. Not bad for a guy that started in his kitchen. You can too with this brew kit from Amazon.
There are so many brewers that have this same story. Especially in a town about 45 minutes north of Kalamazoo, which is Grand Rapids, MI. Better known now as, Beer City.
Grand Rapids touts some of the finest breweries in the state of Michigan, not only that, but the entire United States. It was voted Beer City 2 consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. Then, to make sure the city wasn’t slipping, it was voted America’s best beer scene in 2016 and 2017 by USA Today. It get nearly 40,000 visitors a year just for the breweries.
Breweries in Beer City include Brewery Vivant, a farmhouse brewery that touts an impressive line up. The Mitten Brewing Co. Which has an awesome baseball theme in an old restored firehouse. Not to mention it has excellent beers like the Triple Crown Brown, Peanuts and Crackerjack Porter, and Mango Gold. Then of course the bid one that everyone knows, Founders. Their All Day IPA can be found in stores across the nations.
It’s not so much that Grand Rapids has more breweries than everyone, because they don’t. It’s the community feel. They all have different personas and feels. One brewery is very different than the next. They support each other and don’t try to outdo the other. It’s a culture throughout Michigan. Traverse City, a smaller vacation hot spot about 2 ½ hours north of Grand Rapids even has about 15 breweries in the area.
A Nation Of Breweries
20 years ago, I could only remember 1 brewery in Grand Rapids. That may not be accurate, but if it’s off, it isn’t by much. They just weren’t a thing 20 years ago. However, at the end of 2017, there were 6,300 breweries in the United States. Out of those 6,300 breweries, there were 2,252 brewpubs, 3,812 microbreweries, and 202 craft brewers. That’s a shocking difference in just 20 years. In celebration of this here is a list of some of the best the nation has to offer:
HIGH WEST-IFIED IMPERIAL COFFEE STOUT, 12.2% // LAGUNITAS BREWING COMPANY, PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA
TWO HEARTED ALE, 7% // BELL’S BREWERY, COMSTOCK, MICHIGAN
BIGFOOT BARLEYWINE-STYLE ALE, 9.6% // SIERRA NEVADA BREWING CO., CHICO, CALIFORNIA
COFFEE BENDER, 5.1% // SURLY BREWING CO., BROOKLYN CENTER, MINNESOTA
BLACK BUTTE PORTER, 5.2% // DESCHUTES BREWERY, BEND, OREGON
BARREL AGED YETI IMPERIAL STOUT, 12.5% // GREAT DIVIDE BREWING CO., DENVER, COLORADO
MOTHER OF ALL STORMS, 14% // PELICAN BREWING, PACIFIC CITY, OREGON
HEADY TOPPER, 8% // THE ALCHEMIST, WATERBURY, VERMONT
If you’ve never ventured out and tried a craft beer then I suggest you do. I know there are some who say “a beer is a beer” but maybe, just maybe, you haven’t had the right one yet. So go get a dd and give some a try! You can also try them at home with these cool glasses from Amazon.