There's craft beer absolutely everywhere. It's made its way onto menus not only at cafes, bars, and pubs - but increasingly we're starting to see it pop up on beverage lists at signature and gourmet dining restaurants as well. So, what's going on? Are we in the middle of a craft beer revolution?
Well first of all, no, this isn't a revolution? Back in the late 1800s, there were more breweries in the United States than there are today. By our calculation there's about 2,500 to 2,800 breweries operating today in comparison to more than 4,000 in the 1870s. So instead of the revolution so many people want to label the craft beer movement with, a more appropriate label might be: Craft Beer: The Comeback Kid.
So, what gives? Why the resurgence with craft beer? Well, there's three main reasons:
The cost of starting up a brewing operation today is significantly less expensive today than it was 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Not only are things made more efficiently, but we're living in the midst of the so-called sharing economy and craft beer brewing is an extension of that in some ways. Today, it's common for craft brewers to share equipment, ideas, and experience amongst each other that hasn't always been possible.
Another contributing factor is the deregulation of home brewing. In the late 1970s the government made it legal for people to brew beer at home and it educated a lot of people that the stuff you could buy in 24 packs at the grocery store might not be the pinnacle of beer. The plethora of craft, small batch, and limited run beers that we have access to today are an extension of that.
And finally, this comeback is largely attributable to entrepreneurial brewers working around regulations such as the three-tier system and other distribution policies and laws. These things stand in the way of getting beer into the hands of beer drinkers. It's still far easier to give your beer away for free than sell it.
And that's why craft beer is such a big thing right now. But, we still have a long way to go. If you think the options are abundant and varied now, just think what have been and could be again.