Monday, May 11, 2015

1976 - 2015: Celebrating American 'Craft' Beer, this week.

Today is the 70th birthday of Jack McAuliffe. Thirty-nine years ago, in 1976, McAuliffe opened New Albion Brewing, in Sonoma, California. It would be the nation's first-ever 'craft' brewery. 1

“In my opinion, Jack started the most important failed brewery,” said Maureen Ogle, a historian and author of Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. “He demonstrated that the new brewing model could work and despite the fact that it didn’t last long and failed spectacularly, his influence played a significant role for the first successful batch of microbrewers.”

Thus it's fitting that today marks the first day of the 10th annual American Craft Beer Week, which runs through Sunday, 11-17 May, organized by the (U.S.) Brewers Association.

American Craft Beer Week 2015
“American Craft Beer Week has provided independent beer fans across the country a chance to support their local breweries since 2006,” said Julia Herz, publisher of and craft beer program director at the Brewers Association. “With celebrations happening in all 50 states, this is truly an annual national event that recognizes all those involved in making craft beer from small breweries in the U.S. such a success.”

The Brewers Association defines a craft brewery as "small, independent, and traditional," 2 and these are heady times indeed for the non-profit advocacy group and its members. At the close of 2014, there were 3,418 'craft' breweries in the U.S., producing 22 million barrels of beer worth $19.6 billion dollars, accounting for 11% of all beer sold in the U.S.

In contrast to this U.S. beer-bunting, let's backtrack, and look to Great Britain, in 1933. That year, in the face of industrial unrest and poor declining beer sales (was that cause or effect?), its Brewers' Society launched a marketing campaign to highlight beer's benefit and social value to the nation.

The campaign had to raise the status of the product, so that it was important that "drawings of family groups should not depict a lower social order than that of a middle class family." The ads were signed off with the line, "Beer is Best". But surely the best posters, the ones that dais everything that ever needed to be said, were those that ran with a different three-word slogan of genius: "Beer. It's lovely!"
Pete Brown. Man Walks into a Pub. 2004

A simple phrase, and, well, so lovely. So to the point. No patting-on-the-back selfie. Just the promise of beautiful bubbles at the end of the day. 3

But we have what we have. And it's American Craft Beer Week.4

Beginning on a Monday rather than a Sunday (European-like), it's a true seven-day week of celebration, unlike many of the city-only beer weeks that run, Ringo Starr-like, eight days a week, and often longer.

Choose this week to reflect upon the thirty-nine years of achievements of the 'craft beer' business since 1976: not for fomenting a beer revolution, but for the hard work, ingenuity, and, often, tasty results of the brewers, then and now.

Support the week by supporting an American 'craft brewery', however you may define it. Buy an American 'craft' beer.


  • 1 McAuliffe didn't refer to New Albion as a 'craft' brewery. "Microbrewery" would be the term soon applied by others.
  • 2 The Brewers Association defines an American 'craft' brewer (and thus any of its brewery-members) as "small, independent, and traditional."
    • Small
      Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
    • Independent
      Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
    • Traditional
      A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
  • 3 On the comparison between the U.K. campaign then and ours now, I've cribbed a bit from beer writer Alan McLeod, who, in 2005, cribbed in turn from beer writer Pete Brown (giving credit).
  • 4 More on American Craft Beer Week:

  • For more from YFGF:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment here ...