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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pass the beer; hold the flag. American Craft Beer Week: 15-21 May 2017.

American Craft Beer Week 2017

From the [U.S.] Brewers Association:

Raise a Pint to Freedom

For the twelfth consecutive year, the Brewers Association has declared American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), a nationwide celebration of the small and independent craft brewers that make America’s beer culture so exceptional. The weeklong celebration provides a platform for craft brewers and beer lovers to celebrate craft beer.

From Monday, May 15 – Sunday, May 21, 2017, brewers across all 50 states will hold events including exclusive brewery tours, special craft beer releases, food and beer pairings, tap takeovers, and more. [...]

ACBW provides hundreds of thousands of beer lovers the opportunity to visit and support their local brewery and beer businesses. It’s the perfect time to recognize the ingenuity of the small and independent craft breweries that have made America’s beer culture the richest in the world. [...]

Visit the official American Craft Beer Week event calendar on CraftBeer.com for a full – and growing – list of local celebrations in all 50 states.

A decade ago or so, at a beer-tasting in Washington, D.C., the late Michael Jackson —not the singer but the British-born, then world-adopted beer writer— told the story of a young German brewer who had recently visited the States. The German was astonished to discover the beers of the upstart small American breweries. "They are making beers with flavor," he said, "good flavor." But, he admonished, they were not on the par with German beers. "Why is that?" Jackson pressed him. "Because," the German brewer replied, "our beer is German beer."

We Americans beer drinkers and brewers can often do the same blinders-on and pat-ourselves-on-our-own-backs thing, but toward American 'craft' exceptionalism. In this age of Trump, we sometimes feel the need to denigrate others when we promote ourselves. Could not the press release have been written more modestly without losing the gist: "It’s the perfect time to recognize the ingenuity of the small and independent craft breweries that have made America’s beer culture ONE [emphasis mine] of the richest in the world."?

And "Raise a pint to freedom"? Really? Whose or what freedom? How does this week promote freedom? This is beer, not political liberation.

Some may recall that American Craft Beer Week originally began as an unwieldy "American Beer Month." It became unwieldy not simply because of its 31-day duration, but because it produced an insalubrious side-effect: it also honored American ILLs, the industrial light lagers of the nation's brewing behemoths.

Today, not one of those mega-breweries remains independently American-owned. Today, it is only the smaller breweries that truly make 'American' beer, and there are over 5,100 of them. That's something to celebrate.

If we're honest, we'll admit that there are bad American 'craft' beers; but, at the same time, we can point out that there are many well-made American 'craft' beers; and, in some cases, there are even exceptional American 'craft' beers. During seven days in May, I and many others will be celebrating (read: drinking) that. And we do that every week of the year.

Be proud of American beer —enjoy what we make to drink— but don't wrap commerce in a flag. Skip the faux patriotism.

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  • Information on American Craft Beer Week (including an updatable calendar-of-events to peruse and to upload to) is at CraftBeer.com —the [U.S.] Brewers Association's, companion, consumer-oriented site— and, specifically, here: www.craftbeer.com/news/american-craft-beer-week.
  • The BA typically announces its data on 'craft' brewery numbers and 'craft' beer business during its annual Craft Brewers Conference. This year, that will be in Washington, D.C 10-14 April. Observers expect an announcement of a decline in the rate of brewery and sales growth but still an actual increase in the raw numbers of both.

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