about the craft beer movement

Story Highlights:

  • Craft beer as a movement.
  • What it takes to make a beer craft.
  • The complexities of craft beer.
  • Benefits of drinking craft beer.

The age of Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors may not be over in the beer world, but the two brewing tycoons have met a new challenger in the ring: craft beer.
Where the self-acclaimed “king of beer” used to rest unopposed in markets and restaurants can now be found, in most states, drowned in the propelling tidal wave of the craft beer movement.
The craft beer movement is no home-brew garage-experiment college students are doing to save cash. It’s big business and is constantly growing.
The number of craft breweries in America in 2012 was over 2,300, and there are currently over 1,600 in the developmental stages this year.
When the movement began building notoriety in 1980 there were only 8 craft breweries in the U.S., now Calif. is leading the nation in this push for better beer with 316 craft breweries statewide.
As a landmark in the growing industry’s success it announced C. James Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Co., as the first craft beer billionaire marking a high point of craft breweries in the United States.
But what defines a craft brewer?
According to the Brewers Association an American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional.

  • Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less.
  • Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not a craft brewer.
  • Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers, which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

6 million barrels may seem like a lot of beer, but put in perspective to the brewery tycoons the most successful craft brewery in the U.S. only produced 2,125,000 barrels in 2012, whereas Anheuser-Busch produces about 125 million barrels annually.
Although, one minor complication has come with the explosive demand for better beer: a hop shortage.
The hop plant requires a very specific growing environment and the national craft explosion has put a squeeze on hop supplies inflating their cost. Five years ago a pound of hops would cost $2 to $3, which has now risen to as much as $18.
However, this seems to be the only force slated to cause trouble for the movement even with the demand for craft beer at its highest in the history of the U.S.
The renaissance of American craft brewing began in 1965 when Fritz Maytag bought Anchor Brewing Co., and continued creating craft ales at a time when beer lacked flavor and tradition.
A movement popularized in the 1970s when home brewers were looking for better quality at a time when industry experts predicted the total number of breweries would consolidate in size to just five nationwide.
This push caused a surplus of breweries to rise from the ground up to 537 by 1994 bringing with it a vast array of complex beer and complex beer drinkers.
By 2007 Ray Daniels realized that with this movement came a respect for beer the world had not yet recognized and in 2008 founded the Cicerone certification program.
The Cicerone certification program is a series of tests, not unlike the Master Sommelier program for wine professionals, defining each achiever as qualified to pair beer with food and labeling them as not only experts on the scientific process of fermentation, but also as guides for enjoying quality beer in all its varieties.
There are three processes in obtaining your Master Cicerone® certification:

  • Certified beer server
  • Certified Cicerone®
  • Master Cicerone®

Each test involves varying levels of difficulty and complexity extending from the least challenging to the most challenging.
To this day there are only seven Master Cicerones® in the world, but the site boasts thousands of certified beer servers and 975 Certified Cicerones® marking the steady increase of importance restaurants and breweries have attributed to the need for knowledgeable beer servers at a time when beer is as complex as wine.
Drinking craft beer is certainly not healthy for you. However, studies have shown that craft beer has more health benefits than red wine.
Craft beer contains more nutrients than wine. Some soluble fiber, some B vitamins, a range of antioxidants and it is also the richest source of silicon; silicon in the diet helps counter osteoporosis.
While wine contains more antioxidants than craft beer it has been shown that the antioxidant ferulic acid is absorbed from beer more efficiently than from the tomato.
It remains to be seen if there is a craft beer bubble waiting to be popped, but for now it seems as if there is no better time to be an American who enjoys quality beer.

© 2013 by James Schank
This multimedia interactive website was produced in a multimedia journalism class at California Polytechnic State University.