Celebrate American Craft Beer Week
Without craft beer, there would be little reason to take a road trip for beer in the U.S. The coast-to-coast presence of beer from giant brewers such as MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev allows their fans to slake their thirst after a quick jaunt to the local grocery store, big-box retailer or convenience store. As much as the craft beer geekdom looks down on these fizzy, yellow beers, a person’s right to drink the beer of his or her choice should not be begrudged. Despite the sometimes heavy handed tactics of these brewing behemoths, now owned at least partially by non-U.S. companies, they remain major drivers of the national economy and provide thousands and thousands of jobs.
But craft beer lovers are a zealous and altruistic lot. Many seek to wean the masses from the familiar and strive to convince their local pubs and beer distributors to give over some of their taps to microbrewed craft beer.
American Craft Beer Week , which starts today, is the zenith of these efforts. Craft beer lovers across the nation will attend festivals, tastings and educational events to expand their tasting horizons and support local brewers. According to the Brewers Association, a national organization that represents the interests of small and independent craft brewers in the U.S., there were more than 500 events hosted by more than 200 different breweries during 2009’s American Craft Beer Week. The BA lists many of the 2010 events here.
Last week, I participated in a Craft Beer class at the Total Wine & More store in Orlando. Aficionados know that Total Wine locations offer a great variety of craft beer (in addition to lots and lots of wine and spirits).
The fun and informative session began with a look at the history of beer in America, beginning with the Pilgrims, who decided to land at Plymouth Rock rather than sail farther south because they were almost out of beer and needed to brew more. The history lesson continued through the German immigrants, such as Frederick Miller, Joseph Schlitz and Adolphus Busch, who brought their brewing skills to the New World on up to the craft beer revolution sparked by breweries such as Anchor Steam, New Albion, Sierra Nevada and the Boston Beer Co.
Fun fact: Did you know that of all the major brewers at the time, Coors survived Prohibition the best by branching into malted milk and fine porcelain products?
Of course the class offered many fine beers to taste: Sam Adams, Orange Blossom Pilsner and its “juiced up” version OBP Squared, Stone Levitation Ales, Stone Ruination IPA, Stone Smoked Porter, Stone Sublimely Righteous Ale, Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
OBP founder Tom Lynch even shared a growler of his yet-to-be released Toasted Coconut Porter.
And I got to put my John Hancock on the Declaration of Beer Independence – many brewers will give you the chance to do so as well. You can find a copy of it here.
If you have a chance to participate in such a class this week, do it. Or just take a road trip to a local microbrewery and hoist a pint to America’s small brewers.