A HOPPY WORLD
While it all started long before Europeans arrived on American soil with native Indians brewing a corn-based beer, it was not until 350 years after Pilgrims disembarked at Plymouth Rock in 1620 that America began in earnest to nurture its own craft beer industry. Today, more than 5000 craft beer breweries operating in the United States sell more than $20 billion dollars of beer each year---a hoppin' 1.6 percent of US GDP is attributed to the brewing industry. As of 2016, the U.S. officially assumed the title of the craft beer capital of the world. With a relatively new brewing tradition comes flexibility and an ability to capitalize on creativity. True grit associated with American entrepreneurial spirit is tested and the winner is the fast growing craft beer enthusiast. Coast to coast, there is a friendly tug-of-war on which beer style will ultimately emerge as America's favorite: West Coast beer sports an aggressive in-your-face hops profile, while East Coast brewers focus on a more subtle and juicy, soft on the palette, chemistry. With ever increasing distribution channels, the good news for all beer lovers is that barrel-aged fruit beers from Oregon are sold alongside post-prohibition style ales of Maryland.
From the Pacific to the the Atlantic and all stops in between, craft beer stores provide one of the coolest around the world shopping experiences. A good craft beer store will have rows and refrigerator space for a broad selection of ubiquitous with a twist pale ales, rare monk-brewed abbey ales, and enigmatic make-your-lips-pucker sour selections. A great craft beer store will have a comprehensive selection of product and an enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff to help navigate the ever growing in complexity craft beer market. Tucked into the pastoral (think rural with fewer than 20,000 residents) Boston, blink and you will miss it, bedroom community of the 1639 Town of Sudbury, is one of the greats: SUDBURY CRAFT BEER. From what started out as a hobby and a passion for home brewing has turned into a suburban craft beer lover's boutique with a particularly divine New England brew craft focus. Its owner, Gustavo Villatoro, a friendly yet cool kind of knowledgeable guy, that casually talks craft beer in a way you might imagine the Matt Damon or Kevin Spacey Hollywood style nerds at MIT to talk rocket science or card counting in Vegas.
Unique to craft beer stores, shoppers can mix and match individual cans or bottles and build their own selection to meet their distinctive palettes--Gustavo is quick to point out that no reason exists for avoiding stout in the summertime, choosing at least one beer because its name is cool, or realizing it is not a huge investment to try something new and out of one's comfort zone.
So Why Independent? Turns out craft breweries are growing so quickly they have become market share nightmares for the big breweries. Why? They are producing some of the most popular beer in America. Risk-taking, innovation, and relentless desire to be a part of the personality of local communities has earned top dog honors and competitive market share in the brewing world.
To proudly display that independent spirit, Gustavo explains that the Brewers Association created a symbol to unify craft breweries from around the country. This symbol—the independent craft brewer seal—gives beer lovers an easy way to identify true small and independent craft brewers, something consumers and craft brewers indicate is important to them. Small and independent craft brewers continue to turn the beer industry upside down so that they can live the American dream while collectively living a sustainable ethos that puts community above corporation, people ahead of profit, and beer before the bottom line.
At the end of the day, this symbol distinguishes brewers who remain passionately committed to a local paradigm from those who sell out to big brewing corporations and remain "craft" by inception only.
So, What is in a Name?
Funky beer names represent the personalities of the brewmasters and a great name helps sippers and chuggers remember really good beer.
In terms of popularity, the louder and crazier the name and the bottle or can artwork, the better the reaction and the likelihood the brewmaster will be known and remembered. A short (by no means extensive) list of some iconic naming include:
Voodoo Ranger, Sexy Motherpucker, Arrogant Bastard, Druid Fluid, Smooth Hoperator, Evil Genius, Fuzzy Baby Ducks, Bitches Brew, Assassin, Citra Ass Down, Allagash, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Punk in Drublic, Dogfish Head, Bombshell Blonde, Fat Tire, Whale's Tale Pale Ale
SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS CRAFT BREWERY HISTORY AND PRACTICE MEAN? PROBABLY NOT MUCH MORE THAN WHAT GUSTAVO CHEERFULLY EXTOLS, "WE ARE LIVING IN A HOPPY WORLD!"
Cans v. Bottles & the Truth
While cans keep out more light, prevent oxidization (the primary spoiler of beer), and may be filled without the headroom needed for bottles, there is something to be said for tradition. Beer snobs and romantics still prefer bottles, but more beer than ever is today being sold in cans. After all, cans weigh less and save on trucking fuel and are easier to recycle. Certain old world Belgian styles of beer with extra sugar and yeast beers, however, need extra CO2 for fermentation and cans may simply explode with all the internal chemistry.
Either way, drinking beer from a glass trumps both cans and bottles. Beer glasses are designed to activate carbonation and produce a foam head. Aroma is intensified each time one of those tiny bubbles bursts. Every brewmaster hopes its tasters will drink their beer from a chilled glass and realize the full experience of its exploding flavors. Pilsner, mug, and pint glasses are the most versatile and common styles.
Beer Styles & Flavor Profiles
IPA a.k.a. India Pale Ale
- Craft brewers brew more IPA than any other style
- An all year-round soft on the palette style
- More complexity than lager
- Created in England, the name is a result of its popularity with British troops stationed in India in the 19th century, when the subcontinent was still a British colony.
APA a.k.a. American Pale Ale
- American interpretation of a classic English style
- Lightly hopped, hybrid between IPA and Lager
- Floral, fruity, citrus, piney
- Medium body, medium maltiness
- Made with more fragile yeast, this is a bottom fermenting beer style
- Low temperature fermentation
- More sugar, crisper & less fruity than ale
- Still the world's best selling style
- Roasted barley flavor
- Sweeter styles perfect for food pairing
- Dry versions thirst quenching
- Opaque and deeply colored
- Great socializing beer as usually lower alcohol content
- Bohemian style dating from 19th century
- Lightly hopped clear, mellow, and beautiful lager
- Super light & refreshing
- Unique yeast with taste profile of banana and clove
- Little hop bitterness
- Unfiltered and cloudy appearance
To Keg or Not to Keg?
Go for it! The Growlerwerks uKegs are double-wall vacuum insulated stainless steel pressurized personal kegs that keep fresh craft draft beer carbonated and icy cold for 2 weeks. Supporting the fast growing, popular local craft beer revolution has never been so cool and easy: each growler arrives with a CO2 regulator cap, a locking tap handle to prevent accidental dispensing, A VPR cap (automatically regulates pressure to optimally carbonate beer from 0 to 15 psi), and site glass to tell how much beer remains in the keg.