Craft beer is encouraging the industry away from standardisation and towards supporting local businesses. One of the key reasons for this is the demand for diversity in flavours, which is achieved by manipulating the ingredients, recipes and brewing processes.
Malt grain, yeast and hops are the main ingredients. Their types and combinations are the main flavour determinants. IPA's primarily use hops to determine flavour. Hops can be fruity and floral, sweet and bitter. A craft beer will usually tell you the specifics regarding the exact strains used. Meanwhile, porters, stouts and brown beers over-roast the grains to create colour and flavour. Lastly, pilsner and golden ales are lightly hopped, fresh and crisp. These are considered to be the soft drinks of the beer world.
The Microbrewery Revolution
The mid-70s saw the emergence of a commercial 'brewing at home' industry. Though the word microbrewery was coined in England, the U.S. has seen the largest steps forward in craft beer popularity and microbrewery proliferation. In the past decade, the number of brewery workers in the U.S. has increased by 120% alongside a 600% increase in the number of microbreweries. Despite this surge, overall beer consumption is declining. While fewer people are consuming beer, those that remain are choosing craft beer.
A new brewery today might start a bar alongside their brewhouse, called a brewpub. A common expansion after that is to sell to local bars and shops. Local sellers are keen to showcase local produce, just as customers are increasingly looking to buy them. As the variety, quality and demand for the beer increases, they may spread to other local towns.
Competition is kept friendly. Breweries often help each other out with advice, equipment and business connections. Word of mouth is the key marketing tool. This is often paired with a hip, modern label design and occasionally descriptive wording in a more tongue-in-cheek style.
Anchor Brewing in San Francisco was established 1849, but it was not until 1965 that they became known for the beer that they brew today. Despite more than 130 000 barrels being produced a year, punters feel that the dedication to quality, diversity and experimentation has not wavered.
Anchor Brewing pioneered what is today known as the U.S. microbrewery revolution. It is a sprawling yet small business network, averaging 10 workers per company. This expands to additional businesses, such as shops and bars, printing and marketing companies, and even specialist hop growers. Even at this level of high production, the community and its enthusiasm are essential. This is found at the microbrewery itself and reflected in their specialised outlets.
Craft and Brews in Denmark
The craft beer movement is not limited to the U.S., rather the same rules and characteristics apply wherever craft beer takes hold. Germany's medieval brewing culture make it a centre for microbreweries whilst resisting the modern revolution. However, the biggest revival in Europe has been in the U.K., with Scandinavia not far behind.
What better market than a young, fun loving and slightly rebellious hipster generation to inject the necessary vibrancy. Mikkeller embodies this convergence of trends. Two friends, the journalist Keller and the maths and physics teacher Mikkel, began experimenting with home brews in 2005. Keller was not interested in expansion and eventually left Mikkel to stay and play with his hobby.
Today, without owning a single brewery and only a couple of bars and shops, Mikkel has astonished the market with the speed of his expansion and the variety and quality of his beers. Successfully navigating the global microbrewery network, his beers, bars, partnership exploits and brewery cohabitations are snowballing on the global scene.
He is an innovator, a man inspired to push the boundaries of flavour and bring beer into the high-end world of wines and spirits. He experiments with the beer like chefs do with food. From spontaneously fermented lingonberry to beetroot and candy, the sky is the limit.
Like any artisan, perfecting the craft is an important part of existence. A brewmaster is a self-given title. There is little to distinguish between the young hobbyist with a home brewing kit in the basement and a world-renowned, award-winning brewer. Practice makes perfect and that search for knowledge is never-ending for the engaged enthusiast.
The future of craft beer
Much speculation surrounds the future of craft beer and for good reason. This is a fast expansion in a notoriously trend-dominated industry. That does not mean that craft beer and microbreweries will all have longevity. Still, for many of them, there are no signs of a slow down yet. With that said, market saturation is already becoming an issue in the U.S. Some towns host so many breweries and bars that they seem to outnumber the residents or customers who might buy them.
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