We consider ourselves a nation of beer drinkers and because of this a craft brewery explosion has occurred in the past 30 years. Iconic names like Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Pabst, and Yuengling have supplied this nation with the frothy beverage that we all enjoy but it is only recently that newer breweries like Gift Horse have emerged.
Following World War II many Americans were content with the selection that was on the market. Many of these had survived Prohibition and were icons of American business. That was enough at the time. It also didn’t help that home-brewing was illegal.
Beer is one of the world’s oldest beverages and has been brewed in the home since beer has been brewed in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. Beer was never brewed on a commercial scale until the Industrial Revolution and a few years later Louis Pasteur’s discovery of the role yeast plays in fermentation. Most governments did allow homebrewing but saw it as another opportunity for taxation though we here in the US did not. At least that is until Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337 into law in 1978 fully legalizing homebrewing.
Within months the first homebrewing associations like the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association sprung to life. Charles Papazian published The Complete Joy of Homebrewing in 1984, a book that still remains in print to this day. Most nations do allow homebrewing but many place restrictions on it like a production limit or an alcohol limit. With so many people taking up the hobby it was only a matter of time until someone decided to make a few bucks off of it.
The craft beer revolution actually began before Carter legalized homebrewing. Jack McAuliffe opened the New Albion Brewing Company in California in 1976. New Albion failed but others saw an opportunity and opened Hoplands Brewing in the same building but while offering a new beer lineup a restaurant was also opened, thus becoming the first brewpub in the US. Others soon followed, Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, and here in Pennsylvania in 1986 our first, the Pennsylvania Brewing Company in Pittsburgh.
Many others have followed, just look here in Central Pennsylvania. A decade ago there were only a handful like Troegs, Appalachian, Lancaster, and Stoudt’s. Today breweries and brewpubs dot the landscape of every large town in the area. The people are undergoing a renaissance when it comes to the beer they drink. They want a better tasting beer that can be enjoyed with friends rather than something that comes out of a can while sitting in your living room (though there are plenty of people that do enjoy that!). Craft brewing has become profitable for many but some brewers do it as a hobby or a second source of income.
“A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her.” ― W.C. Fields