You may not be aware of it, but we live in a Golden Age of beer. Outside of the major players in the beer game, there are just fewer than 2,000 craft breweries in the United States. It is estimated that majority of Americans live within ten miles of one of them. In the not too distant future, that will be true of Dayton as well, with the opening of the Toxic Brew Company. That number has come a long way since the 1970’s, when there were around forty breweries in the United States, and the dominant beer was the German style lager in the tradition of Budweiser. If you were looking for anything outside of that, you would have to find an expensive import. That is why the week of 14th to the 20th of May has been declared American Craft Beer Week by the Brewer’s Association. It is a time to celebrate craft brewing in all of its small batch glory.
There are three major criteria for what the Brewer’s Association considers a craft beer brewery. The brewery in question has to be small, producing six million barrels of beer or less. To give you some idea of that size, Anheuser-Busch InBev sold 17.7 million barrels of Budweiser in 2011. Almost 18 million barrels of just one beer. Sam Adams, in comparison, sold 2.5 million barrels of all their fifty four beers released in 2011 combined. The brewery has to be independent, meaning that less than 25% of the brewery can be owned by a member of the alcohol industry. Goose Island ceased to be a craft brewer when it became part of the Anheuser-Busch InBev Empire. Even if the holding company does nothing to the beer, it is not independent. It should also be traditional, having its flagship beer be all malt, or at least half of all its beers being malt-based. They also look for innovation, making sure that brewers are always pushing the edges of the styles to improve the product. And most craft brewers, since they depend on locaholics to spread the word of their product, tend to be very heavily involved in their community. This blend of distinct characteristics (small, independent, traditional, and passionate) creates a blueprint for a typical craft brewery.
The craft beer movement really did not begin until the 1980’s. In colonial times and up to the late 19th century, all breweries were local. They may have spread a little further than their own county, but with the limited technology of the day, they did not keep well and they did not travel quickly. It was not until the birth of the railroad and the advent of the refrigerated car that a beer was able to jump up and take over the country. Adolphus Busch was the man that made this leap (as well as a few others), and created a beer that was the same from New York to San Francisco. The big breweries, like Miller, Coors, Pabst, and others, grew from this point, crowding out all of the smaller competition. This downward spiral, aided by Prohibition, killed small breweries until 1965, when Fritz Maytag revived the Anchor Steam Brewing Company. Ken Grossman started to cobble together (literally) the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, using his passion for brewing and his knowledge of chemistry and engineering to create his beer. It was not until 1980 that the world saw its first drinkable batch of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Six years after that, the Boston Brewing Company was born, and Samuel Adams became part of a wave of breweries that swept the nation. That wave has been building over the last fifteen years, and does not show any sign of stopping. It has grown so big there are even social sites where people can share the beers they love, one of the bigger ones being Untappd, where you can check in to each beer, rate it, tweet it, and even include where you are enjoying it so others may try it.
Of course, you are going to want to celebrate this week. Before you start celebrating, you should write down that Ohio Brew Week is June 22-30 in Athens, OH and our own Dayton Beer Week is August 18-25. For this coming week, there are plenty of great places to check out craft brews in Dayton. Downtown, the Trolley Stop has a wonderful selection of craft beers, as well as a beer tasting on the first Wednesday of every month. If they seem a little full, you can walk down the street a little and check out Lucky’s Tap Room. They have eighteen beers on tap, and a hand book they give you to make sure you have an idea of what each one tastes like. Blind Bob’s also has a marvelous selection of craft beers and food, and is also within stumbling distance in the Oregon District. If you are looking for something a little further afield, the South Park Tavern has an amazing selection of craft beers on tap and by the bottle, as well as a fairly extensive selection in bottles and live music most days of the week. Traveling further south and closer to the Dayton Mall brings you to Chappy’s Tap Room and Grille. While Lucky’s has a good sized book of beers, Chappy’s has a novel. They also have some beer clubs you can join, so you can benefit from trying their rotating beer taps and work your way onto their Beer Wall of Fame. If you are looking to travel a little north of the city, there is Boston’s Bistro, “where bier tasting is an art.” They have an extensive and always rotating list of bottle and draught beers, as well as food specials every night of the week. If you are looking to just bring some beers home to try, Belmont Party Supply is the place to go. They offer a wide variety of six packs and single bottles of beer, and they are the ones that run the beer tasting for the Trolley Stop. So they really know their brews.
You can even go out next week and have fine craft beers for a good cause! The Big Brews and Blues Festival will be going on Friday, May 18th to benefit Dayton Diabetes. There will be over thirty craft beers for you to sample, as well as good food and live blues music to listen to. It is a great way to end the work week and support local charity. You can even get the heads of this esteemed website serving beer to you! Celebrity bartending at its finest. With all of these options for the week of the American Craft Beer week, what is going to stop you from broadening your beer palate? And if you have a beer you think people should be trying next week, leave a note in the comments. Cheers!