My Brain At Work: Somewhat Random (and Possibly Useless) Thoughts On the Origins of Craft Brewing

As avid readers (because there are some, right??) know, Jack McAuliffe, the acknowledged founder of the craft brewing movement, is a friend. In January, Boston Beer Company — known to you as Sam Adams — will introduce New Albion Ale, based on the recipe Jack used to make his first beer in the late 1970s.

photo courtesy of Michael E. Miller and Jack McAuliffe

That means that lately there’s been an unusual amount of attention paid to Jack and to his brewery, New Albion. Which means that I’ve been hearing more than the usual iterations of a question I’m often asked: “Is New Albion really important?”   

By which the questioner means:

 “Hey, McAuliffe’s brewery only lasted a few years. Most people interested in craft beer had never even heard of the guy until your book came out. He can’t be that important.”

To which I usually say something like

“He deserved the credit. Would someone else have done what he did? Eventually. But at the time, he inspired others to do what he’d done, namely cobble together some raw materials, build a brewery, and make beer.”

(And I mention Ken Grossman and Sierra Nevada as an example of the direct influence of Jack and New Albion.)

So that’s the background. (Yeah. You know me: The background takes more time than the main point. What can I say? I’m a historian. Context is everything.)

Anyway, this has been on my mind. Or, more accurately, my brain has been busy pondering the “Would someone else have done what he did?” I say “apparently” because I didn’t realize I was even thinking about this until yesterday, when the following crashed into my brain’s foreground and grabbed my attention:

When people have asked me the aforementioned question, I’ve usually skipped over the “would someone else have done what he did” part and spoke mainly to the “direct influence” part of why Jack matters. Because of course I had no idea if someone else would have done what Jack did.

Until now. Thanks to my busy brain, I now have a different take on the issue of “does Jack matter?” (*1) It goes like this.

It’s hard to imagine that a craft brewing industry wouldn’t have shown up eventually, right? After all, at the same time that craft of beer pioneers were doing their thing, the “good coffee” movement started. Other entrepreneurs were experimenting with a return to good bread. Micro-distilleries began showing up in the early 1990s. Natural foods were going great guns in the 1980s.

So at some point someone would have come up with a “craft brewing industry.” (*2)

BUT: it’s not clear to me that, without Jack (or some one like Jack) it would have looked like the do-it-yourself, self-reliant industry that it was and to a certain extent still is.

Let me explain:

Jack’s brewery failed, but the way he built his company became the foundational model for the craft brewing industry that emerged in the early 1980s.

Ken Grossman, for example, had already dreamed about opening a brewery, a dream inspired in part by his love of good beer but also by a visit to Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. But when Ken visited Anchor, he saw an insurmountable obstacle: a full-blown brewery with “real” brewing equipment. Grossman knew he couldn’t pull that off, or at least not until he’d devoted a few decades to saving the many thousands of dollars such a venture would require.

When he visited New Albion, however, he saw instantly that here was a model that he could emulate and do so with relatively little cash. (He and his then-partner Paul Camusi scrounged $50,000 in start-up funds, mostly from family.) If he could find spare parts, which was what Jack had done, he could use his engineering/carpentry/handyman skills to build a brewhouse.

So he did, and so did other early pioneers, and the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

But let’s ponder an alternative history, one based on a combination of speculation and fact.

Here’s a fact, one based on my six years spent thinking and writing about meat in America:

Food and food fads are like anything else: if there’s a profit to be made, if there’s a fad to ride, someone will jump in and try to make some money on it.

In the 1980s, for example, a couple of marketing types in California noted the interest in “natural” foods and began selling “Rocky the Ranger” chickens, which they touted as free-range and natural. The chickens weren’t, but that didn’t matter. Plenty of people were willing to pay big bucks for natural poultry. (Among them was Wolfgang Puck, just then hitting his stride and his celebrity, who began serving Rocky at his restaurants. He was none too pleased to discover, during a blind taste test, that neither he nor other tasters could tell the difference between high-priced Rocky and plain ol’ chicken).

Here’s another, more relevant example:

In the mid-1980s, Jim Koch, then working at Boston Consulting Group, had a early-mid-life crisis and decided he needed a job with more soul than helping Fortune 500 types figure out how to make billions rather than millions. Brewing was in his family (as he’s fond of pointing out, he’s the fifth generation to work in beer), and when he pondered his future while perched on a barstool, he noticed that yuppies, as they were called then, were dropping serious money to pay for imported beer (think Heineken and St. Pauli).

That market niche intrigued him. After a bit of investigation, Jim learned that there were a handful of people scattered around the country making what amounted to nineteenth-century beers (real, pure, made from four ingredients, blah blah blah). There, Koch decided, lay his future. In this case, he skipped the do-it-yourself route and instead contracted to brew his lager using “real” brewmasters at “real” breweries.

Jim Koch happens to be a guy with a soul. (*3)  The company he built melds with and has been a key component of the craft beer industry.

But it’s clear that what Koch did, some other suit-and-tie could have done, too. (*4)

Which brings me, finally, to my point. (Thanks for sticking with me).

New Albion Brewing, c. 1977. Photo courtesy of Jack McAuliffe

Had Jack McAuliffe not built his whacky, nineteenth-century-inspired, spare-parts brewery, a craft beer industry would have emerged anyway. But it likely would have been built by suits-and-ties; business types with more interest in profit than beer who’d wangled bank loans and built a brewery along the same lines as conventional brewing (read: Anheuser Busch) except in miniature. And then, I’m guessing, sold to the first big brewer who came along (and remember that both Miller and AB “came along” and started buying/acquiring shares in small fry in the late 1980s).

Instead of the “think local/think pure and real” craft brewing industry we’ve got now, with all its glory, creativity, and dynamism, we’d have ended up with a bastardized version in which the Big Boys made a few shitty “craft” beers, and instead of the few thousand breweries that now exist in the U. S., we’d probably still have, oh, 79 or 80. And I doubt we’d have locally owned and operated brewpubs. We might have chain restaurants with brewing equipment prominently displayed behind glass, but that’s not quite the same thing as the truly fascinating, truly local brewpub culture that has flourished in the U. S. in the past 30 years.

So. Jack matters not because he succeeded — he didn’t — but because of the way he built his company: from scraps, with next to no cash, and with a truckload of heart, soul, and hard work.

End of great idea.

For now. Part of my busy brain has been thinking hard about a new book and what it wants to write (and why would I get in its way!?) is a book about, well, I’m not quite sure yet but something about the craft beer industry, the nature of contemporary capitalism, the shift to the local, and the way all things digital have transformed all of it. I have the feeling I’m going to be thinking this book out loud, if you will, here at the blog. So it’s possible that this is a tentative first step toward this vague, amorphous, and possibly bad idea that’s churning around in my brain. We’ll see.

And comments and feedback are most welcome. Have at it.

Oh: And no, not quite finished with meat book. But I have  written a major chunk of that pesky new chapter my editor wanted. 

UPDATE AFTER THE FACT: I should have included this link first time around. Two years ago, Jay Brooks and Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo went to the New Albion site with Jack. Jay made sure to document the visit.


*1: I’m continually impressed by how much work my brain does without me even asking it to. Brains are important, you know? If we have a Mother’s Day and a National Pizza Day, and a “Talk Like A Pirate” day, why in hell don’t we have a “Thank Your Brain” day?

*2: Hmmm. That raises a fascinating question that I only thought of while writing this blog entry: How long would it have taken Charlie Papazian to go the next step; to travel from homebrewing-as-national-movement, which was what he was primarily interested in in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, to “let’s take homebrewing to the next step”?

*3: Some would disagree with that view. But I would argue that one need only look at the way he’s operated his company to know that when he said he intended to build a corporation with a heart and soul, he meant it.

*4: Indeed, the essence of the messy craft beer boom of the 1990s was precisely that: suit-and-tie types bringing in big money to cash in on what was then seen as a profitable market niche.

54 thoughts on “My Brain At Work: Somewhat Random (and Possibly Useless) Thoughts On the Origins of Craft Brewing

  1. I came over to help start The British Brewing Company in 1988 with no idea New Albion had ever existed. We were emulating a British model of small independent breweries,and were simply looking at a new market. The small systems were readily available all over the UK and Europe after the first wave of pioneers tried and failed over there. .When we arrived we found that Chesbay Brewing had already tried and failed but that The Weeping Radish, Geary’s and Manhatten Brewing were still going strong.

  2. Now THAT is interesting. I wonder if Michael J. knew about New Albion. Well, doh, answered my own question as I was typing. Yes, he did. Manhattan Brewing must surely have closed right after you got here. It didn’t last too long (it wasn’t the greatest business model, truth be told).

  3. Quick! Someone write an article about the interaction/idea flow between UK and US in the 1980s. We know there was some, right? Papazian went to GBBF in 1981? 1982? And MJ was over here all the time.

  4. Maureen, first, I am delighted to have stumbled upon your blog. Your book has been an IMMENSE help to me over the last 3 years, as I have been completing my doctoral dissertation… a cultural economy of the American brewing industry. So, before I comment I want to say THANK YOU!

    I think the question you raise here is a really compelling one that I am going to have some fun chewing on for a while. I spend quite a bit of time and energy in my dissertation arguing that much of the change that has taken place in the American brewing industry in the last 100 years has been rooted in broader cultural change, and in doing so I have often suggested that the “Important Man” narratives that seem to guide the founding mythologies of American Beer (From Busch I,II,III,IV to McAuliffe, Koch, Grossman, and Maytag) may be histories that obscure the role of vital socio-cultural currents.

    At the same time, I am inclined to agree that a much different kind of “craft beer” industry was more likely to emerge without being significantly redirected toward that DIY ethic you speak of. Personally, I have always felt that “redirection” came from the energy of 1) homebrewers, 2) artisan food enthusiasts and 3) the influential and politically charged subcultures that intersected with both of these groups (Belasco’s “Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took On the Food Industry” is probably the best version of this argument that I can think of off hand). But, you seem to be suggesting something much more intimate and I am really curious if your research bears out more of these kinds of brewer to brewer connections.

    I also have some thoughts the “messiness of the craft beer boom,” but have no intention of writing a novel in your comment section… but if you ever want to write another blog entry about that, I’m chomping at that bit to hear some of your ideas!


  5. Be still my beating heart. You’re writing a dissertation on the brewing industry? WHY didn’t you do this ten years ago (so I could, ya know, borrow some ideas…)

    As to the crux of your post, actually, I think you’ve hit on what I meant (which maybe I didn’t say too clearly. My brain is mush from finishing the new book). Yes, I definitely think there was an intersection at work — and I also suspect (more than I actually know at the moment) that that intersection of energies is way more profound than it’s been seen heretofore. A clunky sentence but I hope you get my drift.

    It’s been too easy to dismiss the counterculture, countercuisine (as Belasco called it), the artisan this, the artisan that, but I’m starting to wonder if those things are evidence of a much deeper, profound shift in the nature of capitalism.

    Or something like that. That sounds absurdly high-blown when I put it like that. But it’s what I’ve been thinking about. Or what I’m thinking about when I’m not thinking about meat. Although it’s clear to me that the meat book is what’s driving this new train of thought on my part.

    Anyway, absolutely delighted to meet you (if blog comments constitute “meeting” someone — surely they do??) and cannot wait to read your dissertation. Wowie zowie!!!

  6. I am crossing my fingers that others (namely my committee) wont find the idea of a “profound shift in the nature of capitalism” to be a too high-blown, because I pretty much saying that’s exactly what is happening and that the brewing industry is a beautiful example.

    Specifically, I’m working with the thesis that we are “valuing” differently as society. It’s a blend of an infatuation with entrepreneurship and the rabid neoliberalization (maybe that’s a word?) of the 1980s, niche marketing and expanding gastro-imperialism, and also the influence of more radical sub-cutures and other structures of valuation.

    It’s been a lot of fun collecting sideways looks…

    Very excited about your meat project and really pleased to meet you as well!

    • well, now I REALLY want to write it. Heck, who knows? Maybe I won’t even have to bother writing this book I’m thinking about. A tip for the committee (the dreaded committee): just don’t use the word capitalism. Anywhere. In any way. You’ll be fine! I have to think hard about your second graf. Great ideas. Dovetailing with, but not entirely identical, to mine. I think. Prolly connected to different worldviews? And age.
      Anyway, wow. Go finish that baby!

      • Joe, “gasto-imperialism” can have one of two meanings. MOST of the time, and to most “scholars,” it refers to the “globalization” of food industries. Eg, ConAgra controlling (or so scholars argue) food production in large parts of the world. Most of this work is being done by Marxist scholars in sociology, anthropology, and geography. See, for example, FROM COLUMBUS TO CONAGRA, by Allessandro Bonanno. Briefly the argument is that “capital” moves where labor and goods are cheapest and as a result, we eat bad food because “capital” wants to make profit, but millions also earn pittances and work under bad conditions because “capital” controls food from ground to table. (I’m greatly simplifying the argument.)

        The other way some scholars, especially historians, use that term or the idea is that food can be coopted from one culture to another. For example, in the late 19th century, Americans were introduced to a host of “foreign” foods because of global trade, of course, but also because of US expansion and imperial activity. And I’m drawing a complete blank on the main study of that idea. If it comes to me, I’ll post it here.

      • Thanks. My master’s thesis back in the day was related to cultural imperialism; I assumed it was something like your latter explanation. Despite writing about food and drink these days, that’s the first time I’d heard that particular phrase, which sounds a bit brutal. No doubt that’s the point.

      • Heh. Yes, well, the Marxist types over on the “social sciences” side of campus want it to sound harsh. I’ve now read tons of their work, but in connection with the meat book. Historians have simply ignored the entire subject of meat in America, and the sociologists, anthropologists, and geographers are the only ones who’ve done any substantive work on it. And as near as I can tell, they’re all “Marxists.” So I have to wade through a ton of verbiage and conspiracy thinking, if you know what I mean. BUT: turns out those folks are also the ones who gave us “local” foods and an infrastructure for a “new” food economy, so I can’t get too annoyed with them. (No, Alice Waters had nothing to do with it.)

      • I know exactly what you mean. I was already a working journalist when I went to grad school. I thought I was slightly left-leaning. I soon learned that I was part of a vast right-wing conspiracy.

      • Joe, you just made me laugh out loud.

        Maureen’s comments on uses of the term “gastro-imperialism” are spot on as far I am concerned. I use the term to describe movements of food commodities or food customs, practices, and rituals that follow along with other flows of power and people (military, economic, political). And though I know most folks use it in a fairly derogatory way, I don’t think of it as such… particularly because the result isn’t always a condition of domination.

      • Joe, you just provided my second BIG keyboard spit of the day. Yeah, the whole “capital” is to blame thing drives me insane. Once you assign blame to “corporations” and “capital,” well, gee, there goes the incentive to look in the mirror as a source of both cause and effect, right? Plus, WTF with “capital” anyway? Capital does not have independent agency. HUMANS act, not pieces of paper.

  7. Stan.. I was busy brewing and so wasn’t really sitting back and observing what was happening at the time. I’d say that the British revolution (if that’s what you want to call it) began around 1978. Simon Whitmore was in charge of selling off tied houses from Courage to the free trade in the Bristol area, and started Butcombe Brewery in ’78..
    By the time I left the UK in ’88 there were many small breweries going bust. So we’re looking at the 78-88 window really. Again I am relying on my memories of my personal experience…. I’m certainly no historian.

  8. I think no one can think too clearly about UK brewing in 70s and 80s w/out first putting CAMRA in perspective. I read everything I could find about it, in terms of primary sources (rather than what people remembered after the fact). There was something goin’ on there, that’s for sure. And likely much bigger than “we wanted good beer.”

  9. Others will chime in from the UK here, I’m sure, but my impression is that the UK micro-brewer movement, which started, effectively, in 1975 with people like Pollards of Stockport and Bill Urquhart’s Litchborough Brewery, was certainly something the pioneers in the US were aware of, and David Bruce’s Firkin chain of brewpubs, which started in London in 1979, was also an influence. Bruce told me last year: “I first went [to the US] in 1982, when there wasn’t a brewpub in North America at that time. I spoke to the Brewers Association people in Boulder about what we were doing and they could not believe it – ‘You do what – you brew in the pub!'” Now, you’d have to ask the US brewpub pioneers if they’d heard of David Bruce when they started, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many HAD heard of what he was doing in the UK, and were influenced by it.

    The two big differences between the US and the UK, though, in the early days, is that (1) many of the UK pioneers, like Urquhart (and indeed Bruce) and Peter Austin of Ringwood, who started brewing for himself in 1978 (and who also supplied brewing kit to a fair number of new US micro-brewers, eg Gearys, as well as UK ones) had previously worked for big brewers before setting up their own businesses, rather than been enthusiastic home brewers who moved into commercial brewing: the UK home brewing scene was never as big as the US one; and (2) the existence of Camra meant a market for new small brewers in the UK already existed, with many drinkers already eagerly looking for alternatives to the offerings of the big brewers.

  10. As it happens, We’ve been giving some thought lately to the origins of what Martyn has called ‘the counter revolution’ in British beer, which started c.1963 with the founding of the Society for the Preservation of Beers From the Wood.

    There was an obsession with the supposed ‘unnatural’ practices of big brewers – all ‘gas’, ‘chemicals’ and metal – which eventually morphed into the full-fledged whole food rhetoric CAMRA employed.

    We’re convinced something would have happened without CAMRA, but what? Perhaps a revival of the pure beer movement, or an organic beer craze, rather than one for ‘real ale’?

    Both David Pollard (who had worked at various big breweries) and Bill Urquhart (a long-time Watney man) are on record raging against accountants and ‘suits’ with no ‘feeling’ for beer. In other words, they felt that big brewing had somehow lost its soul.

    On UK-US relations: 1979 GBBF had Anchor Steam on sale, under the influence, we think, of MJ’s Guide to World Beer.

  11. I worked for a brewery Wiltshire in 1987 that also had a stake in an importer called Beers of the World that imported Michelob, Rolling Rock and Anchor Steam. Spaten, Coopers and Castle/Lion too. So there was Anchor Steam being sold in the UK in the early 80s. The other huge influence on US craft/brewpub brewing from the UK has to be The Grundy Tank. US craft breweries are 7 bbl and 14 bbl sized to this day because the Grundy tank had a 5 UK barrel capacity and that was the conversion. Hundreds of Grundy tanks were being removed from the cellars of working men’s clubs in the North where they were once being filled with beer via tanker trucks from the local brewery. Many of them ended up in the US as cellar tanks in brewpubs. Humboldt Brewery in Arcata CA (founded in 1989) had 30 of them. The point Martyn makes is important I feel. I was a professional Heriot Watt degree’d brewer before leaving the UK to start a micro in the US in 1988, and virtually every micro I left behind in the UK was founded by someone who had left a large brewery. Home brewing in the UK took a very different form in the UK back then. Essentially take home beer in the USA was very cheap, but didn’t satisfy everyone as far as flavor is concerned, so people brewed at home to brew better beer. In contrast, in the UK at the time, take home beer was very expensive, so people brewed at home to save money. Hardly conditions that would create a candidate to start their own brewery. Again…. just my impressions from being there at the time.

    • Steve, this is fascinating. Especially the point about the Grundy tank. How about someone write a book? Use Kickstarter for funding???

  12. YES! Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood! I fell in love with that name when I found it. The London Times covered the group, and the protests, and there were plenty of letters to the editor (in that inimitable British style, of course) about it, too. I had to delete most of what I wrote about it in my first draft (and I can’t blame my editor for asking me to do so), but someone could do something lovely with the material that’s out there.

    As for Martyn’s comment: People in what was then the AHA and then the craft beer group in the VERY early 80s definitely knew about David Bruce. I ran across mentions of him in old American beer mags (all two of them…) and, if I remember correctly, also some newspaper mentions related to his visits here. But definitely people were aware.

    Having said that, I seriously doubt that the trio that founded Mendocino, which gets my vote for first American brewpub (remember that they were illegal here until mid- to late 1980s; California changed its law first), knew anything at all about what was going on in Britain. They just wanted to make beer in a bar. Jack had already started the ball rolling toward getting the law changed but his brewery failed before he could open a brewpub. So the Mendo guys did it first — but they were very insular. They had no connection to or awareness of the folks in Boulder. They were just home brewers and fairly isolated from the institutional scene that was taking place in Boulder.

    Man, this is SO cool that you all are stopping by to comment. THANK YOU so much.

    • Maureen – First, a point of order. Bert Grant began selling beer at his pub in Yakima on July 1, 1982 (he gave it away while he was waiting for his license). Mendo started selling beer in August of 1983.

      Now, at the risk of turning into the curator of your blog, I’d suggest revisiting your “Is This the Dawning of the Age of . . . E-Quarius?” series because it addresses the part of the conversation that J Nikol brought up.

      • A random aside, but my neighbor here in Costa Rica was involved with the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood back in the late Sixties. His memories are vague but fond, of drinking with pals, handing out pamphlets, and causing the occasional creative disturbance. We meet for kegged craft beer and wish that someone would put into a firkin now and then.

  13. Stan, I stand corrected. Although everything else about Mendo is accurate. And I wonder if the Mendo guys even knew about Grant. If they were influenced by anyone, it was Jack, who was himself rather isolated in the sense that he had neither the time nor the funds to follow what was unfolding in Boulder.

    Re. the Age of E-Quarius: believe me: that has been on my mind. Indeed, I think writing that back then is the true seed of this book I’m thinking of writing. I didn’t even realize how much that E-quarius series had penetrated my subconscious until a few months ago. And then the ol’ light bulb went on….

    So. Yes. That series and what I’m thinking of now are intimately related. And please: curate away!

  14. The Mendo guy bought New Albions equipment and hired Don Barkley and Michel Lovett to start their brewery. I saw it all as I was their! My brother Kerry Locke gave them the first taps they had in the pub.

    • Randy, that’s cool! I interviewed Michael Laybourn for the book and he had a clear memory of how that all unfolded. Great stuff.

  15. As you have pointed out, in the late 70s and then into the 80s the US was at a turning point. For the most part up until that point we were surviving on TV dinners and mass produced beer. Even with wine, it wasn’t until the 1976 Judgement of Paris that the US wine industry could be taken seriously.

    It was the people like Jack McAuliffe that reminded us that the equipment you start with is so much less important than actually starting. The bigger difference between the food movement and the beer movement stems from the fact that restaurants open and close all the time. Before Jack and the pioneers like him, the odds of opening a new brewery in the US was astronomical (it just wasn’t done).

    The bubble burst of the 90s not an uncommon occurance. People who open a restaurant for the wrong reasons and fail miserably do that all the time. Because they were failing at building breweries, was the oddity. But it was from these ashes that many of the better breweries we have today came from. This all goes back to Jack because he had the audacity to open a brewery with pretty much nothing.

    • “It was the people like Jack McAuliffe that reminded us that the equipment you start with is so much less important than actually starting.”

      Jon, I love this comment. So glad you came by to comment. THANKS.

    • Thank you! And I bet you’re not looking forward to the new book NEARLY as much as I am. I will be SO glad to get it out of my life. The final chapter — the one the editor asked for — is coming together, so now I honestly can see the end. Thank god….

  16. Well this certainly isnt a topic that would normally interest me, nevertheless after reading this post from Freshly Pressed I have to say that I love it. We are having a bit of an issue over here in Europe with everyone making bottled sugary cider. Stella Artious is an example of this, renowned for their excellent larger then have only started making the bottled cider because its fashionable, which has certainly made it loose its creditability as company, and certainly left some bad taste in peoples mouths. great post!

    • The entire beer biz, globally speaking, is a real stew these days. The makers of Stella now own Anheuser-Busch and are apparently hellbent on being not just the biggest but the ONLY beer/cider maker. And, yeah, cider is definitely fashionable these days.

  17. You remind me that I need to walk to the store and buy a six-pack of local beer! Thanks for the post…I’m surrounded by breweries here in Portland, Oregon, but rarely get reminded of the heritage in other parts of the country.

    • P’land has more breweries per capita than any city in the world! And yeah, it is kind of a beer bubble out there, isn’t it? (And a great bubble it is…) It’s easy to forget that not every place has as much beer as your city. (As well as a ton of other great food. I love Portland!)

  18. Thanks for sharing this, I become more and more intrigued the more I hear of Jack McAuliffe and New Albion. A number of people have been blogging about him over the past year, and I have to agree with your assessment that he was the impetus of the modern craft beer movement.

    Tom Hennessy from Colorado Boy Brewing in Ridgway, Colorado carries on in the spirit of the DIY brewery and even offers an immersive course in starting a brewery from scratch modifying equipment not originally manufactured for such. He has influenced a large number of brewers both here in CO, and across the country.

    Regarding the discussion going on in the comments about the influence of the UK in the American brewery/brewpub movement of the 70s-80s, I think there was a more complex dynamic going on. First, ales are much easier to brew and ferment than lagers and so lent themselves to the small, cash strapped breweries who couldn’t afford all of the additional equipment (and time) for lagers. Secondly, adventurous American beer drinkers of the time were looking for something other than the fizzy yellow lagers of the US and ales fit the bill.

    At least that’s my perspective on it, spoken from first hand experience of hanging out at Wynkoop and other breweries that opened later on here in Denver during the late 80s.

  19. Great post. Leaving in Colorado, we have seen all kinds of breweries but we definitely love visiting (and documenting) the breweries that have pieced what they have together with love and time!

  20. Thanks to all who stopped by after my “fresh pressing” by WordPress. And if my brain weren’t so fried from after my day’s work (another race toward the finish line of the new book, doncha know), I could probably come up with pithy, funny replies to each. But. Brain-fry = no energy for comment-quips. THANKS!

  21. “Jack matters not because he succeeded — he didn’t — but because of the way he built his company: from scraps, with next to no cash, and with a truckload of heart, soul, and hard work.”

    I’ve only been homebrewing for a year, but I’d say this is an apt description of many other homebrewers I’ve met. They constantly amaze me with what they accomplish while nickel and diming their way to some pretty impressive set-ups.

    Thanks for offering such an in-depth look at this. Cheers!

  22. Pingback: My Brain At Work: Somewhat Random (and Possibly Useless) Thoughts On the Origins of Craft Brewing | Andrew Melito


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