|Brewsearch & Development -
A lot of misinformation - or better yet myths - exist about beer. In fact there a few commonly
held beliefs that the majority of people believe to be true. Here are five that you may have
thought were unassailable when it came to veracity but now you just put them along side all
the other fake news out there. Don't worry you can trust the Internet on this one (only).
False Belief No. 1
American beer is a product of the Midwest.
Beer calls to mind the great cities of the American heartland, where 19th-century workers
created iconic brands with staying power, such as Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Pabst and
Schlitz. Yet American beer has a much longer and more geographically diverse history.
Archaeological evidence indicates that indigenous peoples in North and South
America produced fermented beverages from corn, fruits and other plants long
before Europeans arrived.
The continent’s first commercial brewery opened in what’s now Manhattan in 1612.
Barrels of English ale supplied hydration and nutrition to the Pilgrims as they sailed west in
1620. In the late 1700s, hops grew at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. When Gold
Rush hopefuls and railroad builders looked west in the 1800s, German immigrants brewed
for them in New Orleans, Denver and San Francisco. As the nation grew, beer went with it.
But when Prohibition began in 1920, it shuttered American breweries. Only a few big
producers, most in the Midwest (plus Colorado’s Coors), survived. Their size allowed
them to adapt, redirecting factories and refrigerated trucks toward the production of soft
drinks, ice cream and even ceramics during years when they couldn’t brew. They would
come to dominate the market and shape Americans’ palates. In these ways, ties between
the Midwest and American beer are products of a more recent past.
False Belief No. 2
Beer is a man’s drink.
In 19th-century America, men brewed in modernizing factories and drank in rowdy
saloons, becoming the public face of beer production and consumption. In print and on
TV, 20th-century ads broadcast beer’s masculine image to a wide audience. By 2016,
74 percent of American men drank beer each week, whereas only 26 percent of women
did. Nevertheless, history shows that beer has always been a woman’s drink, too. In
colonial and early republic America, women and enslaved people brewed beer as
a domestic task.And, as women entered wage-earning jobs at the turn of the 20th century,
they, too, came to patronize urban saloons. Soon, however, advertisers’ nearly exclusive
focus on male drinkers reduced its popularity among women. Petite bottles, low-calorie
styles and Miller’s declaration that it was the “champagne” of beers sought to bring women
back into the fold. Yet their consumption never equaled men’s.
Contemporary beer culture offers a slowly changing story. In 1983, the American
Homebrewers Association tapped a woman, Nancy Vineyard, as its Homebrewer of the Year
False Belief No. 3
Craft breweries are small breweries.
The Brewers Association (BA), the not-for-profit trade association that promotes craft
beer, designates a craft brewery as “small, independent and traditional.” Size seems key.
Yet the BA also considers eight of the 15 largest beer companies in America to be “craft.”
What’s going on?
According to the BA’s definition, a craft brewer produces 6 million or fewer barrels of beer
every year. Six million sounds like a lot, especially in contrast to early micro-breweries that
typically made a few thousand barrels, at most. Yet despite the success of big craft
companies such as Yuengling, Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada, their sales volume counts
for a drop, or a few, in the proverbial bucket. According to the BA’s math, even the largest
craft brewer produces no more than 3 percent of the volume of beer sold to Americans in a
year. In 2016, craft beer counted for 12 percent of the total American beer market, by
volume. The takeaway is not that some craft breweries are very small and others less
small, but that companies on top of the beer market — Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors
and Pabst — are extremely, gigantically big.
Myth No. 4
Craft beer is a recent invention.
The explosive pace of brewery openings and eclectic new offerings could convince
anyone that craft beer is a 21st-century innovation. Between 2006 and 2016, the number
of American breweries, most of them craft, leapt from 1,460 to 5,301, exceeding the pre-
Prohibition total. As of early 2017, two new American breweries were opening each day.
Yet American craft beer is much older than that nanobrewery down the block. Loose
collectives of home brewers began to tinker in West Coast basements in the 1960s
and early 1970s, when home brewing was still illegal.
Fritz Maytag’s reborn Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco (1965) and Jack
McAuliffe’s New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma County, Calif. (1976). Brewing-
science classes at the University of California at Davis trained people who would transition
from home brewing to professional, starting a craft beer revolution.
Myth No. 5
Wine is for aging. Beer is for drinking fresh. For many beers, fresh is better. Certain
styles, such as pilsners and most saisons, should be enjoyed close to the date of
production. Others, especially hop-forward beers like IPAs, require uninterrupted refrigeration
and timely consumption to preserve the volatile flavors of hops.
Nevertheless, certain beers improve in character if aged and cellared.
High-alcohol-by-volume styles, such as barleywines , benefit especially from cellaring
at home. Aging a beer softens the high-alcohol edge and allows a complex set of
characteristics and flavors (toffee, straw, wood, wine) to emerge.
|Matt Martinkovic is not only a recognized beer authority but an agricultural
consultant on, of course, the growing of hops. His personal hop garden currently
features Magnum, Crystal, Cascade, Centennial,Mt. Hood, and Chinook hops..
|More From Matt:
#1. #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12,
#13, #14, #15, #16, #17.#18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23,
#24, #25, #26,#27,#28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34,
#35,#36, #37, #38, #39, #40, #41, #42, #43, #44,
#45, #46, #47
|Sounds Good But Not True
|To all my readers and friends many thanks for all your support.
Also special thanks to two great breweries and the many fine people associated with them:
Conclave Brewing and Kane Brewing.
Come back soon for more of my take on what's happening in the beer world with my
insights derived from many years in the industry. Cheers!
|Matt is on vacation. This month's article was written by Jim Attacap