Not Another One
So, let ‘s talk a little craft beer history:
In 1965 Fritz Maytag, yes whose family made their money because we need clean
clothes, found out the makers of his favorite beer, Anchor Steam, were going to shut
down and decided to try to save it and bought 51%. Anchor Brewing can trace its
roots to 1849 and produced steam beer, also known as California Common.
Steam beer was a different process of fermenting lager yeasts at warmer ale yeast
fermentation temperatures because back then they didn’t have the ice or re-
frigeration available, but they still wanted to drink beer out west. It officially became
Anchor Brewing in 1896. Anchor Steam Beer in the 1960s, which wasn’t trade-
marked by them until 1981, brewed a different type of beer that had some real taste,
very different from your standard fizzy lagers of that time. By 1971 Anchor had four
other distinctive beers; Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn Barleywine Ale and
its first annual Christmas Ale. Anchor was making craft beers before we had a craft
beer revolution, but then again it has to start somewhere.
In 1976 a homebrewer, Jack McAuliffe, founded New Albion Brewing Company, which
he built from whatever material he could find. His beer was popular and he could
hardly keep up, but he did not have the easy ability of today to go out and buy more
equipment and brew more beer. Not being able to turn a profit he closed after six
years but had created the blueprint for microbreweries to come.
Then in 1979 President Jimmy Carter signed a bill de-regulating the beer industry, so
that small scale producers were no longer shut out of the tightly regulated market,
which is why many of our craft beer pioneers began breweries in the 1980’s.
Some are still around and going strong: Ken Grossman opened Sierra Nevada in
1981, Jim Koch and Rhonda Kallman opened Boston Brewery in 1984, Kurt and Rob
Widmer opened Widmer’s in 1984, Larry Bell opened Bell’s Brewery in 1985, Gary
Fish opened Deschutes Brewery in 1988, Dan and Pat Conway opened Great Lakes
Brewery in 1988, Steve Hindy and Tom Potter open Brooklyn Brewery in 1988; and
well I’m sure I’ve missed some other influential people and breweries but you get the
idea. Our craft beer forefathers/pioneers knew what they were doing then and now
and we have a lot to thank them for.
Others haven’t been so lucky:
Bert Grant opened Grant’s Brewery and Pub, aka Yakima Brewing & Malting Co. in
1982; the first of its kind opened since prohibition. He started with a pale ale then
developed the first craft beer using IPA in the name; also an amber ale, Scottish ale
and Imperial Stout. Grant sold to Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates in 1995. Shortly
after his death in 2001 (but obviously unrelated) it was sold to Black Bear Brewing.
Yakima Brewing ran into financial trouble in 2003 and was closed after a judgement
in 2004. Grant’s Scottish Ale was nationally acclaimed, his IPA a pioneer and his pub
left a legacy by re-establishing the business model and also craft model of what a
brewpub could be.
D.L. Geary’s, founded in Portland, ME in 1983 was the first craft brewery east of the
Mississippi and one of only thirteen in the country. Their English style Pale Ale and
Hampshire Special Ale were excellent examples of what great craft beer could taste
like. Unfortunately, more breweries opened and we craft beer lovers went IPA crazy,
a trend that Geary’s did not join. Less and less of us bought Geary’s, wanting to try
the newest beer from the newest brewery and production dropped 34.5% from 2011
to 2015. They were sold in 2017 to the LaPoint’s who, as Mainers, have fond
memories of Geary’s and plan to revitalize the brand. Maybe they share some DNA
with the Maytags???
Mendocino Brewing Company opened Hopland Brewery, California’s first brewpub, in
1983. Founders Michael Laybourn and Norman Franks brought in Jack McAuliffe and
Don Barkley from the defunct New Albion to run it and Red Tail Ale was born. In 1994
they went public and in 1997 Vijay Mallya, owner of United Breweries Group, bought
controlling interest. UB also bought Olde Saratoga Brewery in New York.
Unfortunately, through no fault of the beer but rather the owner, who left India in
2016 to avoid legal action by Indian banks, both Mendocino and Olde Saratoga were
suddenly closed in early 2018. It appears someone has bought Mendocino and
hopefully Red Tail Ale and their other birds of prey are back in at least the California
We all recently heard about New Belgium Brewing; started in 1991 by Kim Jordan and
Jeff Lebesch and creator of the classic Fat Tire Amber Ale. They have always been a
forward thinking, responsible company in terms of environmental practice and
employee engagement; not to mention they make some really good beers and
steadily rose into the upper echelon (make that #4) of craft breweries. In 2013 Kim
sold her share of the business to her co-workers/its employees so it became 100%
employee owned; AB nor MillerCoors was going to buy this craft beer out. Then
following other western breweries, like Sierra Nevada and Green Flash, they decide
to build a second, east coast brewery in Ashville, NC.
It was a real shocker last year when they announced the sale to Lion, a subsidiary of
Kirin. Maybe they were too aggressive adding a second major brewery or maybe
many of the employees see this as their ability to cash in and retire or maybe it was
the right offer at the right time. Obviously, Lion/Kirin want a foothold in our craft beer
revolution so they went after one of the biggest and hopefully they’ll want to learn
about what made it successful rather than trying to change it from their perspective.
We’ve had mostly highs and some lows, which is probably better than we should
expect but after 30+ years the industry has grown and like with any industry has
changed along the way. Today some of our pioneers are being pushed by the
phenomenal growth of the craft industry and our change from loyalty to trying the
newest one, and some would like to retire and sit on their porch and enjoy a couple
of cold ones.
Just like with New Belgium it’s always somewhat of a shock when one of the older
craft breweries that helped bring relevance to craft beer announces their sale or
worse yet their closing. Last month I heard that Stoudt’s in Adamstown, PA is going to
cease operations and prepare their brewery for sale. And the obvious reason why;
they’re not selling enough beer. Breweries are popping up all over the place and to
be honest many of the newer ones are basically terrible, but there are tons of people
in their taprooms trying them. Now I’ll give anyone a chance but if they’re not making
really good beer then you won’t see me for a long time if ever. Yes, there are
breweries that need to get the kinks out and develop a process so some, after
starting off slow are able to turn it around and start cranking out good beers.
Carol Stoudt was the first female brewer since Prohibition and in 1987 opened the
first craft brewery in PA a 30 bbl brewhouse, aptly named Stoudt’s Brewery, next to
the already thriving Black Angus restaurant her husband started in the 60’s to which
they had added a beer garden in 1979. Carol learned how to brew beer and built
Stoudt’s on the same principles of authentic German beers brewed in the time tested
Reinheitsgebot tradition. Over the years her beers were synonymous with quality and
she won many craft beer awards. As a pioneer she personally provided support and
encouragement to fledging brewers in the early days. She would visit new breweries
and treat them as community not competition. Carol is viewed very fondly in the craft
beer world and has certainly earned her nicknames the Mother of Craft Beer and the
Queen of Hops.
Stoudt’s was in 13 states in late 90’s but as the IPA obsession took over their sales
fell off; they began pulling back in 2015.
Carol is ready to retire and looking for buyer so Stoudt’s can live on. I consider her
Scarlet Lady Ale one of the early crossover beers like Sam Adams and Sierra
Nevada Pale Ale and Fat Tire, etc. etc.; an easygoing great tasting beer that was
blowing the mass-produced lagers away. I hope to get another Scarlet Lady before
they close down and let’s also hope that like Anchor Steam and Geary’s and Red Tail
and Smuttynose someone does buy them and keeps Stoudt’s going.
Hopefully I haven’t bored you with my abbreviated journey into craft beer history. Hey
it’s not like we’re talking US history of over two centuries or European history of
thousands of years, we’re just a mere few decades. One thing you learn in history is
that knowing the past will help you understand the future, where we’re going.
Oh, and by the way I hope you were paying attention as they’ll be an unannounced
Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.
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|Big G's Beer Beat
by Glenn DeLuca
|BeerNexus is proud to
welcome beer writer
Glenn "Big G" DeLuca
as a contributor to the
site. A widely traveled
beer hunter, Glenn is a
leading advocate for the
growth of craft beer.