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Defining Moments in Craft Beer History


Around this time of year, the smartest kids at high schools and colleges across the country are going to be sitting down to write their commencement speeches for graduation. In it, many of them are likely going to talk about the various memorable moments that led to them standing on that stage trying to sound like they are full of wisdom at such a young age.

What those moments will be will differ from one person to the next, of course, because the moments that define our lives vary from one person to the next—kind of like craft beer.

Craft beer was once just— beer. But much like the nerdy (but super-cool) valedictorian, there were moments in time that helped make craft beer what it is today. Without those moments, we all would be drinking the same generic beer as everyone else.

Our beer would be like the expendable crew member on an episode of Star Trek. You know the guy—he always wore the red shirt and was the first one shot by the bad guys.

But there have been moments; moments that allowed beer to grow, evolve, and become the dynamic gift from the heavens we refer to as ‘craft beer.’

Moments such as:

  •    1971: Cascade hops, the most popular variety of hops in craft beer, are released into the world after being created by Dr. Stanley Nelson Brooks and Jack Horner at Oregon State University as part of a USDA breeding program.
  •    1978: President Jimmy Carter legalizes homebrewing (at the federal level; states still had to legalize it on their own. Alabama and Mississippi didn’t do so until 2013).
  •    1992: Astronaut Bill Readdy blasts off into outer space carrying a bag of cascade hops. Those hops are later used to make beer by the Spinnakers Brewpub in Victoria, B.C., Canada.  
  •    1995: A listing on the back of a six-pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager told drinkers they could buy 33 shares in the company for $15 as part of the company’s initial public offering. After the company went public, it became one of the most successful beer brands in the country. Those shares are now worth more than $260 each.   
  •    2001: Dogfish Head introduced the continuous hopping method to the world with 90-minute IPA. Rather than add hops at the beginning and end of the brewing process, Dogfish decided to do so throughout. It resulted in a hoppy IPA minus the bitterness.
  •    2008: According to the Smithsonian Magazine: “The best beers in the world today are being made in the U.S.”
  •    2011: Goose Island was one of the best craft breweries in the nation—which, of course, is why brewing giant Anheuser-Busch decided to buy them for $38.8 million. This allowed for production and distribution to expand, but many bars/shops felt it also affected the product and discontinued it.
  •    2015: Constellation buys ballast Point Brewing in San Diego for $1 billion. They opened in 1996 and sold for $1 billion 31 years later. Not bad.
  •    2016: Anheuser-Busch signs an agreement with the Justice Department not to buy another craft brewery without getting approval from them first. At this time, Big Beer had bought 11 craft breweries. You know—because if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.
  •    2016: The number of breweries in the United States tops 5,000 for the first time. In 1980 there were only eight.  

Other moments have helped make craft beer what it is today, but just like the valedictorian’s speech, we’re talking about the highlights here. Does that make any of the moments not mentioned of lesser value (for the valedictorian or craft beer)?

Of course not! Every moment does not need to be defined and described to make it special and unique. After all, it is the sum of our moments that help us evolve into the best versions of ourselves.

The same holds true for craft beer. Those moments in craft beer history led to the creation of Make Waves Amber Ale, Yoga Poser Pale Ale, Trend Bucker Stout, and Brew In Town Belgian Wheat. They led to Take A Chill Pilsner, Smokey Row Coast Coffee Porter, and Gluten Full Blonde Ale.

Those moments led to great beer.

Don’t just drink craft beer. Be like craft beer. Evolve into the greatness you are meant to be—and drink a NoCoast.

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