American Beer Philosophy & History
The first known New World brewery opened in New Amsterdam (now Manhattan) in 1612, but the modern era of craft beer in America began around 1810 when there were 132 breweries. This figure rose to a whopping 4131 by 1873, however, prohibition was on its way! Nearly 30 years after prohibition ended there were just 230 breweries and they mainly made the pale, tasteless insipid lager style beers that we in the UK came to associate with brewing in the USA.
In 1965 a remarkable thing happened … A young Stanford graduate learnt that his favorite local beer was about to become extinct as the brewery was closing down, he quickly paid a visit and fell in love with the brewery and for the price of a used car he bought the business, within four years he couldn’t produce enough beer to satisfy his customers and was forced to ration the product. They moved premises and continued to grow and by the early 1990’s they had inspired a generation of craft brewers changing the face of the industry, not just in the USA but also across the world. The man was Fritz Maytag, the brewery was Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, the makers of the famous Anchor Steam Beer.
Aside from the history the most important aspect in the rise of craft beer in America is the hops. New hops have been developed over the past 40 years, starting with Cascade in 1972. The original reason for trying to develop new hops was to increase efficiency by breeding certain characteristics into the new plants, for example making them easier to harvest mechanically and produce larger crops. The research and development also led to different flavours and aromas and craft beer is today dominated by these more pungent and bitter hops.