Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beer Me

There are a few things that interest me deeply. Politics, sports, finance, food and drink. Being the season of Merry-ness that is Christmastime, I have decided it is time to talk about beer.

Beer being what it is, can be seen as good or bad. Beliefs on that aside, nearly everyone has at one time or another enjoyed a beer - and reactions after that first taste have ranged from "Wow" (in a good way) to "Wow" (in a bad way). From my personal experience, I've found American beers very - no hugely - disappointing when it comes to taste and flavor. My nickname for Budlight is beer flavored water.

But I am not going to focus on what we don't do right in this country. Instead, I'm going to focus on something that I have steadily come to appreciate more and more overtime: Microbreweries.

As of the beginning of this year, the United States has over 1700 registered microbreweries and craft breweries (and for the sake of simplicity I will not go into explaining the differences between the two). Some of these microbreweries you have heard of, such as Boston Brewing Company (Sam Adams), Sierra Nevada (one of my favorites), Magic Hat and the Rogue Ales.

According to the Brewers Association: appears that there were 1,751 breweries in 1900 and 1,498 in 1910. So we have more breweries than we have since around 1905.

So the microbrew is making a comeback of sorts.

I remember back in college, me and a few friends decided one day to make a batch of beer ourselves. One of the guys had a home brew kit he had purchased a few months before and had done it a few times. We did a little research, printed off a recipe and headed to the local brew supply store (and yes, they do have them! The one in Columbia is called Liquid Hobby) and purchased our needed things to make an Amber Ale.

The novices we were, we spent 6 hours doing what we came to find out near the end we could have achieved in maybe 2. We had consumed a lot of beer (we needed to start saving the bottles to reuse for our brew), broken a thermometer, and ran a cooling system that consisted of a garden hose, cooler filled with ice and paint buckets. At the end of the night though, we had 5 gallons of brew in the carboy and a good story to tell.

Now these microbrews are a bit more professional than our attempt at home brewery - and it shows. If you include server staff at brewpubs (like Hunter Gatherer in Columbia), the microbrew industry employees around 100,000 people! And according to Brewers Association, craft brewer retail dollar value in 2010 was an estimated $7.6 billion, up from $7 billion in 2009.

That's very impressive. In fact, to be a bit more local, North and South Carolina are some very important hubs when it comes to microbrew and craft beer production. According to North Carolina boasts more craft breweries than any state in the American South, with 21 brewpubs and 28 production breweries statewide. Here in Charlotte, we have 3 of those microbreweries: Four Friends Brewing, Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, and The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery is actually just minutes from where I live and I will be making a visit there shortly.

South Carolina, sadly doesn't boast quite as much as North Carolina but you still will find a few to choose from. In Columbia, there is only the aforementioned Hunter Gatherer. But you can find many places that serve microbrew beers - such as The Whig. Also, go north up to Greenville and you will find the Thomas Creek Brewery and the RJ Rockers brewery in Spartanburg, both of which are carried in many stores.

So this Christmas season, step away from the PBR and Coorslight and enjoy something with a little taste. Try a beer from your local brewery or from a company that doesn't advertise during the Super Bowl. Here is a list of the largest microbreweries in America.


Caroline said...

Start your research on České pivo. You'll enjoy.

RJ said...

USA BEER! But yes, I will if I can find it here.