Welcome to the Crossroads.
It’s 2007. We are in the midst of what many are calling the most amazing time in the history of beer in our country. So my friends, welcome to the Crossroads of American Brewing. In 30 short years, we have bolted from the basement of brewing and have catapulted ourselves into a pool of the most diverse and progressive thinking brewers in the world. We’ve left our storied but diluted American Brewing History behind us. Now we are fully united as a nation of loose cannons firing shots across every sacred brewing bow in the world. And you know what? It feels good.
Actually, it feels better than good. Why? Because some of the most creative and interesting beers are being made right here in my proverbial backyard.
Sure there is a measure of egotistical Americana involved in a statement such as that. But it’s true. In the last 30 years, we have gone through a revolution of brewing from 65 breweries to over 1400- the likes of which we may never see again. During this transition from pallid watered down lagers to more uniquely American full flavored ales and lagers, we have witnessed the rise of an American Brewing Scene which is inspiring brewers from here to Timbuk 2.
We’ve resurrected styles of beer that were headed the way of the Woolly Mammoth. Extinction is not in our nature as brewers. We believe that our beers live and breathe and that somewhere, even if in a remote corner of South Dakota, there is a consumer who needs our beers. And these days, it seems like there really is a need for these beers.
The internet has fueled a global trading empire for the smallest batch beers. It’s impressive to see beers from Norway and Denmark routinely show up on our bar during samplings. It’s not like that guy walked into his local 7 Eleven and asked them to replace Natty Light. Or did he? I’m starting to see our Wipeout IPA in 22 oz bottles on the shelves of 7 Elevens. I think Global Warming might be causing Hell to slip into some sort of Beer induced perma-freeze? It’s crazy. And at the same time, It’s down right exciting.
So, today I feel like I am truly standing at the Crossroads of American Brewing. We may finally have reached the proverbial Tipping Point- that one place and moment in time where things shift for the better and only later can we look back and view the momentous accomplishments with better clarity. Sir Isaac Newton once proclaimed, “If I have seen further. It is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
A solidified beer foundation has been laid by the pioneers and those who blazed the malted trails before us. These breweries are fully invested and dot the new American Beer landscape. In 30 short years our roads have been carved, paved and continually stretched by the great brewers at Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Widmer, Goose Island, Alaskan Brewing Co and numerous others. And they continue to innovate, experiment and refine their beers ensuring they are delivering a World Class beer at every turn. These are the beers of My American Breweries. These are the beers I think of when I hear the words American Beer.
And for that, I am thankful to have reached the Crossroads when I did. But the coolest thing about Crossroads is that they have several paths leading in and out of the same intersection. In this way, each brewer wandering down the path that is known as American Brewing has an opportunity to set out in differing directions. This is my favorite part of reaching this intersection. Every time you get there, you always get to make a decision about which direction to set off in.
It was inevitable that we would all meet here. When you’re working to grow the whole category of better beer, a party is bound to break out when you start to reap what you have sowed. Today, I see American Craft Beers standing squarely shoulder to shoulder, like giants, at the Crossroads. Our growth numbers are staggering and Americans are clearly embracing flavor and all the excitement our beers offer
During the last 30 years, we have honed our craft and without fail, we have educated the consumer all the while keeping our feet squarely on the accelerator of flavor. In this way, we are consistently delivering new experiences seemingly on a minute by minute basis. Yet, there are always new crusaders joining our cause. The result is that now that we have reached the Crossroads, we get to greet our new fellow brewers who have journeyed to this place as well.
Five years ago, there was no Surly Brewing Co. Captain Lawrence Brewery was only an idea in Scott Vacaro’s mind. And, 60 months ago, there were only a few pieces of scribbles on paper regarding this Lost Abbey. Yet, some of these brewers and their beers now dot the landscape of American Brewing. Don’t for a moment think that people haven’t noticed.
So now that many of us have reached this great place known in my world as The Crossroads, it is our duty to offer assistance to those who have come with good intentions. Those seeking The Crossroads like a miracle diet pill will find only a placebo in their quest. For the Crossroads are not found on a marketing map. You can’t ask a focus group for directions and if you happen to find it mistakenly by the Grace of God, don’t be surprised if an Italian Brewer from Delaware asks you to point your car back in the direction you came from. It was a long tiring road to get here.
We’ve earned the right to be a little arrogant about our beers. Seriously, no where else in the world can you find this level of diversity being exercised at this highest of qualities. In 30 years, we have scaled a massive mountain and we did it by blazing our own trail. Many of us will be seen as the Giants Newton alluded to. But you’ll need to excuse me for a moment as I am not ready to retire just yet. You see the thing about explorers is that they are always looking for the next adventure.
This means that when the time comes to part our ways, we’ll set off going back in a direction possibly from whence we came or potentially, one that we hadn’t realized even existed. Now that I have found this place, I have come to the conclusion that while I like the paths currently leading into and out of it, I typically much prefer the road less traveled.
So, if you see a semi bald brewer wearing board shorts, flip flops wielding and a Chainsaw. Fear not. You have found the fearless author of this tome. Every explorer needs the right tools to navigate his or her way. A chainsaw may be the one piece of equipment that allows me to see the forests from the trees. If you want to meet me at this proverbial intersection, I am always in need of companions. Just make sure you bring enough gasoline to keep the Chainsaw running. As a wise Carpenter once opined, ”We’ve only just begun.”