[This originally ran Jan. 27.]
The unbelievable stat for today comes from The Brewers Association, which represents the beer industry (as opposed to a last-place baseball team):
At last official count, there were 4,144 breweries in the U.S., breaking the record set in 1873. Craft brewing has become a phenomenon, accounting for more than 11% of sales.
Fortune magazine examined the landscape: “The popularity of the craft beer movement has led to some recent consolidation, as MillerCoors, Heineken, and other big brewers scoop up smaller competitors to chase growth. Roughly a third of self-proclaimed ‘craft drinkers’ say they ‘always or often’ seek to buy a beer they haven’t heard of before.”
Two generations ago, America was down to fewer than 100 breweries as the treasured regional brands that ruled the 1950s were consolidated. Some brands disappeared, like Old Georgetown, Richbrau (Richmond) and Regent (Norfolk). Others survived, like the watery Lone Star, “the national beer of Texas,” now owned by Pabst.
(BTW, the craft revolution has not been kind to the Pabst flagship brand, Blue Ribbon. It was once the official brew of hipsters, who ignored the fact it’s got a bite that will take out the back of your throat.)
Now consider the plight of bartenders, who have always had to listen to asshats discussing wine vintages or insisting that their scotch be old enough to vote. Now they must deal with millennials asking if they carry Olde Frothingslosh Stale Pale Ale – spiced for the season, of course.
I didn’t make that one up. It’s been a running joke in Pittsburgh since Rege Cordic ruled the morning airwaves on KDKA in the 1950s and did hilarious fake commercials. Years later, Pittsburgh Brewing relabeled some Iron City cans as Olde Frothingslosh; they were a hit.