Hipsters, connoisseurs and millennials alike have one thing in common, a fascination with craft beer. This could be attributed to the American trend of wanting to consume unique, special products, or due to the fact craft beer is delicious. As many Americans’ desire for this libation increases, politicians have moved towards enacting legislation to regulate, celebrate and create craft beer.
What Exactly is Craft Beer and the Craft Beer Craze?
A craft beer is a beer made in a traditional or non-mechanized way by a small brewery. The practice in the United States started with home brewers in the 60s. These people took inspiration and techniques from practices of homebrewing in the UK, Germany and Belgium. Over time, they grew from a few places in Oregon and California to being a national trend. The breweries often had a bar attached, known as a “brewpub”, where patrons could buy the product directly. These breweries also sell product to retailers (liquor stores) and third-party re-sellers (restaurants).
An “American Craft Brewer” is defined as small (6 million barrels of beer or less), independent (less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member) and traditional (beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation). They focus primarily on quality, flavor and brewing technique. Most craft breweries are incredibly small – of today’s 4,600 breweries, over 95% make less than 15,000 barrels of beer a year. If you’re curious about how to taste craft beer like a pro to understand more of the movement, check out this handy little poster from CraftBeer.com
The pride in the craft brewer is innovation and experimentation of different brewing styles and flavors to give drinkers a truly noteworthy experience. Many Americans have gravitated towards craft beer simply because it tastes better, but also due to the culture behind the movement. The fad of homebrewing (making beer in your garage) has further contributed to the experimentation of wanting the most distinct beer drinking experience. The lifestyle behind being a craft beer connoisseur includes not only frequenting different breweries around your town or on vacation, but also celebrating the breweries and beers you love the most. This celebration and demand for product leads to legislation needed to regulate this “grass-roots” movement gathering massive momentum.
As mentioned earlier, legislation focuses on regulation, celebration and creation of craft beer. Here is a map of all of the bills pertaining to craft beer or breweries over the last couple years across the United States.
The bills address a plethora of different issues pertaining to manufacturing, distributing and understanding craft beer. New York’s A00128 establishes the New York craft beverage council to develop a marketing strategy to promote the state’s fine wines, spirits and craft brews. Nebraska and Georgia also created craft brewery boards and committees.
Other states, like Washington, California, Illinois, Mississippi and New Jersey, introduced bills that restrict the amount of product manufactured per year. Many states passed bills to expand the access to craft beer (specially this bill from Michigan). New Jersey proposed to take away restrictions requiring limited brewery licensees to provide tour when selling beer to consumers. Washington created a special permit by a manufacturer of beer to hold a private event for the purpose of tasting and selling beer of its own production. Vermont reestablished a Vermont Crafts Crawl which highlights Vermont-made crafts available to locals and tourists.
Many states made moves to celebrate their craft beer culture. New Jersey designated the third weekend in October each year as “Shuck, Sip, and Slurp Weekend” to promote NJ oysters, wine, and beer. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee each proposed bills to designate days or months to celebrate the libation like “Local Craft Beer Day”. US SRes473 was a resolution introduced expressing appreciation of the goals of American Craft Beer Week and commending the small and independent craft brewers of the United States. NY A06526, proposed to designate a portion of the state highway system as the North County Craft Beer Trails.
The future of craft beer and the ways it will be celebrated and accepted into society are an interesting area of legislation. Maybe cracking open a craft brew while tracking some of the other legislation around healthcare, marijuana, drones and police body cams will make this year a little more interesting.