What Sparked a Surging Popularity of Breweries?

James Watt BrewDog

February 22, 2023

When Prohibition came to town, it sent small, local breweries reeling. But it also made large regional breweries much more successful, allowing them to diversify and expand.

Many of the largest breweries still make lagers today. But they have become famous for people looking for something more than a traditional pale brew.

The Great American Beer Boom

Several factors contributed to the surging popularity of breweries. Immigration from strong beer-drinking countries increased manufacturing and urbanization, and higher wages helped create a solid consumer base for beer.

While many breweries were built in the 1840s and 1850s, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that beer became the leading alcoholic beverage in America. During this time, beer consumption rose to over 21 gallons per capita and was the most widely consumed drink in the country.

The era following World War II saw a massive consolidation of the industry. While total production was not affected, the decline in breweries signaled an increasing influence on the large national breweries.

The Craft Brewing Movement

Despite its explosive growth, the Craft Brewing Movement was marred by struggles. It felt the financial hammer of a disgruntled Big Beer sector and the avaricious indifference of financial markets.

The American Craft Beer Movement rejected fizzy yellow lagers, a market-dominating style that had become the standard-bearer for blandness. It also reintroduced techniques that had been popular in the past.

Fritz Maytag bought a controlling interest in Anchor Brewing in 1965, saving the San Francisco brewery from bankruptcy and proving that Americans were ready for authentic, artful beers with flavor and variety.

He rethought the entire brewery and reintroduced beers with flavor, diversity, and history. His rebirth of Anchor Steam led to a revolution in the brewing industry.

Homebrewers could brew beer legally after a legislative win in 1979, making it legal for anyone to try their hand at making a batch of their favorite beverage. This helped to inspire countless brewers to start their own microbreweries and eventually create the craft brewing movement.

The Return of Lagers

While a lot of the craft beer movement was fueled by IPAs, lagers are also making a comeback. They are the go-to beer for a lot of consumers around the world.

A bottom-fermenting beer originating in Bavaria, lagers are an easy-drinking favorite that has long been a staple of many beer fans. These brews are low in alcohol and can be found in most grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and taverns.

They are an excellent choice for many drinkers as they are usually very affordable. This can be a good thing for breweries that are looking to attract more people without breaking the bank.

However, lagers are a more brutal style of beer to brew and require more attention to detail than ales. This is one reason why some breweries choose to specialize in an ale or a lager.

The Craft Beer Renaissance

The Craft Beer Renaissance was a period that sparked the surging popularity of breweries. It began with a rejection of the homogenized, mass-produced beers that dominated the market.

The large brewing companies were losing market share and profit to smaller companies, which had the freedom to produce beers that tasted different. They needed to produce more products and concentrate on making beers that appealed to a niche audience.

They were able to cut costs and reduce labor. They also cut down on the amount of waste they generated by using a lower percentage of barley and yeast.

The emergence of craft breweries triggered a revolution that remade the global beer industry. It ended a century of consolidation and homogenization in the beer market, and it changed the structure and dynamics of the beer sector. The transformation is a source of interest for scholars studying industrial organization, institutional change, and economic development. It also provides an example of the impact that changing consumer demand can have on the evolution of industries.