At the intersection of artistic devotion and scientific experiment.
I realize I’m more predisposed than most when it comes to an appreciation for all things handcrafted. When I’m not working for the magazine, I operate a turn-of-the-century, cast iron printing press, after all.
But as much as we can’t fathom a life without the go-go-go joys of this age of technology we’re living in—the pocket-sized robot butlers, a million books or songs or television shows at our fingertips, the instant gratification of it all—you have to admit that there is something terribly romantic about enjoying something conceived and painstakingly crafted by hand.
Something made by the little guy or gal.
Craft brewers—the heart and soul of this Oktoberfest issue—are small, independent and traditional. They’re passionate and driven. They treat every batch like an experiment that comes to a head (pun intended) at the precise intersection of artistic devotion and scientific experiment.
When we first started writing about the craft explosion here (The Brew View, February 2015), one of the brewers I interviewed reminded me that despite the fact that Stark County was jumping in on the microbrewing trend with both feet—with six breweries popping up seemingly overnight—most of the country “still drinks Bud Light.”
By the numbers, it seems he is right. Nationally, according to statistics released by the Brewers Association, there were an astounding 5,300 craft breweries in 2016, but they represented just 12.3 percent of the total beer market by volume and 21.9 percent of the total market by retail dollar value.
Despite a relatively small percent of the take, doesn’t it seem like craft beer has hit critical mass, that craft is everywhere? Sure, if what you’re drinking really is craft. It’s easy to be fooled these days, with the big guys trying to get in on that sweet 21.9 percent (and growing) segment of the market by launching lookalike craft brews, or acquiring small brewers to add to their portfolio of beers. Blue Moon? Magic Hat? Goose Island? Nope, nope, nope. MillerCoors, North American and Anheuser-Busch InBev, respectively.
“To beer or not to beer” … that’s hardly the question, these days. Instead, relish the feeling of going into a brewpub or bar and knowing that the beer you’re drinking was brewed across town—or just across the room. There has never been such an offering of styles and flavors, of friendly local competition, local brewers vying to serve the finest pint. If you take anything away from this issue, I hope it’s willingness to put the Bud back on the rack, read the story on Maize Valley Brewery and find your way to the craft revolution.