The art of choosing which beer to sell has become a highly competitive, data-driven process, and the tastemaking “beer buyers” with the job are often regarded as celebrity gatekeepers who can make or break upstart breweries.
In bringing attention to little-known brewers from across the globe and reigniting passion for nearly forgotten styles like Gose and Lambic, the three Shelton brothers also established a company that changed the face of beer and brewing—but not without controversy.
How Barrelworks, Firestone Walker’s sour and wild beer program, got its unlikely start from an under-the-radar side project by two brewing professionals who had previously dedicated their careers to eradicating beer-spoiling bacteria.
New York State’s introduction of the Farm Brewery License in 2013, paired with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration’s pro-brewery stance, has encouraged small farm breweries to open in the Hudson Valley.
Baltimore once had a flourishing beer economy thanks in part to an influx of German and Eastern European immigrants. By the end of 1899, it was home to more than 40 breweries. Competition beginning in the 1950s steadily decreased this number until Hugh Sisson opened the state’s first brewpub in 1989.
Ryan Witter-Merithew is a man of many faces. There’s the inventive, open-minded brewer whose talent earned him a job at Hill Farmstead; the loyal friend for whom others come first; and then there’s the eternally mischievous malcontent who likes nothing better than to wind people up on Twitter.
For craft brewery workers, passion often comes at a cost, as the industry strives to create competitive jobs. Enthusiastic homebrewers and beer connoisseurs trade pay, benefits and comfort on the job for the chance to work on something they love and the opportunity to jump onboard a fast-growing industry.
The craft beer industry might wring its hands over the bubble bursting, trademark wars and dilution of quality. But intrepid brewers are bringing craft beer culture to even the most remote pockets of the country. From medal-clad hombrewers to old-school pros looking to get back to basics, the folks behind these new operations are a diverse bunch.
This year, nanobreweries proved they’re here to stay, while “gypsy” brewers continued to produce some of the best beer in the market. New breweries capitalized on the session beer movement. And in a saturated market, some plucky startups opened on the strength of a niche concept, like Bière de Champagne.
No one knows what lies ahead—but if these intrepid small-business owners are any indication, craft beer will be just fine. Here are just a few of the stories that made 2011 one of the best years for craft beer in the country’s history.
Join us for our annual nod to these badasses as we raise our pints in their general direction, honoring them for their contributions to the beer industry and for giving beer the respect it deserves. Cheers!
What started as “a tiny shop under a tarp lean-to in downtown Bamberg,” is now the world’s largest organic malt producer, supplying more than 80 different types of malts to clients in 115 countries—and they’re still evolving.