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.