How many phases has US craft brewing had? What phase are we in now?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by StJamesGate, May 24, 2023.

  1. StJamesGate

    StJamesGate Grand Pooh-Bah (3,315) Oct 8, 2007 New York
    Pooh-Bah

    Another random topic for people to debate/tell me how wrong I am...

    How many phases of growth and maturity has the craft brewing industry in the USA had?

    I propose these, based very broadly by decade:
    1. 1980s - The Seeds - a few small/local operators
      • # of breweries in 1989: 247
    2. 1990s - The Fad - "microbrewery" craze
      • # of breweries in 1999: 1564
    3. 2000s - The Lull - flat brewery numbers but sales slowly rise
      • # of breweries in 1999: 1653
    4. 2010s - The Boom - explosive growth; consolidation/takeovers begin
      • # of breweries in 2019: 8557
    5. 2020s - The Slow Down - falling sales; taprooms peak
      • # of breweries in 2022: 9709
    (brewery numbers from Brewers Association)

    Would you divide these another way? Measure by styles or trends instead of sales? Do you remember those times differently?

    I'd love to hear people's thoughts.
     
  2. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Grand Pooh-Bah (3,600) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I think your decade descriptions are pretty good for the time you covered but I also think you're missing a lot of history.

    I guess I'm curious why you decided to start the history of "craft" in the 80s?
     
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  3. ramseye4

    ramseye4 Savant (1,096) May 14, 2010 Virginia

    I’m not as beer educated as others but I probably would have done the same, to me the 80s seems like where the craft movement began in earnest. But again there’s probably a lot I don’t know or am missing

    As for the OP, I think that’s a pretty good breakdown.
     
    NorsemanOne likes this.
  4. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Grand Pooh-Bah (3,600) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I can see the argument for that. That does seem to be the start point for the more or less modern model of American craft brewers.

    But there is a much longer history of independent local/regional American brewers producing a diverse portfolio if beers beyond the pale lagers we associate with the macro brewers we typically view in opposition to craft breweries today.
     
    NorsemanOne likes this.
  5. readyski

    readyski Maven (1,411) Jun 4, 2005 California
    Trader

    Probably when he started drinking :thinking_face:
     
  6. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Grand Pooh-Bah (5,281) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Pooh-Bah Society

    I would have thought the Boom started before 2010. The Lull shows the number of breweries using a 1999 figure which is a different number from what is also listed for the Fad period in 1999, but since it is a different number I assume that's a typo. So the numbers do indicate a bit of a lull.
     
  7. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,076) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Pooh-Bah Society

    I think 2010 - 2020 is the Boom. That's when New England IPAs started to become the darling, and tap rooms started showing up in spades.

    Think Tree House/Trillium beginning in the 2011-2013 timeframe, and at least locally Nightshift was one of the first tap rooms in the Boston area that people emulated. This would be around that time as well.

    We could call this the "Haze Phase".
     
    Smorgasvein, EdmundExley, o29 and 4 others like this.
  8. zid

    zid Grand Pooh-Bah (3,036) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    Followed by the short-lived DDH Haze-Faze
     
  9. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Grand Pooh-Bah (3,600) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I think it's around when he was born, if I recall correctly @ramseye4 is around my age (30s) so I think it has more to do with our perspective as people who started drinking during the early 2000s. The "old guard" craft places (for me; bells, founders, North Coast, Mendocino, lost coast, Sierra Nevada, etc...) were products of the 80s/90s. So I can definitely appreciate the perspective that that's when "American craft beer" began in earnest.
     
  10. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Grand Pooh-Bah (3,600) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    It was phenomenal for the first 2 weeks, but it really fell off a cliff.

    Also, the b1 release was way better. But you could only get it from.their garage if you were on their Christmas card list or in their d&d group.
     
  11. steveh

    steveh Grand Pooh-Bah (3,988) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Went to my first brew-pub around 84 or 85. They started popping up around here before micros (brew-pubs served food, micros brewed beer for retail sale).

    But I know there were already micros on the west coast. My favorite local bartender had a subscription to a California newsletter that reviewed different beers and used the brewery labels as visuals -- actually pasted into the newsletter.

    I joined my home-brew club in 1990 -- things get blurry after that. :wink:

    I think I joined beer-of-the-month club Beers Across America around 1994 or 95 -- so microbrewing was well past fad-faze by then.
     
  12. bubseymour

    bubseymour Grand Pooh-Bah (4,584) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I think the OP did a nice summary. 2020s…when you as a random person what their definition of a brewery is and more people will respond that is a place to go and hang out, have some food and be entertained and no longer thought of as a beer manufacturing facility.
     
  13. Beersnake1

    Beersnake1 Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,018) Aug 17, 2013 California
    Super Mod Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    I would agree with OP, but I wouldn't bother defining the 2020's yet. Given the pandemic, I don't think it's possible to call this anything but COVID times. So many breweries across the world suffered and this perhaps contributed to a "lull". However, it's quite possible that things would have been different over the past few years if that pandemic thing didn't happen.
     
  14. cavedave

    cavedave Grand Pooh-Bah (4,083) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    Good job! Our movement had a lonnnnggggg gestation period after Prohibition, but I think you captured quite well how and when we got here from there.
     
  15. steveh

    steveh Grand Pooh-Bah (3,988) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Discussing old days offline just now and remembered my old company put together a special millennial gift box of custom pint glasses and locally-brewed beers in 1999.

    IIRC -- we had about 4 different Chicago area brewery beers in each box.
     
  16. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Well the term “craft” was not used in the ‘beginning’ but in my opinion modern craft brewing started in the mid-60’s with the purchase of Anchor Brewery by Fritz Maytag.

    A few excerpts:

    “When did “craft beer” become a term?

    Many decades ago the breweries that started producing non-AAL beers in America were referred to as microbreweries. This was an acknowledgment that these new breweries were small scale producers in comparison to the megabrewers of the day (e.g., Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors, etc.) and even the regional breweries such as Yuengling, Genesee, Rainier, etc.

    Who was the person who coined the term “craft beer”? There is debate here but Vince Cottone (beer writer/consultant) was among the first to use the term “craft brewery” in the 1980’s. A benefit of this terminology is that it does not just refer to the scale of beer production but also to the quality and taste profile of the product itself. A craft beer may be produced by a small brewery but it was more: a beer that was not “fizzy yellow beer”. But wasn’t beer that was not “fizzy yellow beer” produced before the 1980’s in America? The short answer: heck yeah!”

    And:

    “The Modern craft beer era

    I suppose folks will have their own thoughts on when the modern craft beer era began but for me there is a clear answer: 1965

    Fritz Maytag and Anchor Brewing Company

    Fritz Maytag (of the Maytag appliance family) used to drink beer from a small San Francisco brewery: Anchor Brewing Company. Anchor has a long history, having been founded in1896 producing a hybrid beer using lager yeast fermented at warmer temperatures than normally used for lager brewing (the low 60’s °F). These beers were commonly referred to as Steam Beer in the1800’s with lots of lore surrounding this name. Nobody knows for sure but one story is that as the wort cooled in shallow vessels on the roof of the breweries, the steam that was seen coming off was the source of the term “Steam”. Another story is that these beers would be highly carbonated and as the barrel was tapped would make a hissing sound reminiscent of escaping steam. The Anchor Brewing Company has trademarked the term “Steam Beer” so the beer style is now referred to as California Common beer.

    Anchor Steam Beer was a rather unique beer in the 1960’s. However, due to the financial situation of the brewery the beers were of inconsistent quality. In 1965 Fritz Maytag, with his family resources, was willing to purchase and invest in the brewery. Fritz purchased controlling interest of the brewery for five thousand dollars but that was only the beginning of his investment. The business was in debt and in need of capital investment to improve brewery operations. By1969 he had full ownership of Anchor Brewery. The Steam Beer brand was not exactly a new beer style but there was potential to expand production and sales to beer drinkers who had only experienced AAL beers such as Budweiser. “Boutique Beer” was a term that some beer writers used in that era and Steam Beer was certainly in that category.”

    https://www.morebeer.com/articles/What_Is_Craft_Beer

    Cheers!
     
  17. draheim

    draheim Grand Pooh-Bah (3,979) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Pooh-Bah

    I don’t know a lot of the history, but I think some accounting is needed for waves of growth hitting different geographic areas at different times. This didn’t all happen at the same time everywhere. Moving from the Midwest to the Northwest in the early ‘90s was akin to traveling 10 years into the future.
     
  18. bubseymour

    bubseymour Grand Pooh-Bah (4,584) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I feel like people started using “craft beer” in their vocabulary sometime after 2000. Prior to that I always heard it called “micro brews” as the lingo but perhaps the dates differ depending on region and culture.
     
  19. zid

    zid Grand Pooh-Bah (3,036) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    [​IMG]
     
  20. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Pooh-Bah (2,159) Jul 6, 2005 Indiana
    Pooh-Bah

    Homebrewing wasn't even legal until 1978. I'm sure there were some breweries producing interesting beer but 80's seems like a good starting point.
     
  21. slander

    slander Pooh-Bah (2,312) Nov 5, 2001 New York
    Super Mod Pooh-Bah Society

    1. 1980s - The Seeds - a few small/local operators
      • # of breweries in 1989: 247
    2. 1990s - The Fad - "microbrewery" craze
      • # of breweries in 1999: 1564
    3. 2000s - The Lull - flat brewery numbers but sales slowly rise
      • # of breweries in 1999: 1653
    4. 2010s - The Boom - explosive growth; consolidation/takeovers begin
      • # of breweries in 2019: 8557
    5. 2020s - The Slow Down - falling sales; taprooms peak
      • # of breweries in 2022: 9709
    Am thinking maybe carve this up into 5 year clips instead of full decades.
    A lot happens in those 10 year spans.

    I talk the history as best as I can recall, which may or may not be real...

    First half of the 80's - First brewpub post-prohibition opens. Oh hey, what's up with you, microbrew?
    Second half of the 80's - Slow growth and you have to know the secret handshake.
    First half of the 90's - Microbrewery craze.
    Last half of the 90's - Microbrewery overextension and crash (where people were talking like microbrews were a fad that was over and were looking to move on to Zima and alco-pops).
    First half of the aughts - a welcome comeback with a growth of German, English and especially Belgian style offerings.
    Last half of the aughts - the bourbon barreling of stouts and then barrel aging anything in everything. More important is that I myself started to really dig Pilsners.
    First half of the 10's - IPA's becoming super cool.
    Last half of the 10's - People getting real stupid with IPA's, + pastry stouts and lactose sours for the unholy trilogy.
    First half of the 20's - Lager.
     
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    No specific mention of Juicy/Hazy (aka NE) IPAs there!?! :confused:

    Cheers!
     
    EdmundExley likes this.
  23. zac16125

    zac16125 Grand Pooh-Bah (3,296) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I’d advocate (see what I did there) for a split in the 2010’s.

    First half I’d call, “The Glory Days”: expansion, albeit somewhat tempered and reasonable, while maintaining quality, uniqueness, true craft, passion , community, insert another dozen positive adjectives.

    Second half I’d call, “Shit Hits the Fan” aka “Jumped the Shark” aka “Everybody Gets a Brewery!”: quality fades, market is saturated, everyone making the samsies Hazies, fake fruited sours, lactose everywhere, pastry stouts, milkshake IPAs. Jaded vets, present company included, start yelling at clouds and telling people to get off their lawns.
     
  24. alucard6679

    alucard6679 Pundit (985) Jul 29, 2012 Arizona

    I agree, a split is justified for the 10s
     
    EdmundExley and zac16125 like this.
  25. steveh

    steveh Grand Pooh-Bah (3,988) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Beers for Barbie? :grin:
     
    EdmundExley and zid like this.
  26. Quafftastic

    Quafftastic Pundit (757) Feb 6, 2012 Virginia

    with other changes around alcohol laws, mainly distilleries, and rise of weed legalization, money started spreading over more areas. 90s was great time as more and more good beer came out that wasn’t too crazy. Still had decent balance and not everything was an IPA. I love a good piney IPA. Mainstreamed in 2000s and 2010s and alcohol content got nuts. Now need to make good drinkable beers, in 5-7% range, with darks in 8-11% range. Samplers are fine but people are settling into their preferred styles and more discerning as palettes are better versus just big punches to the mouth.
    Plenty of good days ahead as deep quality differentiates from just making fad beers. Plenty of creativity out there, but somethings need to go by the wayside. Geueze is rebounding nicely last ten years. Gose a lacking attempt at short cutting time to make a complex beer with generally very poor results.
    cheers!
     
  27. ramseye4

    ramseye4 Savant (1,096) May 14, 2010 Virginia

    That’s exactly right, I’m 34 and Sierra Nevada, Founders, Bells, flying dog, and whatever I could get my hands on when I first started down this rabbit hole in 2009 on were the standard bearers at the time. I remember certain stores near me and at all of them in more remote places you’d be lucky to get your hands on a six pack of Sam Adams or SNPA. Sierra nevadas story of originating in the early 80s was commonplace and I didn’t hear a whole lot about other small breweries before then so that’s kind of when I associate the craft movement with starting
     
  28. chipawayboy

    chipawayboy Pooh-Bah (1,905) Oct 26, 2007 Massachusetts
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    In New England we refer to the 80s as the “Pugsley Era”. We loved all of our new brewpubs from Maine to Vt to Mass - but we kept wondering - why on earth did Allen bestow the curse of Ringwood Ale yeast on us??? I’m still mystified.
     
    steveh, jasonmason and cavedave like this.
  29. slander

    slander Pooh-Bah (2,312) Nov 5, 2001 New York
    Super Mod Pooh-Bah Society

    That's what I meant by "people getting real stupid with IPA's"
     
  30. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Grand Pooh-Bah (3,600) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I really got into good beer when I was living in Northern California and drove the 101 to/from SF and north between 2008-2011. At the time it was an epic stretch of breweries with a lineup, from SF, of;
    Speakeasy (1997)
    Marin (1989)
    Moylans (1995)
    Lagunita's (1993)
    Russian River (1997)
    Bear Republic (1995)
    Mendocino (1983)
    (Anderson Valley [1987] and North Coast [ off to the west)
    Eel River (1995)
    Lost Coast (1989)
    Mad River (1989)
    Six Rivers (1996)

    All within a 300 mile stretch of the highway. I drove that round trip at least 10 times a year, or at least a portion of it, and stopped atthose places many times. It definitely gave me the impression that the late 80s/early 90s was the era that "craft beer" came from.

    I don't really know if I could pin down an acceptable distinction between craft and non craft these days. But I do think the 80s represent a key cultural moment when the types of breweries that we all generally enjoy emerged as a modern phenomenon
     
  31. rgordon

    rgordon Pooh-Bah (2,627) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina
    Pooh-Bah

    The 90s were a nice growth period with this whole category searching for and finding an identity. Imports were still huge. Late 90s is where a changing of public awareness began happening about lots of really good newly happening microbrews. And then a lull, and then 2001 where everything everywhere was screwy. People were drinking, ideas were gestating and then it all really busted loose ( 2005-2010) in a country ready for something really new and pervasive. Voila!
     
  32. ramseye4

    ramseye4 Savant (1,096) May 14, 2010 Virginia

    man that’s a stacked lineup. All I had near me was legend brewery and then Starr hill which was 60 miles away. Now you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a brewery
     
  33. alucard6679

    alucard6679 Pundit (985) Jul 29, 2012 Arizona

    Im honestly pretty jealous. When I got into beer, AZ was a joke lol I was mostly focused on finding fresh as possible CA offerings (A lot of the ones you listed, among others), which fortunately wasn’t too hard most of the time.
     
  34. readyski

    readyski Maven (1,411) Jun 4, 2005 California
    Trader

    Pretty sure that's still the case. All respects to the Midwest, the future isn't necessarily better.
     
    draheim likes this.
  35. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Grand Pooh-Bah (3,600) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I was so spoiled. And it ruined me for mediocre beer. These days Russian River and North Coast are about the only ones of those I still reach for (although I'm at Eel River at the moment) but that's mostly because the path those ones blazed has been filled in by ever more even better breweries.
     
    alucard6679 likes this.
  36. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Grand Pooh-Bah (5,167) Dec 11, 2006 California
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    As much as bombers sucked, I miss ten years ago. My local shop offered less beer overall, but they still had more variety. When Modern Times came out with cans, it was cool and they seemed on the up and up (but we all k oe how that ended). Fast forward to todays over abundance of Hazy’s, the existence of pastry stouts, and whatever 450 North is… I don’t know what the 2020’s are. I also chase less because so many beers that in traded for over ten years ago are now in SoCal distro. Oh well, beer still tastes good :stuck_out_tongue:
     
  37. draheim

    draheim Grand Pooh-Bah (3,979) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Pooh-Bah

    The difference now is more like 50 years, if you catch my drift. Best decision I ever made was to get out when I did.
     
    readyski likes this.
  38. draheim

    draheim Grand Pooh-Bah (3,979) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Pooh-Bah

    Would that perhaps depend on where you lived, or was that nationwide? I went to college in Indiana (1988-1992) and I remember you couldn’t even buy alcohol on Sundays. I was like WTF?!?
     
  39. alucard6679

    alucard6679 Pundit (985) Jul 29, 2012 Arizona

    I have so much respect for North Coast (Can’t really speak on RR as I’ve only had a couple of their beers while in San Francisco, they’ve just never really been in my life as much as I’d like, unfortunately). They’re just still going after all these years on a strong core lineup that they’ve miraculously decided not to mess with. I can’t say the same for really any of the breweries that I loved when I was first getting into craft. I’ve happily supported North Coast for years, and still would if they made an NA beer.
     
  40. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Grand Pooh-Bah (3,600) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    Absolutely, north coast is a national treasure. I just picked up a 12 pack of scrimshaw and a 4 pack of old Rasputin.
     
    champ103, Specialmick and alucard6679 like this.