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Homebrew History: The American Beer Renaissance

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Politics, beer, home brewing, Dogfish Head, the New Yorker, Greg Beato, Reason,

Drinking Beer HomebrewIn 1979 there were 44 beer breweries operating inside the United States, and the American palate was dominated by Budweiser, Pabst, and other colored water masquerading as beer. Today there are more than 1,400 breweries pumping out new chocolate stouts, double bocks, and other craft brews. Greg Beato writes for Reason that this renaissance in beer making was made possible by the repeal of some prohibition-era laws that regulated home brewing.

One brewery riding this wave of great beer is Dogfish Head, a company that tries to create brews that can’t be judged on regular beer standards. “We are trying to explore the outer edges of what beer can be,” Dogfish Head’s 39-year-old owner, Sam Calagione told the New Yorker. The company creates beers that are far more bitter and alcoholic than the stuff found in most supermarkets, though Calagione rejects the term “extreme beer” as a pejorative. Dogfish Head's swashbuckling approach, including a quest to create the biggest wooden barrel since prohibition out of an obscure Paraguayan wood, has catapulted the company from being the one of the country’s smallest beer makers to the thirty-eighth largest.

Dogfish Head may be helping the United States make up for lost beer time, but north of the border, the connection to beer may run a bit deeper. As evidence, see this Beer Map of Canada from Geist.