Watch Out Budweiser: Craft Beer Is Brewing to the Top

It’s no secret that Americans love their beer. After all, there are countless options. Despite the success of mainstream brands, there’s a craft beer revolution brewing. As one happy beer lover said, “If you want to drink beer, you drink craft beer.”

At the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston, thousands of beer lovers turned up to meet hundreds of brewers and drink gallons and gallons of craft beer.

“It’s not any generic run-of-the-mill beer that you go out and have at a college party or random bar,” commented a festival participant. “Each one has time and effort and love put into it.”

While the festival celebrates the American craft beer community, along with large and small brewers, it also showcases stiff competition. Paul Halayko, president of the Newburgh Brewing Company, said, “If you’re going to come into this industry, just please make really good beer, because we don’t need bad beer in this marketplace.”

There is way more to craft beer than festivals. There are companies, such as Boston Brew Tours, that take people to various pubs for brewery tours and tastings. Colleges are even offering courses. Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality has its own beer academy that teaches students the science and history of craft beer, as well as how to create their own.

There are currently more than 2,800 breweries in the United States, up from less than 100 in the 1980s. It doesn’t come as a surprise that there was close to a 15 percent increase in U.S. breweries from 2012 to 2013. According to the Brewers Association, the overall beer industry is worth $100 billion, and the craft beer sector is worth around $14.3 billion. Beer sales in 2013 may have been down 1.9 percent, but the craft beer market was up 17.2 percent in sales and 49 percent in international sales. It remains crucial for breweries to find ways to innovate.

Alan Newman, president of Alchemy and Science, founder of Magic Hat, and creator of a new brewery called Concrete Beach, thinks that the craft beer industry will continue to grow.

“I now believe it will go to 20 percent,” he said. “The explosion of craft beer has nothing to do with beer; it has to do with the changing taste profile of the American public.”

Newman isn’t the only beer icon who has watched the craft beer movement skyrocket. Steve Hindy, founder of The Brooklyn Brewery and author of the book “The Craft Beer Revolution,” opened his brewery in the 1980s and watched his sales increase in the U.S, as well as abroad.

“Most of my generation of craft brewers were inspired by the great breweries of Scandinavia, and Britain, and Germany, and Belgium,” he said. “Ironically, now those great brewing nations in Europe are learning from American craft breweries and that’s part of the appeal of Brooklyn Brewery in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe.”

Craft beer is all about interpretation and some people are using the popular beverage in foods. At Sweetness Bake Shop, Stephanie Diaz and her team regularly use craft beer as an ingredient in cupcakes. Commenting on her creations, she said, “You put Nutella and beer, and you’re gonna have a good reaction. You put a Pale Ale with bacon and people love it, too.”

As tours, college classes, breweries, and cupcakes continue to catch on, it is clear that craft beer has grown from a novelty into a movement.