(updated September, 2020)
Was there craft beer in the 1960s? Not really, at least not wide-circulated craft beer.
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Baby Boomers and Craft Beer Now
I am sipping Sofie, an 80% Belgium Style Ale and 20% Belgium Style Ale aged in wine barrels. It has been aged, in the bottle, for 3 1/2 years! It has so much fermentation that it bubbles like a campaign.
I enjoyed a lot of things back in the 60s, but I could not have had this fine brew, at least not in the USA. In fact, the craft and microbrew sector in the States was almost non-extant in the 1960s.
Today there are 8,275 craft breweries operating in the US. That is an increase from 7,346 in 2018. In 2018, domestic sales reached a record $27.6 billion, representing 24% of the American beer market.
Craft Beer in the 1960s and Earlier
When we were young, we baby boomers had Regional beers that date back to the 1800s. I remember watching my dad sip on one of those little 8 ounce cans of Olympia. As a teen, (don’t tell anyone) I sipped (haha) on Schlitz and Hamm’s. Those could hardly be called craft beers. They did not taste like it either.
No definitive history has been written on the United States craft beer in the 1960s. If you have come across one, let me know below in the comment section. I would love to read it.
San Francisco could well be the genesis. The City By the Bay, had a very small brewery, American Brewery, way back in the 1800s. Strangely, or purposefully, the brewery never really grew until in the mid-1960s. Fritz Maytag bought it and renamed it Anchor Brewing Company. Does that ring a bell? Surely, you have seen then craft beer on your favorite brew shelf. Within a decade Anchor beers could be purchased in shops in New York. This brewery seems to be the genesis of craft beer in the USA. By the way, their Christmas Ale is one I always start looking for in early November.
Many other pioneers in the craft brew sector began experimentation and often marketing when it was illegal. Lucky for them, or maybe more to the point, one of the reasons that their operations became known was because the Feds did not actively pursue criminal proceedings against them. They were too small to bother with.
World War II and Craft Beer
It can convincingly be stated that the major factor contributing to the growth of the craft brew industry in the USA was World War II. More specifically, World War II veterans returning home with pallets conditioned by European beers. Surely they would have to change from drinking Belgium and Scottish ales or downing the rich stouts and porters from England.
Homebrewers attempted to copy the brews that began to be imported. Thus sprang the unique twists on the European styles that you can now find in almost any USA beer retailer.
In the 60’s there were regional brews like Shiner (Texas) and Rheingold Beer (Atlantic),
One of my favorite craft breweries is New Belgium Brewing, the brewer of Fat Tire. Colorado, cycling, and beer, that has got to be a mix for brewing up something delicious.
Scores of small batch, craft breweries, can be found in every state in the Union. Yet, according to the Brewers Association, there are a mere three breweries operating in Mississippi in 2012. That is only one brewery per 1 million Mississippians — compared to one per 500,000 Alabamians, one per 200,000 Tennesseans, and, remarkably, one per 25,000 Vermonters, the country’s leading craft brew state.
Craft Beer and the Web
Craft beer in the 1960s was so scarce that selecting a beer at the store was not very difficult. You only had a few to choose from. Hardly anyone was talking craft beer either. Things have changed. A wide selection and peer pressure always push me into spending more time bousing the coolers.
We now have websites and apps that allow everyone to grade, review, and check out what others are saying about the craft beer they just bought. CLICK HERE to Check out our own, 60sFolks, beer ratings on Beeradvocate.
I would be interested in hearing your story of being introduced to craft beers.