To celebrate this unquenchable beer-lust, the Brewers Association and its partner website CraftBeer.com started American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), a week-long national celebration bringing together everyone from brewers and aficionados to uninitiated imbibers just looking for a brand new beer taste.
Now in its 10th year, this commemoration of all things beer has garnered not only a lot of attention, it also has sparked a series of locale-specific celebrations throughout its entire 7 days — not to mention a whole host of city-specific weeks celebrating craft beer their own way throughout the rest of the year.
Want to join in the fun this May 11–17? Below we tell you everything you need to know about craft beer to celebrate ACBW like a true connoisseur.
The Rise of Craft Beer
It’s no wonder beer reigns supreme among adults in the United States, considering the importance this potent potable held for our ancestors. There are theories that the brewing of beer predates even bread, and it is well agreed upon that humans have been drinking beer, a nutritive alternative to often-contaminated ancient water sources, since at least 3,400 B.C.
Although by the 20th century this beer-lust was being met almost exclusively by beverage giants mass-producing light, easy-drinking lagers, over the past decade or so, the concept of the “craft beer” — a limited run beverage produced by a small, independent brewer — has caught fire.
According to the Brewers Association, these small-scale brews now make up approximately 11 percent of the total beer sold nationwide — more than double the 5 percent reported in 2010 — and are showing sales totals just under $20 billion, or approximately 19.3 percent of market share.
Not to mention at a time when the entire beer industry is showing only incremental growth, craft beer continues to grow by leaps and bounds, showing a 22 percent increase in sales since 2013.
Craft Beer: Defined
It’s certainly taking the drinking world by storm, but what exactly is craft beer?
Although the term “craft” is often associated with any small-batch brew, the true definition of craft beer is just a little more complicated, having more to do with the brewer than the suds themselves.
According to CraftBeer.com, an American craft brewer:
- is a small enterprise, specifically one that produces 6 million barrels of beer or less per year
- is less than 25 percent owned or operated by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not a craft brewer. Examples of “beverage alcohol industry members,” in this case, include such familiar players as MillerCoors, the distributor of Miller beer products, or Anheuser Busch, the distributor of Bud products.
- primarily produces beer created with traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and established fermentation practices. This rule is not designed to limit creativity, but rather to ensure the end product is actually beer, rather than a flavored malt beverage, such as a hard lemonade or tea.
Although this may seem broad, it actually encompasses a wide variety of brewers you may not have even considered as part of this category, from national names like Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada to the local home-brewer experimenting with suds in his or her own cellar.
Celebrating Beer, The Best Way Possible
So how do you celebrate this innovative and revolutionary beverage? Why, by drinking it, of course!
Although there are a series of events nationwide that are sponsored by the official ACBW event, this week is just as much about the resilience and creativity of brewers as it is about the beer — and should be celebrated at the bars of these fantastic producers.
For those of you on the West Coast, we here at Rewards Network are partial to San Pedro Brewing in San Pedro, Calif., for a pilsner that’s as sunny as the California weather. Midwest folks? Why not try St. Francis Brewing Co. in St. Francis, Wis., where the nut brown ale is as heavenly as the brewery’s name? And for you East Coasters out there, we know a few places — including SBC Restaurant and Brewery in Branford, Conn.; Heartland Brewery in New York; and Arts & Crafts Beer Parlor in New York — that are definitely worth the trip.
Just remember that these brews are best celebrated the way they were made: slowly, responsibly, and with great attention to detail, craftsmanship, and taste.
Looking for more places to celebrate? Check out one of these program breweries:
- St. Elias Brewing Company, Soldotna, Ark.
- 51 North Brewery, Lake Orion, Mich.
- Nola Brewing Tap Room, New Orleans, La.
- Santa Barbara Brewing Company, Santa Barbara, Calif.