Or maybe it began in 1972? That’s the year when, in Innerleithen, Scotland, a tiny brewery (Traquair House) re-opened after decades of inactivity. It offered a very small quantity of hand-made traditional beer to the local populace. Traquair House brewed only six British barrels per month (just 259 U.S. gallons).
Craft Brewing’s Banner Year
But I think it all really got started in 1976, when Jack McAuliffe, a U.S. Navy man stationed in nearby Edinburgh, carried the idea back home. He built, by hand, his own small “micro-brewery.”
In August of that year he began brewing his New Albion Ale in 50-gallon batches. Sales began the next year, in Sonoma, CA. Although his small brewery achieved a modest success, his six-barrel-a-month (186-gallons) production proved inadequate and, in 1983, the tiny brewery finally closed. But McAuliffe’s real contribution was to inspire others to believe that small breweries could prove successful (even if his didn’t), and his efforts encouraged many others. He is certainly the creator of the modern micro-brewery, inspiring a multitude of homebrewers to take to the craft and fulfill their dreams.
I remember that era well—it’s when I became interested in producing alcohol. Years earlier, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis had intruded into my consciousness, and I often wondered how one might earn a living in a civilization that had been destroyed by atomic weapons. I knew from my experiences on Okinawa during WWII, that the people who could make alcohol were beloved by all and sundry. (Of course, if that were completely true, I’d probably have become a world-class ruler by now.)
I started by studying winemaking, but when I found Maytag’s San Francisco Steam beer, I knew it had to be beer. Never mind that my stepfather’s homebrew was a menace to society, not to mention the sobriety of his stepson and that personage’s college friends (3.5 lbs. hop-flavored malt extract syrup, 10 lbs. corn sugar, 10 gal. water and Fleishmann’s yeast—Ugh!). I discovered a different recipe for my beer and never looked back.