When I reviewed California beers of that time, I found great beer at the two smallest American breweries: Anchor and New Albion. I noted that Anchor brand Steam Beer was world class, “probably the best regular beer made in the U.S., and one of the best in the world,” which, along with Anchor Porter and Old Foghorn, made a great marketing coup in the tiny good-beer sweepstakes of the time. At the same time, in Sonoma’s New Albion Brewery, Jack McAuliffe and Suzy Stern made two fine beers: New Albion Ale and Stout. I wrote, “there are no other California Fine beers.” In later issues I praised Ballantine’s Old India Pale Ale, the only remaining American IPA from the 19th century, and such imports as Pilsner Urquel, Die Kirch Malt Liquor (Luxembourg), Dortmunder Ritterbrau, Pinkus Alt, San Miguel Dark and Old Peculier Yorkshire Ale. I declared that if the reader wished to sample one of the newly popularized “lite” beers, it would be cheaper and simpler to add ice cubes to one’s regular beer.
Aside from Prohibition, those were the darkest hours of American beer and we can look back on them with a smile. But it is well to remember the struggle to return the country to decent beer and remind ourselves that those who remain ignorant of history may be compelled to repeat it.
The craft brewing movement was brought about by the actions of Boulder, CO-based Charlie Papazian’s enthusiastic support of good quality homebrewing. He was teaching homebrewers to use some of the procedures and methods I had written about in my 1969 book, Treatise on Lager Beers. His classes produced a good number of homebrewers making some very nice brews. It wasn’t much longer before homebrewers started to build small commercial breweries. These came to be called microbreweries until they began to be successful as larger operations. We call them craft brewers these days. American style craft brewing has spread across the world. Papazian and his group are responsible for changing the very nature of the world’s brewing industries. Craft brewing has spread across Asia, and now seems to be invading many other areas.
The enemy has not given up, and they continue production and shipment to Europe and Asia, where young people are taking to drinking American yellow industrial swill, while the Coors-Bud-Millers mob is displacing some wonderful traditional German, British and Belgian beers. We are winning the revolution, but this is not the time to relax our vigilance. In 1978, the enemy didn’t even know we existed, now they do for certain.
*In those days regular “beer” was required to have an alcohol content of under 5 percent ABV, while malt liquor was anything over that.
**The Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, limiting beer to malted barley, hops, and water. Yeast hadn’t been discovered at that time, but was certainly included.