With more than 2,000 craft breweries in production and another 1,000 in the planning stages, the craft beer scene is poised for growth and ground-breaking innovation like we’ve never seen before.
Craft beer’s pioneers deserve the lion’s share of the credit for where we are today, but where we’re going will be, to an increasing extent, influenced by another contingent: the young brewers who grew up in a world many now take for granted, one of abundance, one with more variety than “the fizzy, watered-down crap that the big guys push on us,” as Helder Pimentel, the 28-year-old founder of Boston’s Backlash Beer Co., puts it.
All About Beer Magazine wanted to know more about these brewers who are ready to push the envelope when it comes to beer styles, ingredients, brewing techniques, branding and presentation. We scoured the American craft beer world in search of 30 up-and-coming brewers (and a few brewing executives) who are 30 years old or younger who we think will be leading that charge as a new generation of brewers builds upon the foundation laid by craft beer’s pioneers.
A common theme throughout the series of interviews is excitement for craft beer’s potential and a sky-is-the-limit attitude about what the craft beer scene has to offer.
“The next generation of brewers are bringing a fresh approach to the brewing world,” says Kim Lutz, the 29-year-old former lead brewer at Maui Brewing Co. who is now helping launch Saint Archer Brewery in San Diego. “We are very open to bending the rules of what beer can be and creating new styles. It is crucial to understand traditional styles, but who is to say that we have to follow strict guidelines of what we want to produce and consume?”
New, zany beer styles aren’t the only things the next generation will contribute (though they’ll do that, too), says Luke Livingston, founder of Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston, Maine. “We will continue to push the envelope … with innovation, collaboration, better quality standards and fun,” he says.
They cite varying motivations, from creative expression to having a meaningful impact on their communities, but they share passion. Many—like Travis Guterson, the 29-year-old brewmaster at 7 Seas Brewing in Gig Harbor, WA—speak about brewing in reverential terms. “I didn’t choose for my life to revolve around brewing beer,” Guterson says. “Somehow it chose me.”
They didn’t all take the same path to get to where they are today—many started homebrewing, others washed kegs at a commercial brewery, some got their start in the wine world—but now that they’re all members of the same craft beer clan, they share a unified mission: to further the scope and breadth of the American craft beer scene, foster collaboration among its members and more deeply penetrate the individual communities in which their breweries operate.
“The brewing community is very much a collective power and team focused on improving our craft rather than competing for market share against one another,” says Jon Carpenter, the 30-year-old brewmaster at Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles. “The family we build within and outside our brewery walls can’t be matched in almost any other industry I know of.”
But with opportunity comes responsibility. Besides experimenting with new ingredients and growing the market, the next generation are also tasked with protecting the collective spirit that has been fostered over the years by their predecessors, says Joe Mohrfeld, head brewer at Pinthouse Pizza in Austin, TX.
“It is up to us to maintain craft beer as the subculture that it is,” Mohrfeld says. “The industry started because some people thought they could be brewers and make something new and exciting. Let’s shake things up by being the industry that stays creative and doesn’t just worry about the numbers.”
All About Beer’s “30 Under 30” is designed to highlight brewers we think you’ll hear more about. It’s not a competition, so the list is unranked. Brewers are presented in alphabetical order by last name.
Read the following interviews and learn what the next generation of craft brewers have planned for the future of the industry.