More than 43,000 new and re-released beers were produced and imported professionally last year in the United States. OK, I made that up, but think it’s within range of the actual number. With more than 3,200 breweries operating across the country and more than double that number interested in exporting here (and with each releasing on average 14 beers during the year), then maybe that number makes sense. How many did you try? Me? Fewer than 5 percent, I can assure you.
Given another month, I could have gotten closer.
Today’s national beer community is the celebration of literally thousands of smaller ones. Creativity, art, innovation and acumen come together on what seems like every corner to renew a long-forgotten brewing method or refine a pursuit of style. Recently, I spent an afternoon with Jason Oliver, brewmaster at Devils Backbone Brewing Co. in Roseland, VA. Oliver is brewing on a refabricated Japanese brewing system that he put together by hand from over 500 pieces after it arrived entirely disassembled in a box six years ago. All the controls are imprinted in Japanese, which, as Oliver said, “made the electrical hookups a little tricky.” On that system he’s making clean, mostly German beers, and over the past three years his work has been rewarded with 26 medals from the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival. Devils Backbone brewpub sits on a beautiful stretch of the Brew Ridge Trail in central Virginia, just south of Charlottesville. Such quality coming from such unlikely beginnings is what is defining many of these beer communities. It’s why today, brewers’ passions and beer lovers’ opinions are driving considerable time spent improving overall beer quality.
At All About Beer Magazine and our World Beer Festivals, we are also continuously striving to improve our work and products. With our beer events, we measure the execution of a quality beer festival much like we hope today’s brewers think about the quality of their beer. That is, we aim to produce the best in beer experiences for beer lovers, brewers, wholesalers and retailers. For 2015, I’m pleased to announce two new beer festivals in our lineup. The North Carolina Brewers Celebration in Charlotte, NC, on June 27, which will focus on the diversity and quality of North Carolina’s fast-growing brewing scene. We are also partnering with the National Beer Expo in Richmond, VA, July 13-19. More to come here as well, including the possibility of a truly unique location later this year. Stay tuned.
These events go along with our World Beer Festivals in Columbia, SC; Raleigh, NC; Cleveland, OH; and Durham, NC. Our team will reach over 35,000 beer fans celebrating beer, brewers and their communities. We present the creativity of today’s brewing world through our Art of Beer program, an educational experience within our festivals. We are also incorporating an incredibly popular Belgian Bier Garden within each of our events—a festival within a festival. We believe we present the best experience for attending beer festivals and hope you agree.
It bears repeating that this company—our magazine—is celebrating 35 years this year. The beer industry has grown, and we have grown along with it. If you’re reading this, you’re part of an audience that grew more than 150 percent from this time last year, and we are humbled. We thank you for engaging with us, helping us to do more of the storytelling and develop great beer experiences. We will not get to all 43,000-plus beers this year, but we will continue to improve telling the story and sharing the experience.
This column appears in the May 2015 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here to subscribe.