Having done some reading and thinking on the subject, I wanted to post something about beer in the good ole U.S of A. These are just a few facts to consider. As I stated before, prohibition really changed the beer culture in America. Just after the Civil war there were literally several thousands of breweries in America. Given that refrigeration had not been perfected yet, lagers (which require cooler fermenting temps) were not king in the world. The lack of refrigeration also prevented the keeping and storage of beers (weaker and often lighter beers, that is). So beers were often provincial in nature. Therefore, a beer would be popular in one area/location, and this would sustain the brewery. (This does not mean it a given beer could not be enjoyed a day or two away from where it was made, yet it does mean that a beer could not always be enjoyed across the nation or world.)
Events like the advent of refrigeration (or the earlier version known as the “ice houses“) had an effect on the beer culture in America. The trend moved toward consolidation of breweries but also to the lager becoming predominate in the culture. Prohibition came along and further closed the doors of smaller breweries while the trend of consolidation continued. By the middle of the 1900s, there were fewer than 50 breweries in the United States. Very few smaller craft breweries remained alive. The most notable exception is Yuengling, which is the oldest brewery in the U.S. However, this brewery was an exception. In 2000, 95% of the production market in the U.S. was from the top five breweries.
This has not and will not remain thus. In fact, the strong undercurrent of the homebrewing (legalized in 1979) movement has worked like the wearing off of novicane in the beer culture. Its effects were slow in coming, but peoples’ mouths became awakened to exciting new (rediscovered) flavors of beer. Breweries and brewpubs are on the rise. So are the new, exciting, and distinct flavors that people can enjoy. Our palates are moving toward understanding. It is my hope that our beer culture will catch up with our much more accepted wine culture. Although we are still coming out of the dental chair of prohibition, we can savor our first sips of flavor when the dumbing down has worn off.
It is truly an exciting time to be drinking beer!