We all know the Silver Bullet Train and that magnificent Clydesdale bunch. We even know when our beer’s cold because the mountains turn blue! Come each and every January, our brains are riddled with competitive Super Bowl advertising campaigns triggered to bring in great revenue for the upcoming year. If asked what 5 beer companies first come to mind, I’d bet Coors, Miller, Blue Moon, Bud, and Michelob would be among the most frequent. Coincidentally, the first three are “crafted” by Molson Coors Brewing Company and the latter two by the Anheuser-Bush brewing powerhouse. These several companies have a relentless grip on the advertisement and distribution of beer throughout the U.S. and most other parts the world. How did this happen?
With regards to the North American market, in 1919, the U. S. government passed a national ban of the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. This ban shutdown most all of the over 3,000 breweries, only the several largest were able to stay in business by brewing soda. In 1933, when prohibition was lifted, these large companies began mass-producing beer throughout America. Smaller brewers weren’t able to compete with these companies that could mass-brew and distribute product at an extremely low price, remember prohibition was lifted in a time of economic crisis. As time went on, the largest companies became even more powerful and the idea and art of craft brewing was lost.
Not until 1978, when Jimmy Carter legalized home brewing, was this art again seen on a large scale. Home brewing allowed for brewers to perfect their skill and create products that could compete with the larger beer-manufacturing giants. It’s around this time that we see the modern microbrew pioneers, such as Sierra Nevada, emerge. This new wave of microbreweries brought not only competition to the larger companies, but also new products for the consumer.
Due to economic feasibility, the largest companies tend to mass-produce only one style of beer, usually the pale lager. Microbreweries have the ability to expand their products, brewing many ale-style alternatives. To understand the basic differences between the two major styles of beer, ale and lager, we must first understand the biology. The major differences in biology have to do with the species of yeast that separates the two styles. Ale yeast is the species Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This species ideally ferments in warm temperatures, 65-80 deg., and produces a flavorfully, fruity product. On the other hand, the lager species, Saccharomyces pastorianus, is a hybrid species that prefers low temperature, around 45 deg., and produces a much different flavor seen in products like Budweiser and Coors. There are also some differences in the barley and hop preparation/addition.
Since 1978, America is seeing more and more microbreweries, recently reaching over 1,700. Durango alone hosts four and soon to be five microbreweries as well as a large congregation of home-brewers and a Home-Brew Store. All of the beer bought from these Durango breweries provides jobs for Durangatangs as well as revenue that stays within the city limits. Buying local brew also greatly reduces your carbon footprint because there is minimal shipment of the product. To even further reduce your footprint, save, wash, and de-label your glass bottles and offer them to a local home brewer, possibly in return for some home brew. It is up to us to continue the movement from large beer-manufacturing machines to local-based craft beer breweries. So next time you crack open a cold one, make sure it’s a Durango or Colorado local brew.
~ Drew Walters