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American Craft Beer Week

Submitted by on May 10, 2009 – 6:00 AMNo Comment
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Presented by the Brewers Association, American Craft Beer Week will take place May 11 through May 17. The week will honor more than 1,500 independent brewers across the country who have helped turn America into a preeminent player in the global brewing industry. Participating brewers will sign the Declaration of Beer Independence and some will host special events to celebrate the art of craft brewing.

It started in the late 1990s as a general Craft Beer Month, but has become so much more today thanks to email campaigns and a recently created Facebook page that has quickly gathered more than 6,000 fans in less than four months. The Facebook page is growing exponentially with over a 1,000 fans having joined between May 6 and May 7 alone.

Additionally, in 2006, Congress passed HR 753, a bill officially recognizing declarationboth the success and social and cultural importance of independent brewing. The bill points out that craft brewing employs more than 33,000 Americans and helps support “American agriculture by purchasing barley, malt, and hops grown, processed, and distributed in the United States,” a crucial fact given that this country has seen recent purchases of corporate beer manufacturers by foreign investors.

Julia Herz, director of the Brewers Association, feels that small craft brewing has had a huge impact in the beer industry. “Bottom line is in 1978, when homebrewing became legal, there were only 42 homebrewing companies, but today you have over 1,500. Of this 1,500, 97% of these are the small and independent craft brewers.”

Herz also said breweries have had a positive role on the entire market and consequently the country. “They’ve really helped change the face of beer,” she said. “Before our parents’ generation there weren’t many beer choices. To have the face of beer change in the U.S., to now have the U.S. on the map as one of, if not the best beer making country in the world, is all because of these small, independent craft brewers.”

That is not to say, however, that independent brewers aren’t facing significant challenges. The economy has made itself felt in the industry. “The small brewers have many challenges right now,” Herz said. “It is a concern, a concern beyond just access and shelf space, but to [the cost of] materials and ingredients and transportation, and their customers’ pocketbooks.”

As a result the industry, which had been enjoying double-digit growth through 2007, has now dropped into the single digits. While still strong, these numbers show that, unlike large companies such as Anheuser-Busch or Coors, craft breweries are much more sensitive to changes in the market.

Even so, the future of American craft brewing looks extremely bright. “Diversity, choice and selection is everything that we enjoy [in this country],” Herz said. “If that’s out there, there’s a trickle up and we’re all the better because of it. And I definitely believe that’s the case with beer and craft beer in the U.S.” The thirst for great tasting, unique, and homegrown brew is still strong and, if the American Craft Beer week Facebook page is any indication, it’s only getting stronger.

To find a participating brewery or event near you, click here.