1965 – today
Big Beer vs. funky microbreweries
Possible aromatic profile
In the mid-1800s, German, Austrian, and Czech immigrants built a huge lager industry in northern and Midwestern U.S. cities like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.
Technological innovations – such as mechanical refrigeration, the mercury thermometer, and the hydrometer, which measured alcohol content – helped them standardize their products. The new railways allowed them to travel across the country. By the mid-1900s, the metal can became a de facto symbol of Big Beer.
Then came a microbrewery rebellion started by a Maytag and propelled by Jimmy Carter.
Fritz Maytag, of the washing machine family, purchased and rejuvenated a historic, struggling San Francisco brewery in 1965 and profitably produced Anchor Steam – a cross between lager and ale – and other beers to the old one.
Theresa McCulla, curator of the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, said that by revitalizing historic styles using traditional techniques and authentic ingredients, Maytag “showed a model of what to what a new generation of American beer could look like.”
[Anchor Brewing, ‘America’s first craft brewery,’ to close after 127 years]
For a time, few others were built on this model.
In 1978, the United States had 89 breweries, the lowest number since Prohibition, according to data from the Brewer’s Association. But that year, Carter signed a bill legalizing home brewing in the United States.
Soon, hobbyists turned entrepreneurs were opening new microbreweries, including two on the coasts that would become craft powerhouses: Sierra Nevada in the west and Sam Adams in the east.
“Once those two blew up, everyone on the East and West Coast started lining up, and everyone wanted to do it,” French said. As of 2022, there are 9,709 breweries in the United States.
In July, Anchor Brewing closed its doors, but the spirit and tradition of Maytag lives on with every strangely flavored and oddly named drink at neighborhood breweries across the country.
Drinking containerUntil recently, cans symbolized Big Beer and craft brewers rarely used them.
Question ten of 10