For the longest of time, the exclusive provenance craft beer movement lay with the adventuresome Americans. There is a certain amount of irony in this, since one of the significant driving forces of this renaissance lies in its revival of traditional beer communities and its reverence for beer heritage.
The birthplace of the American craft beer movement was in the pubs, taverns, gasthauses, bier stubes and beer gardens of Europe. Young Americans travelling the continent fell in love with Europe’s vanishing beers, then returned and replicated those beers in their kitchens, then went pro. They labored for years, if not decades, before the general public recognized their contribution to flavor.
Integral to the appreciation of these flavors could well be the environment. The epiphanies of the early pioneers came in those taverns, pubs, bier stubes and cafes of Europe, where the atmosphere conspired to enhance the aesthetic appreciation of a great beer. I well remember that pint of cask ale pulled from a hidden pub in London thirty years ago. This issue we celebrate the come-together quality of the beer garden; distinctly German and now experiencing an American makeover.
With American craft brewing, something curious happened along that difficult road to acceptance. After many decades of extolling the virtues of traditional beer culture, foreign accents and languages started being heard at our nation’s beer conferences as attendance spread from around the world. This issue’s story on Brazil reflects that countries’ entry into the world of craft beer, and they are not alone in the extent of the explosion of craft beer.
All of these efforts are tapping into the deep roots that beer has sunk into civilization. There are those, including me, that go so far as to credit beer with the impetus for agriculture. In this issue we take a look at some of those artifacts of brewing history, when beer and religion were more intimately bound than one might find today. We also offer a glimpse of the more secular world of beer gathering with a collection of different ways to host a get-together over beer, without all of the religious implications.
Whether today’s brewer focuses on the revival of traditional brewing culture and spirit or in exceeding boundaries and conventions, each and everyone acknowledges the international culture of brewing and the centuries old heritage of beer and society. We consumers can only applaud, order another pint of something yummy and remind ourselves of the age-old ritual that we’re part of, enjoying a great beer.
This editorial originally appeared September 2011, Vol. 32, No. 4