The craft beer revolution is surely upon us. In 2013, some 2,822 breweries operated in the United States, marking the highest nationwide total since the 1880s. Nearly all of them – 2,768 to be precise – were considered craft breweries. Such numbers are the result of exceptional growth. The craft beer industry has grown nearly 11% per year over the past decade, with an 18% jump last year alone. Cities of all sizes have embraced the trend. For example, the greater metropolitan area of Dayton, Ohio is now home to at least ten different craft breweries. These include the Fifth Street Brewpub, the nation’s second-ever cooperatively owned brewpub; Pints and Pinups, perhaps the only microbrewing strip-club in the country; and The Carillon Brewing Company, the first brewery to open in an American museum or historical park. Many craft breweries around the country have also dedicated themselves to their local communities and to environmentally sustainable brewing practices. One of the most common of these today – feeding spent grains to livestock – was also once deemed among the most virulent scourges in the country.
Editor’s Note: British beer brewer, Frank Priestley, in this engaging author’s interview, tells us a little about his new book, The Brewer’s Tale: Memoirs of a Master Brewer (Merlin Unwin Books, 2010).
After leaving school, I started work in a brewery almost by accident. Of the three jobs available to me, the brewery seemed the least objectionable. However, I very quickly realised how very lucky I was to be working there. It was like joining an extended family. There was a wonderful atmosphere of friendship and co-operation. Of course, in those days, all the breweries that I worked in were ‘wet’. That is, a beer allowance was available to the men who wanted it – a couple of pints a shift. Some men managed to drink more and some drank less. The work was hard but the job always got finished. And then there were the characters – The Irishman on the loading bay who, however busy they were, would say, “When the good Lord made time, He made plenty of it.” And Wee Jock in the cask shed, who was from Glasgow and no-one could understand his accent. And Big Jock from The Isles whose cap rotated round his head, depending on how much he had had to drink. There were many such characters, very many, and when I was made redundant after twenty years service, I missed them grievously. I never found another job in a brewery but consoled myself by studying the history of the public house (which will be the subject of my next book). I find the practical research very rewarding. However, I still think back to those days in the breweries, “where, between those precious pints, there was conversation and songs, friendship and jokes, music and laughter and such magic that sober men could never dream of.”
2. What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?
The history of the brewing industry forms a significant part of this book.