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Michael Jackson (the famous beer writer) wrote, “The greatest brewers I have met are people with passions as insistent as a laser, individuals harder to cut into shape than a diamond.” As we approach the Craft Brewers Conference, let’s take a moment to remember the steadfast nature of our brewers and those who support their efforts.

The Craft Brewers Conference has humble beginnings, first starting with the American Homebrewers Conference, where many professional brewers attended because it was the largest gathering of craft brewers in the United States.

David Bruce and Charlie Papazian at the American Homebrewers Conference in 1982

During one of these sessions in 1982, David Bruce (pictured left, Charlie Papazian right), co-founder of the British equivalent to the Brewers Association, Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), spoke to an audience of amateur and professional brewers about the concept of a Brew Pub. This was commonplace in England where brewers sold the beer made on site along with food for their customers to enjoy.

The BA began working to legalize the brewpub model state by state after members began to open their operations across the country. This ban on the brewpub was a hold out from Prohibition. Breweries could not serve beer to customers on the premise where it was made in most states, except New York, California, and Wisconsin. In legalizing the model for brewpubs, these restrictions were lifted for the first time since Prohibition. We know the history from there, the concept was widely adopted throughout the United States and remains popular today. There were 2,252 brewpubs in operation as of 2017. You can see from the chart below that it was the most popular model until Microbreweries surpassed it in 2013.

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 % Change 2016 to 2017
CRAFT 2,420 2,898 3,739 4,544 5,424 6,266 +15.5
Regional Craft Breweries 97 119 135 178 186 202 +8.6
Microbreweries 1,143 1,471 2,076 2,626 3,196 3,812 +19.3
Brewpubs 1,180 1,308 1,538 1,740 2,042 2,252 +10.3
LARGE NON-CRAFT 23 23 26 30 51 71
OTHER NON-CRAFT 32 31 20 14 16 35
Total U.S. Breweries 2,475 2,952 3,785 4,588 5,491 6,372 +16.0

What we don’t know is what will inspire us when we gather together. As we go forth into another conference, let us remember the potential of our industry to transform itself and grow to meet the challenges ahead. Our times have changed but our persistence continues.

Want to learn more about craft beer history?

Visit our exhibit at the Craft Brewers Conference, located in the Grand Concourse near the registration desk. Come be a part of the story. Register now!

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