Thursday, June 27, 2013

Every Town Needs a Brewery


With the boom in craft brewing over the past couple of decades and the ever growing number of breweries in operation, you would think that the curve has to plateau at some point. In the adjoining figure that I borrowed from the brewer's association, the number of breweries in operation in 1887 was 2011. There was a steady decline until prohibition (1920 – 1933) where there was a ban on the sale, production, and the transportation of alcohol. After the passage of the 21st amendment, revoking prohibition, only a few of these breweries were able to reopen. The downward trend continued to occur until circa 1977. In the 1990's and early current century there has been an accelerated growth in the number of breweries to an estimation (by the Brewer's Association) of 2416 total U.S. Breweries in March of 2013.

I made it a goal of mine to visit as many breweries that I can since I quit academia and started working at a brewery. Over the past month and a half I have tried to visit 2 to 3 breweries every weekend (either on Sat. or Sun.). With that in mind I have been looking for new breweries in places both close and far away from my current residence in Michigan (please suggest a few). Over the past three weekends we, my girlfriend and I, have been pretty good at keeping up this pace. So far 10 breweries has been visited. Besides that I have visited a few (up to 5 more) other ones since I have moved back to Michigan in late April.

On my weekly travels to and from my parent's house to take care of the hop garden, between my current residence in Hamilton and my parent's in Edwardsburg, there are a few nano-style breweries/brew pubs. In the 7 towns that I pass through going one route, there are 2 breweries (Patchwork Brewing Company in Decatur, Michigan and Paw Paw Brewing Company in Paw Paw, Michigan). In another route I pass through 5 towns and zero of them has a brewery. This cause me to ponder, “What if every town had a microbrewery?” In light of renewing locally, especially in buying local vegetables and meat, this seems like a very good. Breweries were places of local gatherings as well as places to conduct business. Why not renew this as well as well as renewing everything else local?

There are a few positive things that could occur by having a brewery in every town. First is jobs, especially if said brewery has a kitchen that serves food. You must have people that work the production area, including brewer, cellar, and packaging. If you really wanted to, 1 person could do this, but this would take away from the quantity and maybe the quality of beer. There would be bar staff. There would also be wait staff and kitchen staff if said brewery served food.

The second thing that a brewery could bring a town is tourism, or money from outside the town. This tourism could also help other businesses or could help open new businesses. The downside to this is that it sort of takes away from the whole local aspect.

A third positive would be the promotion of everything local. The trend currently is buying everything local. This can be seen with the farmer markets popping up in small towns. In fact, local grains and hops can be used in the production of beer. I know that the brewery that I work at for, Saugatuck Brewing Company, makes one beer that includes all Michigan products (everything but yeast) called Michigan Wheat Ale. The malt comes from Michigan Malt Company in which we get the 2-row brewers barely, wheat and crystal 60. The hops come from Empire Hop Farm. The kitchen uses locally grown produce and spent grain from the brewery. The brewery gives most of our spent grain to a local farmer to use as feed for his cattle. The brewery also uses a local person to etch our glasses that we use for our pub club.

Yet a fourth positive is that the pubs could be used as meeting. In the 1800's, pubs (which, for the most part, brewed there own beer) in both Europe and the U.S., were places where people met to exchange goods. This idea can be taken one step further today with bartering of goods to the brewery to use in house for exchange of discounts and/or goods.

What if every town had a brewery? These, plus other ideas that can be made in my comment section, are pluses for every town to have a brewery.