WASHINGTON, December 30, 2012 — Does the availability of beer on the retail shelves, at the bars, and even at social gatherings of friends and family leave you feeling more overwhelmed than ever?
Well, fear not. There are still plenty of barstools available for newcomers as the industry continues to build its ever-developing head of steam.
The extraordinary growth in the “craft” segment of the beer industry in the face of continuing annual declines in the aggregate beer market is the cause. At the end of 2011, while still occupying a relatively small space in the beer market, craft beer comprised 5.7% of volume and 9.1% of dollar sales in the total beer market.
If those numbers seem small, consider that 2011 was the fifth consecutive year in which the craft segment exhibited double-digit percentage growth in both volume and dollar share.
These statistics are tracked and announced by a leading voice in the industry, the Brewers Association, which reported in 2012 that the total number of breweries in the U.S. had hit a 125-year high.
The Association also reported that dollar sales growth for the first six months of the 2012 were up 14% since December 31, 2011. Furthermore, as of June 30, 2012, the organization’s records estimate 1,252 new breweries in various stages of progress to opening.
Here are a just a few suggestions for how you can participate in the fun and seemingly never-ending flow of great beer in 2013.
Samplings: Next time you visit a local beer store or brewery, ask about any upcoming free tasting events. Laws vary by state, but many allow small tasting samples to be poured for customers and establishments often hold tasting events where brewery or distributor representatives attend to provide information about the brewery and specific beers. If the store isn’t busy at the time you ask, you might even get a few free tastes just for showing interest.
Festivals: On a larger scale for sampling, rarely a weekend goes by where a beer festival isn’t being held ranging from the largest (Great American Beer Festival in the fall in Denver) to smaller ones that will often raise money for charities. For an entry fee that can be as little as $20, you have the opportunity for at least a couple of hours to taste a variety of beers.
Beer Weeks: Beer Weeks have been popping up around the U.S. ever since Philadelphia introduced the concept over ten consecutive days in 2008.
There are approximately 100 “Beer Weeks” across the country. They typically last 7 to 10 days and focus on a region’s strength of breweries, bars, and access to imported beers from around the world. Some of the most frequently listed events include free tastings, beer and food pairing dinners, brewer meet and greets, and festivals.
Airports: Once upon a more parched time, the most interesting beer to be found in airports was typically a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or a Samuel Adams Boston Lager. While those are still perfectly decent beers, airports have opened multi-tap restaurants and bars with much wider selections to showcase the intriguing flavors in beer, often with a focus on local breweries near the airport.
Recently spotted in U.S. airports include Verruckte Stadt German Pils at the Great Dane Pub in Dane County airport in Wisconsin, Golden Road Point the Way IPA at Gladstone’s in Los Angeles International airport, Tröegs Dead Reckoning Porter at Jet Rock Bar & Grille in Philadelphia International airport, and East End Brewing’s Fat Gary Brown Ale at Bar Symon in Pittsburgh International airport.
And, in what may be one of the few examples of a baggage claim bar, T.F. Green airport in Rhode Island has a Shipyard Pub with a lineup of beers from the Maine brewery and barstools within direct viewing line of the baggage carousel.
These examples leave little reason not to enjoy your travels even as you wait out the process of traveling through airports.
Read about it: Hunker down with a pint or two at home. Bookshelves, like retail beer shelves, are more crowded than ever with pages that cover everything from tutorials for newcomers to more technical digests about everything in the process of making the beer in your glass from the growing of ingredients to the building of breweries and the recipes at the base of every beer.
These are but a handful of ways you can find yourself drinking great beer in 2013.
Cheers to a more prosperous and tasty new year!
Read more of Bryan’s work at After Hours in the Communities at the Washington Times.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.