If you consider yourself truly passionate about a world in which really good beer flows freely, you were probably at first excited, then curious and finally alarmed by all the new beers popping up daily on your local packie shelves. If you’re not alarmed yet, consider these US Brewery statistics; In 1887, 2011 breweries were churning out local suds. That number dropped drastically to 1179 in 1919 just before Prohibition started. The Transcontinental Railway, refrigeration and massive advertising campaigns by mega brewers led to the demise of many a small, local brewers. Exit Prohibition; only 703 breweries remained. 1979 was the low point in recent US brewing history where just 79 breweries remained. These were dreadful times to be a beer-loving American. Then in 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed bill, H.R. 1337 allowing homebrewing into law. Homebrewer, Charlie Papzian founded the Brewers and Home Brewers Associations, and BOOM! Great beer began flooding in.
Now fast forward to 2012. There were 2403 breweries in operation. It wasn’t all good either. Just as many crappy beers as good beer began vying for space in our local taps and packie shelves. Inch ahead to 2014 and we find 3040 (an all-time high) breweries, and just one year later, we pass the 4,000 mark. A thousand new breweries in one year? CRAZY!!!
Here’s the conspiracy theory; People! Wake up!!! Starting a brewery is wicked expensive!!! Who has that kind of money? Who might want to invest in an opposing operation that would cripple a truly independent “artisian”, “micro”, “nano” brewer? Who might have the capital and time to wait out (or buy out) the little guy? You guessed it?
Some small brewers have collaborated and brew in larger contract breweries, and more power to them. Most will stand a better chance at survival working together.
All that said, there are 2 small, relatively new New England beers that should be noted and commended.
Overshore from East Haven, CT., specializing in Belgian-style beers. And Portico from the “Hills” of Waltham, specializing in “Classic Ingredients” and styles. I applaud these brewers for keeping classic styles alive while way too many brewers in the US are just chucking mixed ingredients into a vat and selling it as art. Bull Shit on that!
I really enjoyed the bold, malty Overshore Tripel Brun. Dark and decadent, with tastes of caramel, fig and dark rum, it hit the spot on a recent damp, chilly evening.
Portico’s SETT 7 is a SPOT ON Wee Heavy. In fact, it’s better than many you’ll find in Scotland. It’s toasty, roasty and not overly sweet, or overly burnt-tasting, (like some). The sweetness is balanced nicely with English hops. I appreciate the warming alcohol. You know it’s there but it doesn’t pervade the flavors.
Now I gotta get moving on. So many beers, so little time.
“There is no strong beer, only weak men” – Unknown