"mmmmm-beeeeeeeeeeeer" - Homer, Simpson
"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" - Benjamin Franklin
America's brewing landscape began to change in the late 1970s. The traditions and styles brought over by immigrants from all over the world were disappearing. Only light lager appeared on shelves and in bars and imported beer was not a significant player in the marketplace. Highly effective marketing campaigns had changed America's beer preference to light-adjunct lager. Low calorie light lager beers soon began driving and shaping the growth and nature of the American beer industry, even to present day. By the end of the decade the beer industry had consolidated to only 44 brewing companies. Industry experts predicted that soon there would only be 5 brewing companies in the United States.
At the same time as American brewing landscape was shrinking in taste and size a grassroots homebrewing culture emerged. The homebrewing hobby began to thrive because the ONLY way a person in the United States could experience the beer traditions and styles of other countries was to make the beer themselves. These homebrewing roots gave birth to what we now call the "Craft Brewing" industry.
The 1980s was truly the decade of the microbrewing pioneers. In a time when industry experts flat out refused to recognize their existence as anything serious, the pioneering companies emerged with their passion and a vision, serving their local communities a taste of full flavored beer and old world European traditions; all with what was to become a uniquely American character. Through extraordinarily difficult market conditions, the microbreweries and brewpubs of the 1980s struggled to establish the foundation for what was to become the proliferation of craft beer in America.
Momentum began to pick up for the microbrewing phenomenon in the early to mid 1990s with annual volume growth increasing from 35% in 1991 increasing each year to a high of 51% in 1995. In 1996 growth began to slow at 26% and in 1997 1,302 micro-, pub- and regional craft-breweries increased their volume by 5%. The proliferation of microbreweries, beer types and brands swept major beer markets and beer enthusiastic regions of the United States. By 1998 American craft beer was available in just about everywhere, though growth has stabilized ever since at a rate of between 1 and 3% each year.
By the year 2000 there were 1,392 breweries in the United States. The three largest brewing companies had consolidated the major part of the American beer market, accounting for 96 percent of the beer produced in the United States. In 2001 1,458 "Craft" breweries produced 6.23 million barrels (there are 31 U.S. gallons in a U.S. barrel) or about 3% of the beer consumed in the United States. The development of a positive beer culture has also influenced the doubling in five years of the American imported beer market to 21.8 million barrels in 2001.
To date there are 1,428 active breweries within the United States. Roughly 2.5%, thirty-six to be exact, of those breweries are located in the Middle and Southern Appalachians. Most of these breweries are operated in conjunction with a restaurant, (due to state tax laws requiring food sales where alcohol is served) commonly referred to as "brew-pubs", and most do not sell their product for consumption outside of the brewery. This last stipulation makes me want to find a good teetotaling friend to taxi me from brewery to brewery throughout our region. I suggest that you do the same and make your way to these fine places...
Dahlonega Brewing Company
Asheville Pizza & Brewing
Green Man Brewing Company
Highland Brewing Company
French Broad Brewing Company
Pisgah Brewing Company
Catawba Valley Brewing Company
Olde Hickory Brewery
Blue Ridge Brewing
Thomas Creek Brewery
Hops Grill & Brewery
RJ Rockers Brewing Company
Big River Grille & Brewing Works
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
Smoky Mountain Brewing Company
Depot Street Brewing
Downtown Grill & Brewery
New Knoxville Brewing Company
AMF Keglers Lanes and Brewery (Brew-pub & bowling alley. best. invention. ever.)
Blue Ridge Brewing Company
South Street Brewery
Starr Hill Brewery
(Since I live here, I would like to point out that this is the only one in Southwestern Virginia)
Coors Brewing Company - Shenandoah Facility (cool, or should I say frost brewed, history linked)
Queen City Brewing
Piccadilly Brewpub & Restaurant
Blackwater Brewing Company
Mountaineer Brewing Company
Bent Willy's Brewing
West Virginia Brewing Company
North End Tavern & Brewery
Mountain State Brewery
Another brew deserving of mention from the far North, named after Vermont's portion of the Appalachian Trail, is the Long Trail Ale. It's yummy to your tummy on a hot summer day in Bennington, VT.
All of the above breweries were found on the Brewer's Association's Directory. If your company or your favorite breweries in Appalachia were overlooked by my list, it's time to register with the Brewer's Association.