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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Third Generation Micros

I'm writing a short article for Draft Magazine (based, actually, on a post I did here) about the explosion of new breweries starting up across the country. For the article, I tracked down breweries in the process of opening in three remote places--North Dakota, Alabama, and Texas.* All three projects are fascinating for different reasons. Avondale Brewing in Birmingham is simultaneously working with an architect to build their tasting room while a bill goes through the Alabama legislature to make such a practice legal. Edwinton Brewing is trying to bring beer to the great far north--in Bismarck.

But here's the really fascinating thing: every one of them is planning to do Belgian beers. They may do other styles, too, but they're leading with Belgians, and it's clear the reason they want to brew is because of Belgians. I just spoke to the owner of Avondale this afternoon and I was certain he was going to list a standard line-up of British-American ales. Nope. In fact, the brewer is planning to make a saison from a yeast strain he's taken from a red wine--and muscled into beer-fermentation. (This is, purportedly, the same place Dupont got their famous yeast.)

I think it's what happens when you've had good beer in a country for 35 years. The first breweries had to make it up as they went. The second wave of breweries, 15-20 years later, started with a more sophisticated sense of beer and brewing. The third wave, just getting underway, have been exposed to good beer long enough that selling Belgian beer on the high plains or deep South doesn't seem insane. It's just what you do.

Ever more reason to think that all these new breweries aren't just derivative opportunists, but the extension of a market that still has a way to grow.

*True, Texas is not remote nor new to brewing. But it is massively under-represented on a per-capita basis. In fact, when I mentioned it to Scott Hovey, who's busy founding Adelbert's Brewery near Austin, he instantly said, "We're ranked 47th in terms of per capita breweries." It was in his business plan--smart guy.


  1. My friend Volker started a Belgian-based brewery called the Brewer's Art, in Baltimore back in the early 90s:

    Now THAT was being ahead of the curve. But he's German by birth, so his hubris is understandable. :) Great place to go, BTW, and the Washington Post included one of his beers in their beer bracket this year (seen that?

    Great to see Yeast Gone Wild!

  2. Need another opinion?? The Sass Monsters blog about beer and much much more.....

  3. Very interesting stuff. We're seeing a brewing revival here in London too, the difference being that brewers here are looking towards the US for inspiration.

    Is it a case of craving what you can't have? Beer enthusiasts over here make the trip to the US for hoppy pale beers when Belgium is on our doorstep ... you guys make the trip to Belgium when awesome American craft beer is on your doorstep.

    The grass is always greener on the other side, as they say.


  4. I am in the Houston area and we have at least 3 or 4 (that I know of) new breweries popping up in the last few months. It's amazing to see us go from having only our most famous brewery, Saint Arnold, to a burgeoning craft beer scene with several breweries! Cheers!

  5. @ Mark

    you said...
    . . .
    [UK] Beer enthusiasts ... make the trip to the US for hoppy pale beers when Belgium is on our doorstep . . . Beer.Birra.Bier.

    ? Could you say more ?
    ? Where do Brit Beer Boffins travel to sample American craft beer ?
    - an East Coast loop
    - north of San Francisco
    - Portland and/or Eugene, Oregon?

  6. For closure, in response to my email, Mark [] stated: '... [I know] a lot of people that make the trip to the US for beer ... Places on the top of the list are Boulder, NYC and San Fransisco'.

    There are 12+ craft breweries about US101 in Calif. between San Francisco and Oregon; I drove the route Monday.