The Audacity of Hops: The History of America's Craft Beer Revolutionby Tom Acitelli
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In 1975, there was one craft brewery in the United States; today, there are more than 2,000. Powered by millions of savvy, devoted consumers and raking in billions of dollars annually for producers and retailers, the American craft beer movement has changed the brewing industry and the international reputation of American beer. It has upended the Big Beer giants that once seemed untouchable and forever altered the culinary habits of not only millions of Americans but millions more worldwide.
This delicious story of plucky triumph has never been chronicled in one volume—until now.
Based on thorough research as well as interviews with all of the most influential names in craft brewing since the 1960s, The Audacity of Hops brims with charming, remarkable tales, which together weave a very American business story, one of formidable odds and refreshing success.
The Audacity of Hops will be the holiday and birthday gift for every craft-beer lover—indeed, for anyone who loves fine food and drink, and the people behind them. Entertaining and accessible, this book is the first of its kind: the definitive, highly praised history of the other American revolution.
“This is the story of how the ‘Kingdom of Beer’ was returned to the drinker. It’s about the nurturing of the beer epiphany in a time when word of a revolution in the making was passed on one glass of brew at a time. The Audacity of Hops is an absorbing reflection on what goes into every professional craft-brewed beer in America. Impassioned millions have taken the kingdom back.” —Charlie Papazian, founder of the American Homebrewers Association and author of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing
“Everyone who cares about good beer owes Tom Acitelli a huge thanks: his history of American craft beer is lively, substantive, and thoughtful.” —Maureen Ogle, author of Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer
"Excellent history of the American craft brewing movement." —Slate
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Read an Excerpt
The Audacity of Hops
The History of America's Craft Beer Revolution
By Tom Acitelli
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2013 Tom Acitelli
All rights reserved.
THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST
San Francisco | 1965
On a breezy, warm day in August 1965, Fritz Maytag walked into the Old Spaghetti Factory on Green Street in San Francisco's trendy North Beach neighborhood and ordered his usual beer: an Anchor Steam. Fred Kuh, the restaurant's owner, ambled over.
Kuh was a bit of a local eccentric in a city increasingly full of them amid the trippy 1960s counterculture. He was a Chicago stockbroker's son and World War II veteran whom legendary San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen would label "the father of funk" Kuh rented a small flat in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, crammed with Victorian baubles and knickknacks, and called himself "a bohemian businessman." The Old Spaghetti Factory Cafe and Excelsior Coffee House was his greatest triumph. He opened it in 1956, converting a defunct pasta factory into what the San Francisco Chronicle described as the city's "first camp-decor cabaret restaurant," complete with chairs hanging from the ceiling, beaded lampshades, and secondhand furniture from brothels. Kuh plucked a fortuitous moment: his factory became among the few venues in town that San Francisco's beatniks — and later hippies — would frequent, a reliable lefty redoubt that even became the unofficial local headquarters of Adlai Stevenson's doomed 1956 presidential campaign against the staid Dwight Eisenhower.
Fritz Maytag was no beatnik, though it was difficult to pin a label on him just yet. A trim Midwestern transplant with wire-rimmed glasses, close-cropped brown hair, and pointed eyebrows that gave him the appearance of either perpetual bemusement or skepticism, he had come westward originally to attend Stanford, where he earned an American literature degree. He then spent a few years doing graduate work in Japanese through the university, even living a year in the Far East. After president John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, he told himself he had to move on, that what he was doing in grad school "was very minor." He dropped out and moved to San Francisco to collect his thoughts. He was twenty-five — in the midst of what would one day be called a quarter-life crisis. Maytag knew only that whatever path his life was supposed to take ran through the West rather than through any place on the Rockies' other side. He was just in San Francisco to figure it all out.
And he was just in the Spaghetti Factory for what had become his favorite beer — he tasted his first Anchor Steam five years before in the Oasis bar near campus in Palo Alto. It was the only beer Kuh ever had on draft. He loved the idea of a local brewery.
"Fritz, have you ever been to the brewery?" Kuh asked, nodding to the beer that was the color of dried honey and that spawned a head like lightly packed snow. Kuh was a fan of the beer; he liked to patronize local goods made by other San Franciscans.
"You ought to see it" Kuh said. "It's closing in a day or two, and you ought to see it. You'd like it."
The next day, Maytag walked the mile and a half from his apartment to the brewery at Eighth and Brannan Streets and, after about an hour of poking around, bought a 51 percent stake. When the deal closed on September 24, he controlled what had been about to become America's last craft brewery. It was a risky business move, but Maytag could make it. His great-grandfather and namesake, Frederick Louis Maytag, the eldest of ten children born to German immigrants in central Iowa, had founded the Maytag Washing Machine Company more than sixty years before. Frederick Louis's son E. H., moreover, had bought a herd of Holstein cows to raise on the family farm in Newton, about thirty-five miles east of Des Moines. His son, Frederick Louis II, used those Holsteins — and some help from the dairy science department at Iowa State — to churn out a notable blue cheese brand modeled after the Roquefort style in France. And, like the French, Frederick Louis II aged the blue cheese in caves: two 110-foot-deep ones dug into the family farm in 1941. His eldest son, Fritz, grew up surrounded by the cheese business; in fact, he would inherit it in 1962, when Frederick Louis II died. Before that, he'd been sent east, to the elite Deerfield Academy in rural Massachusetts, for boarding school and then west to Stanford. The blue cheese of his father, though, would play a pivotal role not only in Maytag's life but in the culinary life of the United States. It was one of those seemingly uniquely American intersections of moxie and chance.
Maytag bought control of the Anchor Brewing Company for what he later described as "less than the price of a used car" in 1965. Like many a used car, it was in sad shape: cramped, the equipment run down, only one employee with not all that much to do. Maytag could cover the purchase and early operating costs with his inheritance. What of his business acumen, though? What would a literature degree and three years of Japanese studies cover? More important, while Maytag was an unabashed fan of Anchor's signature steam beer, he himself knew nothing about brewing, much less craft brewing — a term that had all but disappeared from the national lexicon.
The signature beer that Maytag made his own was perhaps unique in the world. Steam beer has no one agreed-upon genesis, no creation story (or even myth), though just about all who've looked into it, including Maytag, agree it was developed in California. After that, take your pick. The brewery itself has said, "Anchor Steam derives its unusual name from the nineteenth century, when 'steam' seems to have been a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast of America under primitive conditions and without ice." The Journal of Gastronomy said the "steam" referred to the "volatile, foamy" behavior of beer from San Francisco when it was warm. Some said it was the additional yeast called for in original steam beer recipes — thus more foam from more fermentation. Others said the inventor was named Pete Steam; others contended steam actually used to rise from a freshly popped bottle top; still others dismissed it all as a mere marketing ploy because of the nineteenth century's fascination with newfangled steam power or as an incongruous by-product of the Gold Rush (Anchor was originally founded in 1896 and had gone through several owners before Maytag). What was definitively known was that Anchor Steam was amber colored and produced a thick, creamy head when poured properly. Its alcohol content ran to nearly 5 percent per volume. The beer had a slightly bitter taste and a smooth, almost citrusy finish. And, despite its heavier ale- like mouthfeel, it was a lager.
That was important. Maytag's brewery was part of a centuries-old continuum that had found its place in America only a few generations before. Lager yeast, by sinking to the bottom of vats during fermentation, birthed a lighter, clearer type of beer that did not spoil as easily as what had become by the early 1800s the world's most popular type: ale. Ale, its yeasts hearty and virtually invulnerable to temperature, could be brewed and fermented just about anywhere. Lager, on the other hand, derived from the German verb meaning "to store," could be brewed only at cooler temperatures — thus its development at the tail end of the Middle Ages in the Bavarian Alps. Lager did not take hold in America until the late 1800s, with the advent of industrial refrigeration, pasteurization to goose its shelf life, and faster ships to transport its mercurial yeast across the Atlantic before spoilage. Once it did, lager, lighter on the palate and less complex in taste than ale, was off to the entrepreneurial and dynastic races. American beer production, driven by lighter and longer-lasting lagers, particularly pilsners, spiked.
Competition was fierce, financial reward relatively fast and immense. Brewing became a feature of the landscape of Big Business in the same baronial age as Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller. From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the First World War forty-nine years later, America's domestic commercial production of beer increased sixteenfold, from 3.7 million barrels annually to 59.8 million (one barrel equals thirty-one gallons, or roughly 320 twelve-ounce bottles). More revealingly, even though the nation's population grew during this half-century, the per-person rate of beer consumption grew as well. Beer became the de facto national drink, displacing whiskey, rum, and other liquors atop the tippling totem poll — thanks again in no small part to the central European immigrants, who not only eschewed the heavier ales born in Britain, Ireland, and especially Belgium, but who also incorporated lagers into their daily lives, oftentimes drinking on the job without taboo. By 1915, the average American adult was consuming 18.7 gallons of beer a year, up from barely 3 gallons in 1865.
And the beer they drank was a local thing. Breweries and the beers they brewed were delineated by geography. What you got in Cleveland, you couldn't get in Brooklyn; the brands in Pittsburgh would seem unusual to someone from San Diego. The nature of beer was a big part of this: it was a foodstuff that tasted best fresh and could spoil after a few weeks in the bottle or can. It was best, then, to have it produced nearby. Every big city — and several smaller ones — had at least a couple of breweries, and some had a lot more than that. St. Louis and Milwaukee were each home to dozens, but it was Brooklyn, New York City's most populous borough, that would cultivate the most. By the 1870s, Brooklyn already had forty-eight breweries, most clustered in German immigrant neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick (a stretch of North Eleventh Street in Williamsburg today boasts street signs harking back to when it really was a "Brewers' Row"). From 1865 to 1915, the average American brewery went from producing 1,643 barrels a year to 44,461, and the number of breweries nationwide rose to as high as 2,783. Beer seeped into the national consciousness — president Teddy Roosevelt was known to hoist a cold one and took more than five hundred gallons of beer on safari in 1909 — and it became a cultural fulcrum on which so much of the nation's collective memory turned. Indeed, most beer during this time was consumed in public houses — bars, taverns, locals, pubs — and served from barrels and kegs tapped with colorful tabs; the technology of packaging beer, especially in aluminum cans, had not yet caught up to the demand.
Not that it mattered. On January 29, 1919, came the Eighteenth Amendment: Prohibition. Producing any commercial beverage with over one-half of one percent of alcohol became illegal. Following repeal at the federal level in December 1933, American brewing re-emerged into a new business environment that quickly became defined by size rather than geography. Breweries wanted to get as big as they could as fast as they could, and they did this as would most any industry: through mergers and acquisitions. The number of American breweries shrank to 684 by 1940. From 1935 to 1940 alone, with the backdrop of the Great Depression and its grinding unemployment, the number of breweries nationwide fell by 10 percent. Some cities, like Brooklyn, never really recovered their pre- Prohibition status as brewing hubs. There, the number of breweries dropped steadily, through consolidation and simple economic stress, until by the early 1960s there would be only a few left. The same was true three thousand miles away.
At 2:31 in the afternoon on December 5, 1933, word reached San Francisco that the Twenty-First Amendment repealing Prohibition had been ratified. The siren on the city's Ferry Building facing the mainland United States sounded, and fourteen trucks trundled up Market Street to City Hall to present mayor Angelo Rossi with cases of liquor and wine.
While some of San Francisco's windy, wending streets literally ran with booze over the next few days, the actual situation for retailers and for manufacturers was a different matter entirely. Not only had Prohibition wiped out, through neglect and police action, much of the infrastructure for commercially producing alcohol, but San Francisco also emerged from the dry years into a business climate stultified by what was being called the Great Depression. Until the 1930s, Americans had applied that term to the economic downturn of the early 1870s; but this more recent one was something else entirely, with over one- fourth of the eligible American population out of work and no social safety net to catch them and their families. In San Francisco, the number of unemployed jumped an estimated 47 percent from 1930 to 1931. Such statistics got worse and worse for months, and then years, until a cruel reality seemed to settle over the City by the Bay like so much fog.
Into this fog stepped Joseph Kraus. A German immigrant steeped in brewing, Kraus was part of a trio of owners who had kept Anchor going after its original owners, Ernst Baruth and his son-in-law Otto Schinkel Jr., died over a decade before Prohibition (Schinkel was killed in 1907 in a fall from a San Francisco cable car just as a fresh version of the brewery was going up at Eighteenth and Hampshire Streets). In the spring of 1933, eight months before Repeal and with the state's OK, Kraus reopened Anchor a few blocks north, at Thirteenth and Harrison, only to have the brewery burn down the following February (a fire spawned by the Great Earthquake of 1906 had also destroyed a previous location). Tragedy of a more bromidic kind struck Anchor after Kraus and a partner, brewmaster Joe Allen, reopened yet again at another spot: demand waned so much that Allen, by then the sole owner following Kraus's death, closed the brewery in 1959.
Excerpted from The Audacity of Hops by Tom Acitelli. Copyright © 2013 Tom Acitelli. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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What People are Saying About This
“This is the story of how the “Kingdom of Beer” was returned to the drinker by little guys and gals who loved beer. It’s about the nurturing of the beer epiphany in a time when word of a revolution in the making was passed on one glass of brew at a time. The Audacity of Hops is an absorbing reflection on what goes into every glass of homebrew and professional craft-brewed beer in America. Impassioned millions have taken the kingdom back.” —Charlie Papazian, author, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and the founder of The American Homebrewers Association
"Everyone who cares about good beer owes Tom Acitelli a huge thanks: his history of American craft beer is lively, substantive, and thoughtful. It’s time to celebrate—and I’m buying the first round.” —Maureen Ogle, author of Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer
"The Audacity of Hops chronicles the rich history of America's craft brewing revolution with deft portraits of the resourceful pioneers, the innovative brewers and the intrepid entrepreneurs who are changing the way the world thinks about the wonderful, inexpensive beverage, beer." —Steve Hindy, cofounder of Brooklyn Brewery, coauthor of Beer School
“This book is a delightful read, painstakingly researched, often humorous, and filled with stories that breathe life into the birth of our industry.” —David L. Geary, president of D. L. Geary Brewing Company.
“This is a highly quaffable and enjoyable craft beer book. You can crack open a section or two , pour over it for an hour or so, and familiarize yourself with the moments and luminaries who contributed heavily to the American brewing renaissance. This is heady stuff.”– Sam Calagione, President and Founder, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
“[Tom Acitelli]’s thorough research into the craft beer revolution tells a great story and shows how a ragtag yet purposeful group of passionate individuals can build an industry. He did an amazing job capturing the voice of the early characters, improbable tales, and astounding passion that makes up the craft brewing community.” —Ken Grossman, founder, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
“All of us in the craft beer business have stories to tell about the American Craft Beer Revolution. Tom Acitelli has woven them together into a fascinating history- adventure story where good beer is the hero. This is an exciting telling of the history of our industry with a happily-ever-after ending for beer lovers all over the world.” —Jim Koch, Founder and Brewer of The Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams Boston Lager
“Don Younger, the legendary publican who helped Portland, Oregon, become “Beervana,” once said, “We didn’t know we were making history, nobody does at the time, or we would have written these things down.” Tom Acitelli has discovered an astonishing amount of what did get written down, then done the legwork to find his own story about a new age in American beer.” — Stan Hieronymus, editor and founder of Appellation Beer
Meet the Author
Tom Acitelli, a 2016 James Beard Award finalist who has written about alcohol for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Bloomberg View, has written the acclaimed histories of beer and wine, Audacity of Hops and American Wine. Tony Magee is the founder and CEO of the Lagunitas Brewing Company and the author of So You Want to Start a Brewery?
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